What can we do to reduce ocean plastic pollution?

Support legislation to curb plastic production and waste. Participate in (or organize) a beach or river cleanup. This constant flood (the equivalent of 136 billion jugs of milk per year, estimates a study published in the journal Science) represents a serious danger to marine life. Animals can get entangled in this garbage or ingest it because they mistake it for prey or because seawater has broken down plastic into tiny particles.

Plastic, of course, is especially problematic because it is not biodegradable and therefore stays much longer (up to 1000 years longer) than other forms of waste. And we're not just talking about people who throw their trash overboard. In reality, about 80 percent of marine litter originates from land washed up the coast or washed into rivers from streets during heavy rains through storm drains and sewer overflows. Every year, nearly 20 billion plastic bottles are thrown away.

Carry a reusable bottle in your bag and you'll never have to resort to Poland Spring or Evian again. If you're concerned about the quality of your local tap water, look for a model with a built-in filter. Urge your elected officials to follow the example of those in San Francisco, Chicago and nearly 150 other cities and counties by introducing or supporting laws that make the use of plastic bags less desirable. We need to take control of the 10,000 tons of plastic that enter lakes every year, whether we recycle, reuse, or simply outright ban it.

Scientists say the species could be functionally extinct in as little as 20 years, but there are some solutions within reach. A community in Oregon is making spectacular statues with ocean plastic to raise awareness about the crisis at sea.

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