At the Store

Groceries and a reusable cloth grocery bag.
Whenever possible, use a reusable bag and your own containers when you shop! (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Many of the most common items found on our beaches and in our waters are things we may come in contact with every day, such as single-use beverage bottles, plastic bags, food packaging, and takeout containers. By making thoughtful choices as consumers, we can make an impact and reduce marine debris. Remember these common marine debris items the next time you go shopping:

Plastic Beverage Bottles and Caps - During the 2017 International Coastal Cleanup, plastic beverage bottles and plastic bottle caps were among the top five items found. Think about how many plastic bottles you buy. Not just water, but juice, milk, sports drinks, and soda often come in plastic bottles as well. When at the store, make choices that reduce the amount of waste you produce. Get a reusable bottle to fill with water or juice you’ve squeezed yourself. Many grocery stores also offer milk in glass bottles that you can return to the store for reuse by dairy farmers. If plastic packaging is your best option, buy in bulk instead of individual servings.

Food Packaging - As you walk down the aisles of the grocery store, take a moment to notice the types of packaging around all the products. Wrappers around candy, cereal, snacks, and so many other products are often made of lightweight plastic that can easily blow out of garbage cans and into waterways. You can reduce the amount of food packaging that you throw away by buying your favorites in bulk packages, or if you can, from self-serve bulk bins. Many grocery stores let you fill up reusable containers with coffee, nuts, beans, dried fruit, and many other dry goods. If you really want to challenge yourself, try to make a meal without using any ingredients that come wrapped in plastic

Plastic Bags - Plastic bags can be especially dangerous to wildlife. The loops from the handles can entangle animals, and the thin translucent plastic looks like prey in the water. Instead, bring your reusable bags with you when shopping. Reusable produce bags also stop the need for all the individual plastic ones… better yet, many of these bags can be washed with your laundry! Reusable bags aren’t just for the grocery store, you can use them at clothing stores, hardware stores, or anywhere else you shop. Have a hard time remembering your bag? Find one that can attach to your purse or backpack, or fold up and fit in a pocket, so you always have a bag with you.

Microfibers - Microfibers are too small to be picked up during a cleanup, but they cover our beaches and ocean ecosystems as well. A study of microplastics on National Park beaches found that 97% of the microplastics on the beaches were fibers. These fibers often come from our clothing when washed in the laundry. You can reduce the amount of fibers that flow out of your washing machine by using products designed to catch microfibers before they flow out with the waste water. Microfiber-catching laundry balls, bags, or filters are all products you can buy to reduce the amount of microfibers you produce.