Marine Debris: Make a Choice

Wondering how you can make a difference? There are many ways we can reduce our dependence on plastic and single-use items and help prevent debris from entering the ocean. 
Plastic Bags - Choose to Reuse
Plastic grocery bags are extremely hazardous to ocean animals, especially sea turtles. These bags are easily mistaken for jelly fish - a favorite sea turtle snack. You can reduce the number of plastic bags that make their way to the ocean by using a reusable bag for your shopping or taking your used plastic bags back to the store as part of the state's bag recycling program.
Unfortunately, when plastic bags get put in Delaware's curbside residential recycling bins, they clog the machines at recycling centers and hinder the progress of the state's Universal Recycling Program. Therefore, Delaware state law requires stores over a certain size to provide plastic bag recycling programs. Returning the bags to the store's plastic bag recycling bins is the best option for preventing them from entering the marine environment.
Balloons - Hold on Tight
Latex and mylar balloons, whether intentionally or accidentally released, float away into the sky - but where do they go? What goes up must come down, and when they do, they can have detrimental impacts on the health of land and marine animals. The balloons typically pop and then get ingested by animals, which can clog their digestive systems. Additionally, animals can easily get entangled in the ribbon attached to the balloon.
Balloon releases are popular for celebrating events, but not much thought is given to the effects these have on the environment. Releases are also technically littering, which could make these activities subject to penalties according to Delaware's Litter Control Law. Even latex balloons marketed as "biodegradable" may possibly be consumed by unknowing animals before they completely break down. The best way to prevent balloons from ending up in our waterways is to not use them at all. Consider using other decorations or organize alternative activities to properly recognize the significance of an event or holiday.
Environmentally-Friendly Alternatives to Balloons
  • decorate with banners or bunting
  • hold a candlelight ceremony
  • blow bubbles
  • plant in remembrance
  • decorate with reusable materials
  • wave flags to show support
  • sponsor a bench
  • donate your decorating budget to a fundraiser
Straws - Think Before You Drink
It is estimated that Americans alone use 500 millions straws each day - enough to encircle the earth 2.5 times. That's more than one straw per person every day. This generates a lot of plastic waste which is easily avoidable. Straws break down into microplastics in the environment and can also be ingested by animals. The straw refusal movement gained popularity after a video went viral on the internet showing researchers removing an entire plastic straw from the nostril of a sea turtle.
Straws have been used in civilizations for over 7,000 years, but it wasn't until recent decades that they have been manufactured primarily from plastic. Switching to a more sustainable option is an easy choice to make if you still prefer to use a straw. Reusable options are available, such as stainless steel, bamboo, silicone, and others which can be purchased in many stores or online for your convenience.

Page reviewed 2/8/19