Trash-Free Waters

Marine debris is often the result of poorly managed waste. The amount of waste from U.S. consumers continues to rise, more than doubling between 1960 and 2013.

When consumer goods, often single-use disposables, are littered or improperly managed, this trash can find its way into rivers, streams and other waterways. These ultimately empty into our oceans, where the trash becomes marine debris. Plastics in the aquatic environment are of increasing concern because of their persistence and effect on the environment, wildlife and human health.

What can you do to help? Unpackage your life.

  • Bring your own bag. Say no to single use paper and plastic bags and bring your own high quality reusable bag.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle. Each week, Americans buy enough plastic water bottles to circle the earth five times.
  • Pack a waste-free lunch. Do away with throw-away lunch packaging. Each child who brings a brown bag lunch to school every day generates 67 pounds of waste each year.
  • Bring your own cup. The average American can 500 paper cups a year.
  • Slow down and dine in. Get your coffee “for here” or enjoy a home-cooked meal with friends and family and say goodbye to single-use packaging.
  • Say no to straws or bring your own. Plastic straws are consistently one of the most littered plastic items, which means they end up in our waterways and are harmful to fish and wildlife.
  • Avoid heavily packaged foods. Buy foods that aren’t heavily packaged, like fresh produce and bulk items.
  • Bring your own container and utensils. Bring your own container and utensils to cut down on “the other leftovers” from your take out meal.
  • Use no bag or a fabric bag to carry produce and other grocery items. You’ve worked so hard to bring reusable bags to the store, why fill them up with plastic produce bags? Bring your own fabric bags for produce and bulk items.
  • Communicate. Let your friends and family know what you’re doing and help them get involved.

Learn more about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Trash-Free Waters program.

Top 10 Sources of Marine Waste

(Graphic source: Ocean Conservancy. Information source: U.S. EPA)