Celebrating Earth Day with action to end plastic pollution

By Jennifer Lee, Director of Policy and Planning

Marine debris may sound like a far-off ocean problem, but much of that litter starts with us on land. When we discard trash, it can wash down storm drains to contaminate our rivers and Puget Sound. Plastics pose a particularly serious form of pollution. During coastal clean-ups, some of the most common items recovered are single-use plastics, including plastic bags, beverage bottles, and straws. Though we may only use them once, these plastic items can linger in the water for centuries without degrading.

Hawksbill sea turtle entangled in marine debris in Hawaii. Photo credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Earth Day challenge to end plastic pollution
When improperly disposed of, plastics tarnish our coastal environments and can endanger plants and animals. Marine life, including salmon, ingest plastic fragments and other debris. For sea turtles, plastic bags are the most common type of marine debris consumed. This year, in recognition of the plastics problem, the campaign for Earth Day on April 22 challenges us all to end plastic pollution. Already, communities across Puget Sound are taking action to reduce plastic pollution. For instance, the City of Tacoma, Bainbridge Island and many other communities have banned single use plastic bags. A new straw and utensils ban in Seattle will ban plastic straws and utensils starting July 1, 2018. Efforts such as these bans help reduce the plastic that ends up in our waters, preserving a cleaner and safer environment for everyone.

Working together with our partners
Here at the Puget Sound Partnership, we are actively exploring how we can do more to reduce marine debris. Next month, our staff will join Canadian colleagues to discuss how we can build community solutions to prevent land-based litter from entering the Salish Sea watershed. Our staff will also participate in a workshop to create the Washington Marine Debris Action Plan.

Hawaiian monk seal sits on a derelict fishing net. Photo credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

What you can do to help
Each of us has the power and duty to keep our waters clean. To prevent marine debris, be sure that you dispose of waste properly. Don’t drop trash down storm drains, which often drain to Puget Sound. Avoid littering, recycle when possible, and reduce the amount of waste you produce each day. Carry a reusable water bottle to eliminate pollution from plastic water bottles. You can also check out local actions in your community, like local beach clean-ups and Earth Day events. Every piece of debris counts, so let’s all do our part to keep Puget Sound and our ocean free of debris.