You can do something about marine debris from the comfort of your own home. Although marine debris can come from many different sources, if we reduce the amount of waste we produce, we reduce the amount of waste that can potentially become marine debris. A good rule of thumb is to remember the 4 Rs: Refuse, Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.


Say “no thanks!” to unnecessary items, especially single-use or disposable items. If you order takeout, ask that they leave out the plastic utensils and use the forks you have at home. Offered a knick-knack that you’re just going to throw out in a couple weeks? It’s ok to politely decline. The less disposable goods we accumulate, the less we have to throw away.

Check out this Marine Debris Program supported project that helps people refuse plastic straws.


Skip the disposables and try to use reusable products as much as possible. Reusable water bottles, grocery bags, and food containers are easy places to start, but be creative. What do you throw away the most? Can you replace it with something reusable? Reusable snack packs can replace plastic food bags, and reusable wax wraps can replace cling film. There are many options out there that might fit into your lifestyle. Even things you already own can be reused in old ways. Whether you are repurposing old containers, or fixing up old furniture, try to reuse items instead of sending them straight to the landfill.

Check out this Marine Debris Program supported project that makes it easier for people to reuse water bottles.


If you can’t get away from single-use or disposable items completely, try to at least reduce the amount of these items you consume. Online shopping can be fun and convenient, but how much extra packaging is in your mail-order parcel? Try to minimize packaging and waste by selecting options to combine packages, or doing your shopping in person - remember to bring your reusable bags! Do you eat your favorite snack every day at lunch? Try buying in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging that comes with your food. An added benefit is often buying in bulk saves you money as well.

Check out this Marine Debris Program supported project that helps people in Oregon reduce the amount of plastic they consume.


If you do have to dispose of something and have access to recycling where you live, check to see if it is recyclable. Learn your community’s recycling rules and recycle whatever you are not able to reduce, reuse, or refuse. However, it is important to keep items that aren’t recyclable out of the bin and avoid “wishcycling”. Contamination from food or other non-recyclable materials can mean your recycling may go to the landfill instead of being made into something new. Periodically check your community’s recycling list for any changes or updates to recycling rules. Believe it or not, recycling can be a dynamic process!

Check out this Marine Debris supported project to help create a culture of recycling in the Northern Marianas Islands.

Last updated Tue, 03/19/2024 - 14:28