A massive volume of plastic garbage now litters every ocean on the planet, posing a growing threat to marine life. Hundreds of species of seabirds, whales, sea turtles, and other marine life ingest or get entangled in plastic, and scientists say the number is rising along with the quantity of marine trash.
NRDC fights to protect marine life by preventing plastic pollution from reaching the ocean in the first place.
One of the most effective solutions is to call on producers of single-use plastics to take greater responsibility for their products. Many states mandate that manufacturers of paint and carpet recover and recycle their products after use. Similarly, makers of plastic packaging should be required to find innovative ways to design better materials that can be more fully recovered for recycling or reuse, and reduce the amount of plastic used for packaging overall. They should also help cover the costs required to keep plastic out of our oceans.
NRDC works at the state level to support these types of strategies and to sharply reduce the use of major culprits that enter the ocean, such as single-use plastic bags. In California, for instance, we helped make the economic case for dealing with marine plastics head-on. We analyzed data from coastal communities in the state and found they spend $428 million every year to clean up plastic trash and debris from waterways.
As part of a growing coalition of waste management, community, environmental, and business groups, we push for measures that would address the many different types of single-use plastics. We recommend creating incentives for industry to use less plastic packaging for their products, make sure their packaging is fully recyclable, and ensure that recycling actually happens. Not only would these measures reduce marine trash and the costs of managing it, but they would also create jobs: One study found that recycling 75 percent of the nation’s waste could generate 1.1 million jobs by 2030.