This story is part of a series on ocean plastics.
Plastics are overwhelming our oceans and landfills. Every year, an estimated 19 billion pounds of plastic garbage end up in the sea. In the U.S. alone, approximately 56 billion pounds of plastic are dumped annually in landfills.
Worryingly, it remains unknown exactly how all these plastics ― which don’t biodegrade and could linger in the environment for centuries ― could impact human health and the world around us. But here’s a heartening truth: We can all do something to mitigate this growing plastics crisis. Yes, all. From entrepreneurs and corporations who need to rethink the way plastic products are designed and manufactured; to lawmakers who can push for the protection of fragile environments from plastic pollution; to individuals (that means you) whose seemingly small daily actions can add up to something huge, we all have a role to play.
“The one thing I’ve learned in doing my research is that population density is a huge driver of ocean pollution, so especially in places with high population densities, our individual choices really do matter,” said Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer and plastics expert. “Things that may seem mundane, like using a reusable bottle or a reusable bag — when taken collectively, these choices really do make a difference.”
Here’s what you can do right now to reduce your personal plastic footprint:
- 1Reduce use of all plastic products, but especially single-use onesGetty Images
- 2Don't litterReuters
- 3Recycle when you can, and do it rightGetty Images
- 4Choose non-synthetic fabrics when possibleGetty Images
- 5Say no to microbeadsGetty Images
- 6Participate in clean-up effortsGetty Images
- 7Support plastic bag bansSpencer Platt/Getty Images
- 8Support companies that have out-of-the-box approaches to reducing, reusing and recycling plasticsBloomberg/Getty Images
- 9Engage your family and friendsGetty Images
- 10Track your progressGetty Images