We all use plastics in our daily lives. Unfortunately, the convenience and affordability of many of these items comes at an environmental cost. Because plastics are lightweight and float, even plastics properly disposed of can make their way into our oceans, causing substantial harm to marine life. Every year 8 million tons of plastic waste reaches our oceans. According to the Ocean Conservancy, six of the ten top contributors of marine debris are single-use (disposable) plastic products, including plastic bags, food and beverage container caps and lids, beverage bottles, food wrappers, flatware, and drinking straws.

Why Are Plastics a Problem?

Plastics now impact more than 700 different marine species such as sea turtles, whales, sea birds, and fish, many of which mistake plastics for food. Some animals become entangled in plastics, whereas others ingest items, leading to illness, starvation, and potentially death. Because plastics are petroleum-based and do not biodegrade, it can take hundreds of years for them to break down, and in the process smaller pieces continue to pollute the water. While governments, researchers, and environmentalists determine the best way to clean up garbage already in the ocean, it is up to us to stop the problem at the source.

What Can We Do to Help Marine Life?

The good news is that we can all take simple actions to reduce plastic waste. First, rethink whether a plastic item is necessary and avoid those that you don’t truly need. Say no to plastic straws when eating out, bring reusable bags with you to the grocery store, and fill up a reusable water bottle/coffee mug rather than purchasing single-use ones. Committing to reducing the plastics in your life will help wildlife here in Minnesota and around the world.

Earlier this month, the European Parliament moved to ban single-use plastic products across Europe. The ban will include plastic bags, straws, cups and more. Read more about it here: