7 STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO FIGHT POLLUTION
70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans. And over 40% of those oceans are littered with plastic. Marine plastic isn’t just ruining the natural beauty of our seas—it’s causing wildlife and environmental damage on a global scale. We need to take action now. The silver lining is that we can do something to combat the marine plastic problem. Here’s how to get started.
3 MAJOR SOURCES OF MARINE PLASTIC POLLUTION
Oceans are the biggest, most vibrant ecosystems on planet Earth, containing tens of thousands of species and producing half of the oxygen we breathe. Sadly, oceans are also our most threatened ecosystems—polluted by plastic waste that threatens not just marine life, but those of us on dry land. Scientists estimate that each year over eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans. It’s a staggering number to wrap your head around. So how does it break down?
INDUSTRIAL PLASTIC: Industry has a huge role to play in the plastic problem. Worldwide, plastic packaging and textiles account for well over 100 million tons of pollution each year. That’s why at adidas we are always looking for ways to improve our plastic footprint.
MICROPLASTIC: Marine plastic pollution isn’t just terrible for ecosystems; it’s also a huge eyesore. But some of the worst pollution is invisible. That’s the case with plastic microbeads, which are found in cosmetics and other products. Just one shower with a shampoo containing microbeads can send 100,000 plastic particles into the ocean.
CONSUMER PLASTIC: This is where you come in. Consumer plastic is the kind we use in our everyday lives: bottles, bags, straws, takeout containers, and much more. A plastic bag has an average “working life” of a mere 12 minutes, and once it’s thrown away, that bag can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Worldwide, an estimated 1 trillion single-use plastic bags are produced every year, and less than 1% of those are recycled. Millions end up in the ocean.
WHY WE NEED TO PROTECT THE OCEANS
The immediate threat from plastic pollution is to the species that call the oceans home. Thousands of marine animals are killed each year because they mistake plastic waste for food and choke on it, or get tangled in it as it floats by.
But marine life isn’t the only kind that suffers as the oceans fill with human-made pollution. Erosive plastics such as polystyrene (Styrofoam) are known to release harmful toxins as they break into smaller pieces in the oceans. As a result, mercury is just one of the alarming pollutants to have been found present at increased concentrations within seafood. The extent of the threat to food safety remains unclear, but we know that mercury can cause major problems to human health—from organ damage to childhood development issues.
New research has also found a link between marine plastic and climate change. As trash floats around in our oceans, taking hundreds of years to decompose, it releases powerful greenhouse gases. These gases—including methane and ethylene—are thought to be a major contributor to the degradation of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Thankfully, there are measures we can take to start healing our oceans. In isolation these lifestyle changes might have limited impact, but if we all do our part, we can genuinely make a difference.
STEP 1: B.Y.O.B. (BRING YOUR OWN BAGS)
Just one plastic bag in our oceans can kill multiple sea creatures. That’s because these barely-used bags look like food to ocean animals and can cause fatal blockages when swallowed. What’s especially scary is that plastic bags take so long to degrade that a dead animal can decompose and release the plastic bag that killed it back into the water for another animal to eat. Next time you shop, bring your own reusable bag.
STEP 2: BAN THE BALLOONS
We hate to be a buzzkill, but balloons are especially dangerous for marine life. Those that escape our hands end up choking waterways—just last year nearly 100,000 balloons were picked up by ocean conservation volunteers. As an alternative, try a piñata. It’s recyclable and is way more fun anyway.
STEP 3: PASS ON PACKAGING AND GO RAW
Single-use packaging is rampant in the food industry—accounting for 40% of plastic waste the world over. Thankfully, unpackaged alternatives are now becoming available for everything from baked goods to hand soap. Check your local farmer’s market or a zero-waste store that makes a concerted effort to provide sustainable alternatives. If you do stop at a typical supermarket, consider buying products with recyclable packaging.
STEP 4: SHOP RESPONSIBLY
Despite the world trending toward more environmentally conscious consumer behavior, plenty of companies still utilize virgin plastic—meaning, new plastic that has never been used or processed before. At adidas, we’ve partnered with environmental organization Parley for the Oceans to create a line of shoes and apparel made with recycled and upcycled waste from coastal communities.
STEP 5: THINK ABOUT YOUR FOOD
Thanks to their small size, microplastic beads can easily find their way into the diet of ocean wildlife. In fact, a study in California found that up to 25% of seafood in fish markets contained microplastic in its system. The science is still out on how much of a threat this could be to humans, but if you’re a seafood lover, you may be unknowingly eating thousands of pieces of microplastic each year—a pretty disgusting notion, and certainly enough to make you reconsider using microbead-laden products.
STEP 6: B.Y.O.W.B.T. (BRING YOUR OWN WATER BOTTLE, TOO)
Only 31% of plastic bottles are recycled. Coupled with the fact that annual consumption of them is set to hit half a trillion bottles by 2021, this is the kind of plastic item you should skip entirely. Instead, use an aluminum bottle or reusable plastic container.
STEP 7: RUN FOR THE OCEANS
Want to get in shape and keep plastic out of our oceans at the same time? Take on Run For The Oceans from June 8–16, 2019. It’s a global movement that uses exercise to address the problem of marine plastic pollution. In 2018, nearly a million people took part in Run for the Oceans, logging their kilometers in the Runtastic and Joyrun apps and raising both money and awareness for the problem of marine plastic pollution.
For every kilometer logged during Run for the Oceans 2019, adidas will contribute $1 to Parley Ocean School (capped at $1.5M), educating youth about the threat of plastic pollution and inspiring them to take action.