Less Waste, More Action

Posted Thu, 03/15/2018 - 11:00

By: Amanda Laverty, Communications Specialist with the NOAA Marine Debris Program. Edited April 2019 to remove incorrect statistic.

We’re spending March talking all about marine debris and its types, sources, impacts, and solutions. Tune in throughout the month to learn more about this important topic and how we can all be part of the effort to make our lives and our ocean #DebrisFree.

Here at the NOAA Marine Debris Program, we are striving to reduce the amount of waste we produce annually. The EPA estimates that on average, Americans generate 4.40 pounds of waste per person per day. Now that is a lot of trash! Unfortunately, much of that trash becomes marine debris. The good news is that because we are the problem, we can be the solution too! In fact, 700+ leading marine debris experts from around the world are meeting this week in San Diego, CA, at the Sixth International Marine Debris Conference to discuss the state of marine debris science and the path forward. The purpose of this event is to expose innovation, expand collaboration, and fuel action— and to do it while producing as little waste as possible.

We all have a role to play in this global, pervasive issue. If each of us strive to reduce our individual impact, we can make a huge difference together! By committing ourselves to one or more of the goals below, we can help move in the direction of a cleaner and healthier world. Here are a few simple ways to get started:


1.) Switch to reusable coffee cups

Goal: Bring a mug for your morning coffee.

Result: At even just two drinks a week, you will prevent over 100 disposable cups, lids, and drink sleeves from entering the waste stream over the course of one year.


2.) Use reusable bags

Goal: Bring reusable bags to the grocery store or for any other shopping activities.

Result: If you use five bags every week, you will save over 250 plastic bags from entering the waste stream this year.


3.) Skip the straw

Goal: When you go out to eat, inform your server that you prefer not to have plastic straws in your drinks. 

Result: At every meal out, you can choose to reduce the total amount of straws that go to a landfill or end up in the ocean.


4.) Change to cloth towels

Goal: Consider using towels or washcloths rather than paper towels.

Result: By using reusable and washable towels, you will not only drastically reduce the amount of paper waste you are generating, but you will also save money!


5.) Shop in bulk and fill your own containers

Goal: Most of the plastic and waste we produce is from single-use packaging. Focus on unpackaged items when you shop and seek out stores with bulk goods where you can bring your own containers.

Result: You will generate less single-use packaging and save money to boot! In many cases, buying in bulk is less costly than individually-packaged items.


There are many ways you can reduce the amount of waste you produce on a daily basis! Challenge yourself to pay close attention to the amount of waste you produce over the course of one day or one week. The more attention we give this problem, the more incentive we will find to correct it. Try adopting one of the goals above and focus on it for a month. After you get the hang of a change in routine, it will not be hard to create new habits and make a lasting impact!