Looking Back on 2018’s Fight for Trash Free Seas®

The Year of “Single-Use”

Last month Collins Dictionary announced “single-use” as the 2018 Word of the Year. This came as no surprise to us at Ocean Conservancy. Our Trash Free Seas® program has been busier than ever—growing our team and the work we perform on the issue of ocean plastic.

It is estimated that eight million metric tons of plastic flow into the ocean every year, negatively impacting marine life through entanglement and ingestion. During the International Coastal Cleanup each year, volunteers collect data on some 20 million items, the majority of which are single-use—meaning they are designed specifically to be used only once and then disposed of. In 2018, these items received a well-deserved spotlight as just about everybody began to re-think the products they use in their everyday lives.

In honor of Collins’ decision, and with the New Year just two weeks away, let’s take some time to look back at some major ocean moments of the past twelve months:

  • January— China Restricts Recyclable Importations from the US and Europe
    • China announces it will no longer accept recyclables with high levels of contamination from America and Europe, sending a shockwave through global recycling markets. While jolting, this shift provides an opportunity to improve domestic recycling.
  • March—Sixth International Marine Debris Conference
    • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hosts the Sixth International Marine Debris Conference in San Diego, bringing together hundreds of ocean plastics experts from around the world. Scientists, industry executives and non-profit representatives gather to discuss the state of the science, and the solutions in the pipelines to address marine debris globally.
  • May—National Geographic Launches Planet or Plastic?
    • National Geographic Magazine releases an in-depth feature on the impact of single-use plastic on our planet. In addition, the discovery of a plastic bag in the Mariana Trench—approximately 10,898 meters below the surface—demonstrates just how deep our plastic problem goes.
  • June – G7 Puts Plastic on the Map
    • The governments of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union announce the Ocean Plastics Charter, showing leadership in addressing plastics in the ocean. The Charter commits to more sustainable use and management of plastics to stop their flow into the ocean.
  • June—For the First Time in Over Three Decades, Plastics Sweep Top Ten List
    • Glass beverage bottles and aluminum cans typically are among the top ten items collected during the global cleanup event. However, this year every single item found in the top ten was plastic. Not to mention all the weird finds found during the 2017 cleanup like hot tubs, a banana toothbrush and thousands of appliances!
  • July—Starbucks Announces its Plan to Eliminate Plastic Straws Globally by 2020
    • Starbucks announces plan to eliminate single-use plastic straws from more than 28,000 stores worldwide eliminating more than one billion plastic straws a year. Plastic straws will be replaced with strawless lids with alternative-material straw options available,
  • September—Volunteers Around the World Suit up to Cleanup in the 33rd International Coastal Cleanup
    • Hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world hit their local beaches and waterways, collecting tens of millions of pounds of trash. Volunteers have collected information on over 265 million items of debris since 1986. Now, it’s easy to track your impact with OceanConservancy’s mobile application, Clean Swell.
  • October—Save Our Seas Act Signed Into Law
    • The Save Our Seas Act is enacted into law by President Trump. The Act reauthorizes NOAA’s marine debris program for 5 years at $10 million a year and calls on the State Department and Executive Branch to address marine debris.
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  • October—Ocean Conservancy Assumes Leadership of Global Ghost Gear Initiative
    • Ahead of Our Ocean conference in October, Ocean Conservancy announced that it would be taking on the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) in the New Year. GGGI brings together 100 organizations to address the global threat to our ocean’s health: ghost gear. Ghost gear has been found to be the most hazardous type of marine debris to marine life, entangling anything from sea turtles to northern right whales. Ocean Conservancy looks forward to assuming leadership of GGGI in January 2019 to expand and grow this crucial piece of the marine debris puzzle.
  • October— Circulate Capital Announces $90 Million in Expected Funding to Combat Ocean Plastic
    • Circulate Capital, the investment management firm dedicated to incubating and financing companies and infrastructure that prevent ocean plastic, announces in October that it expects to receive $90 million in funding for its strategy to combat ocean plastic from several of the world’s leading consumer packaged goods and chemical companies, includingPepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Danone, Unilever and The Coca-Cola Company.
  • December – This one is up to you! Join us in the fight for Trash Free Seas® and keep the ocean in mind as you make your New Year’s resolutions—take the plastic pledge.
    • Skip the straw, or opt for a reusable alternative.
    • Make the switch to reusable shopping bags.
    • Choose to carry a refillable water bottle, thermos, or coffee cup.
    • Mindfully recycle any plastics that you do consume.

Spread the word. Share with friends and family the simple steps we can all take to ensure a future with a health, thriving ocean.

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