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7 Ways to Reduce Plastic Pollution in the Ocean

September 1, 2022

7 Ways to Reduce Plastic Pollution in the Ocean

There are many ways to reduce plastic in the ocean, whether you’re approaching the problem as an individual, community, or corporate entity.

Below, we discuss seven of the most effective solutions. But first, let’s review the details of the plastic pollution problem.  

Table of contents

  • The Ocean Plastic Pollution Problem
  • Plastic Pollution Solutions
  • Reducing Pollution for a Better Ocean Economy
  • Conclusion

The ocean plastic pollution problem

Plastic pollution is a dire problem for the world’s seas. Indeed, as much as 12.7 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year!

Unfortunately, the problem is likely to get worse in the coming decades. By 2060, our planet’s plastic waste could be triple what it is now. And if our plastic management efforts stay the same, less than 20% of that will be recycled properly.

These are the three main factors contributing to the plastic pollution in the ocean:

  • Massive increase in plastic production
  • Decline in plastic recycling rates
  • Poor waste management

Plastic production doubled between 2000 and 2019. Shortly thereafter, in 2021, plastic recycling declined from 8.7% to between 5 and 6% in the U.S.

To top it off, an estimated 22% of plastic waste worldwide is mismanaged. In part, that is due to poor disposal practices, and some of it is due to microplastic leakage from things like road markings, tire wear, and synthetic textiles.

Plastic pollution in our oceans comes with grim consequences. Beloved oceanic life like sea turtles, whales, and seabirds face health issues from consuming plastic particles. In addition, plastics are destroying ocean habitats, including treasured coral reefs. And, bits of plastic trash blight our beautiful beaches and coastlines.

Solutions: 7 ways we can reduce plastic pollution in the ocean

Fortunately, there are ocean plastic solutions that can reduce pollution and benefit us all. Taking small steps as a consumer or corporate entity, supporting local initiatives, and pushing for bigger legislative actions can help curb the plastic pollution problem.

1. Reduce your plastic use

The easiest thing you can do to reduce ocean plastics is to limit single-use plastics.

You can give up single-use water bottles in favor of a refillable bottle, abandon plastic grocery bags for reusable cloth options, and ask your dry cleaner to stop placing a plastic cover on your clothes.

Likewise, you can also purchase items in bulk, which lowers the amount of plastic packaging. And, you can refuse any plastics you don’t need. For example, when ordering take-out, consider asking not to include plastic utensils with your food.

2. Limit plastic packaging

Plastic cases and covers on new electronics and similar goods aren’t just frustrating to open; they also generate a lot of waste. So, lowering the amount of plastic packaging you use is an effective way to reduce plastic pollution.  

3. Organize or join a waterway cleanup

You or your company can take a rewarding stand against plastic pollution in the ocean by hosting or joining a local waterway cleanup. That can be as simple as asking family and friends to help you pick up trash at a local stream. Or, it can be a more formal occasion.

If you want to participate in something on a global scale, International Coastal Cleanup organizes several annual events. These encourage volunteers to pick up plastics from local rivers, streams, and beaches.

4. Avoid microbeads

Many cosmetic and self-care products, like body washes, toothpaste, and exfoliants, have microbeads. These are plastics, and they don’t dissolve. Instead, they trickle down the drain and into our waterways, eventually reaching the ocean.

The tiny plastic beads don’t float to the ocean’s surface, either. They spread out and circulate, making them impossible to filter out. Small animals like plankton, and filter feeders such as oysters and clams, consume microbeads and other small plastics.

Not only does that lead to a potential health threat for these small beings, but it also poses risks to humans. As humans consume fish further up the food chain or enjoy filter feeders such as oysters, they also end up ingesting plastics.

You can help bring an end to microbeads by avoiding products that have “polyethylene” or “polypropylene” in them.

5. Support legislation for plastic reduction

You can do your part to reduce plastics as an individual, family, or business, but to really make an impact, the world needs legislation addressing plastic reduction. Supporting state-level, national, and international initiatives that limit plastic waste is crucial to ensuring less ocean pollution.

Look out for and endorse initiatives like California’s SB34, which cuts plastic packaging by 25% over the next ten years while requiring 65% of all single-use plastics to be recycled properly.

Or, throw your support behind global efforts, like the UN Plastic Pollution Treaty, which seeks a legally binding agreement to deal with the plastic lifecycle by 2024.

6. Support plastic offsetting

Plastic offsetting is another excellent way to reduce plastic in the ocean. It involves companies offsetting their own usage by funding environmental and social projects that work with plastic waste.

Companies can practice plastic offsetting with the help of organizations like Second Life. We help local collectors in coastal communities cover the extra costs of picking up ocean plastics. Doing that supports local economies, improves the livelihoods of the collectors, and supports local waste collection ecosystems.

7. Make your voice heard

Though many people are generally aware plastic waste is a problem, they may not know just how severe it is or what they can do about it. So, spreading the word on how to reduce plastic in the ocean is crucial.

Even sending a tweet or sharing a post goes a long way to let others know.

You can also ensure your company is doing everything possible to reduce plastic waste. Then, you can share your plastic-reducing strategies in marketing campaigns. Not only can this help your bottom line, but it can also inspire other companies to follow suit.  

Reducing pollution for a better ocean economy

There are many ways to reduce plastic in the ocean. For instance, we can clean up local waterways and find ways to limit our plastic use. However, to really make a dent in the plastic pollution problem, we need to create a circular economy for plastics.

In a circular plastic economy, the plastics we need continue circulating and never end up as waste. According to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, creating such an economy could have the following benefits by 2040:

  • Reduce plastics entering the ocean by 80%
  • Generate up to $200 billion in savings
  • Create up to 700,000 jobs
  • Reduce greenhouse gasses by 25%

Take our project in Ranong, Thailand, as an example.

There, we work with Ranong Recycle (RR). RR hires four full-time employees and up to 15 socially marginalized individuals daily. They collect ocean plastics, then ship them to Wongpanit Krabi for processing. Once the plastic is processed, it reenters the plastic supply chain.

So, the circular plastic economy has huge benefits. It can restore our beaches, help ensure healthy marine life, and limit the human consumption of microplastics. It can also create massive savings while adding jobs to local coastal communities.


Ocean plastic pollution is a major problem plaguing the globe. While there are many ways to reduce plastic in the ocean, the most effective method is via an integrated approach that works with individuals, communities, and companies.
At Second Life, we empower companies to reduce plastic waste. By bringing us on board, your company will be supporting plastic collection and recycling in vulnerable communities and biodiversity hotspots. With this approach to plastic reduction, we can look forward to a brighter future for the world’s oceans and the humans that enjoy them.