Plastic in the Oceans — What You Can Do To Stop the Epidemic

Disposable Sunset © Anne de Carbuccia

This month the journal Scientific Reports published new research revealing that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was potentially 16 times larger than originally believed. In the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, hundreds of miles from any major city, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a swirling depository of everyday objects brought to one location by ocean currents. The new report estimated the garbage patch to be roughly four times the size of California, containing 1.8 trillion pieces of rubbish. During their expedition, 99.9% of what the researchers pulled from the ocean for sampling was plastic.

Anne de Carbuccia documenting trash in West Papua

Anne de Carbuccia has documented plastic waste everywhere from some of the world’s most remote places to its most populated. Of man-made waste products, plastic is one of the slowest to decompose naturally. When it’s discarded into the oceans, currents reduce plastic to fine slivers that can be ingested by fish (which will later be consumed by people).

It is fundamental that we reduce our use of plastic as a species, and it is the responsibility of each of us as consumers to do our part.

One Planet One Future recommends these five steps to get started:

1 Carry a Tote Plastic bags are one of the most difficult items to recycle as many cities don’t have proper processes in place. It is estimated that 1 trillion plastic bags are used each year. By carrying a reusable tote with you at all times, you can do your part to lower that total each and every day. And if a plastic bag does find its way to you, look for local collection points (like One Planet One Future NY).

2 Rock a Bottle Takeout drink cups and single-use plastic bottles can be removed from your waste footprint by committing to a reusable bottle (hopefully made from recycled materials!). Looking for a quick solution? At OPOF, we sell our very own version in our galleries and online.

One Planet One Future Water Bottle in the Empty Quarter

3 Say No to Straws Spend a day noticing how many straws you go through; you may be surprised. Plastic straws are one of the most frequent items that end up in the Oceans. Start requesting ‘No straw’ at restaurants and bars, and if you want to take an extra step talk to your favorite spots about the #StopSucking campaign.

4 Beat the Microbead Microbeads are tiny plastic particles that are added to personal care products. They are commonly used to scrub the skin or clean your teeth, but can be in other products as well. By their very nature, microbeads enter the water system as soon as they are used. “Beat the Microbead” is an ongoing campaign to empower consumers to avoid products that include these harmful ingredients, including an app that checks the label for you.

5 Turn Down Takeout The majority of takeout food containers are made from plastic, and those that aren’t are generally non-recyclable soiled paper. Committing to a week of container-less or only homemade food can make a huge difference.

Children breathing through masks at Thilafushi — commonly known as ‘Trash Island’

Scientists agree that the level of plastic in the ocean is already unsustainable, and it continues to exponentially increase. 3 billion people depend on the ocean as their primary source of food. It is up to each of us to ensure that it is not rendered useless by plastic waste.


— — — —

One Planet One Future is a 501(c)3 arts nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about climate change and environmental destruction. They host exhibitions around the world and have permanent Art Spaces in NYC and Milan. Get involved.