What You Can Do
What You Can Do About Trash Pollution in Your Waterways
Anyone, from a student to a CEO, can prevent trash from ending up in our oceans. There are actions you can take at home and in your community to protect our water.
Reducing Trash at the Consumer Level
The number one way to prevent trash pollution from ending up in our waterways is to reduce the amount of trash that is created in the first place.
Find ways to unpackage your life with the 10 tips shown on this page. You can also read about them on our Unpackage Your Life page.
- shopping for second-hand clothing and home items,
- investing in quality, long lasting-products you can reuse, and
- repairing things when they break.
Proper Trash Disposal
Marine litter is often the result of poorly-managed trash on land. If not disposed of properly, your trash can end up in waterways and flow downstream into the oceans. In fact, 80% of the marine litter found on coastlines during cleanups and surveys originated from land-based sources.
Research what materials are recycleable in your area and follow that guidance when you dispose of trash.
Put recycling and trash in the appropriate bins, not next to them or on top of an overflowing bin. Leaving materials outside of bins increases risks to sanitation workers, can attract pests, and contributes to litter.
Make sure your trash bins are covered and secured at night and during storms.
Don’t put your recyclables in plastic bags.
NEW!: Looking for tips and reminders on waste management during and after COVID-19?
Remember to throw your masks, wipes, and latex gloves in the trash and not in the street, parking lot, or sidewalk. Properly dispose of your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).Exit
During this time, many of us are home for longer periods of time. You may notice you are generating more material than normal. Be sure to recycle more, recycle right.
If someone in your home has COVID-19, treat your recyclables as trash.
Spring cleaning? Consider setting aside items to donate, recycle, or dispose of later when it's safe to bring them to a drop off location or collection event. Follow local guidelines - many localities are limiting service at this time (e.g., not picking up bulk items).
Cleanups and Community Engagement
Getting engaged in your community and taking an active role in cleaning up your neighborhood can have a large influence on the amount of trash that reaches our water. Invite your friends, family, and classmates to join in!
Collect data on what you find!
Organize a class presentation for America Recycles Day.
Use the Marine Debris Campus Toolkit to bring positive change to your university.
Education Leads to Action
Understanding how trash enters our waterways and impacts our communities, economies, and natural ecosystems is an easy step on the path to tackling the trash pollution problem.