By Michele Byers
During hot summer days at the Jersey Shore, beaches are crowded with folks having fun in the sun.
Unfortunately, lots of litter is left behind. All beach trash is bad, but the plastics that wash and blow into the sea are especially harmful.
Plastics have become a major threat to marine life in the world’s oceans and waterways. Plastic trash never completely goes away; it only breaks apart into smaller and smaller pieces.
It’s estimated that more than 100,000 marine mammals, turtles, sea birds and fish die every year from either ingesting or getting tangled up in plastic ocean trash.
Clean Ocean Action, an ocean advocacy group based in New Jersey, is on a mission to improve the ocean’s health and the well-being of the creatures that live there.
Every spring and fall, Clean Ocean Action holds beach “sweeps” where hundreds of volunteers pick up and catalog thousands of pieces of trash and debris. Not surprisingly, most of it is plastic, including bags, bottles, drinking straws, eating utensils, food wrappers, bottle caps and packaging.
This summer, Clean Ocean Action is urging beach lovers to kick the plastic habit and choose better options.
Here are its dozen great suggestions:
Recognize your plastic habit.
Look at your trash and take special note of single-use items and those with excess packaging. Make a list of disposable items and make it your goal to reduce or ban those items.
Know the numbers.
Recycling more plastics starts with being familiar with the recycling number system. The “chasing arrow” symbol indicates it’s recyclable. The number inside the arrow indicates the source of the plastic material. Check with your town or county to see which types are accepted for recycling.
Americans use about 500 million plastic drinking straws a year! Just say “hold the straw.” There are plenty of reusable straw options, such as glass, stainless steel or bamboo.
Ban the bead.
Avoid using any products with microbeads. Look for the ingredients polyethylene and polypropylene. Microbeads are found in many toothpastes, skin care products and cleaning products.
Bring your own bag and bottle. Keep a reusable bag in your car, briefcase, backpack or purse. Carry a reusable bottle for beverages.
Fork it over.
Don’t accept plastic ware for takeout. Bring your own silverware instead. When packing your own meals, use a reusable lunch box or bag along with reusable sandwich bags or containers.
DIY at home.
Clean your house with products like lemons, vinegar and baking soda and save money while avoiding avoid harsh cleaners in plastic containers. Look online for cleaning “recipes.”
Choose cans over plastic. Aluminum is recyclable, and most cans contain 50 percent or more recycled aluminum.
Be a smart shopper.
Look before you buy and avoid items with excessive packaging.
Support action. Stay informed about plastic and microplastic policies and take action to support those banning microbeads.
Rally more converts.
Help friends and family members understand the importance of reducing plastic usage.
Join the campaign.
Get involved in Clean Ocean Action’s campaign for research on microplastics.
Ready to kick the plastic habit? Take the pledge!
Go to www.cleanoceanaction.org and click on “sign the pledge to reduce your plastic footprint” link.
Want to help get plastics and other litter off the beaches? The next beach sweep is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24.
To find out more, go to http://cleanoceanaction.org/index.php?id=153.
Michele Byers is executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. For more information, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit NJCF’s website at www.njconservation.org.
By Michele Byers