Rise Above Plastics
The ocean is turning into a plastic soup.
Most plastic pollution at sea starts out on land as litter on beaches, streets and sidewalks. Rain or overwatering flushes that litter through a storm drain system or directly to creeks, streams and rivers that lead to the ocean. After plastics enter the marine environment they slowly photodegrade into smaller pieces that marine life can mistake for food, sometimes with fatal results. Ocean gyres concentrate plastic pollution in five main areas of the world’s ocean and various research groups are bringing back alarming data documenting plastics impacts.
Simple local actions can help make an impact to solve this global issue. Join us in protecting the coast and Rise Above Plastics! Check out the resources on these 'RAP' program pages, then get involved with your local Surfrider Foundation Chapter to help protect the coasts and oceans.
Plastic—it's all around us.
It's in our homes, our offices, our vehicles, our yards, our playgrounds. We use it to package food, bottle products, bag produce, make dinnerware and utensils, make toys....
Plastics have undoubtedly helped us to manufacture, package and ship goods more easily, for less money, and in some cases more safely than ever before.
But, plastics pose a significant threat to our planet as well.
Part of the problem is plastic itself. The very qualities that make it an adaptable and durable product to use, also make plastic an environmental nightmare. You see, plastics do not biodegrade. Instead they photodegrade - breaking down under exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays, into smaller and smaller pieces.
Bottom line: with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated, virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form.
Rise Above Plastics Mission
To reduce the impacts of plastics in the marine environment by raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution and by advocating for a reduction of single-use plastics and the recycling of all plastics.
Rise Above Plastic Grassroots Goals
We encourage YOU to help address these globlal issues locally with plastic reductions at home, school, work and for your entire community:
- Connect with Rise Above Plastics by attending a Surfrider Foundation Chapter meeting or following 'RAP' on Facebook / Twitter.
- Get involved with your local chapter and/or spread the word to friends and family about the problems with plastics.
- Be a leader and have the biggest impact by directing a plastic reduction program at school/work or a plastic reduction ordinance with you local city council.
Check out the Rise Above Plastics Activist Toolkit under the 'Resources' tab for detailed tips and ideas.
Ten Ways To Rise Above Plastics
Here are ten easy things you can do to reduce your 'plastic footprint' and help keep plastics out of the marine environment:
- Choose to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water. Cloth bags and metal or glass reusable bottles are available locally at great prices.
- Refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other 'disposable' plastics. Carry reusable utensils in your purse, backpack or car to use at bbq's, potlucks or take-out restaurants.
- Reduce everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons by replacing them with a reusable lunch bag/box that includes a thermos.
- Bring your to-go mug with you to the coffee shop, smoothie shop or restaurants that let you use them. A great wat to reduce lids, plastic cups and/or plastic-lined cups.
- Go digital! No need for plastic cds, dvds and jewel cases when you can buy your music and videos online.
- Seek out alternatives to the plastic items that you rely on.
- Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics. Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates.
- Volunteer at a beach cleanup. Surfrider Foundation Chapters often hold cleanups monthly or more frequently.
- Support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills.
- Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends about why it is important to Rise Above Plastics!
Rise Above Plastics Activist Toolkit
Help reduce plastic waste in your community with the Rise Above Plastics Activist Toolkit! This is a step by step guide to creating positive change in your community through reducing single-use plastics. The RAP Toolkit is focused on establishing a plastic bag ban or similar ordinance and it also offers insight on increasing awareness of plastic pollution issues through education and outreach.
- The amount of plastic produced from 2000 - 2010 exceeds the amount produced during the entire last century.
- Plastic is the most common type of marine litter worldwide.
- An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and up to 1 million sea birds die every year after ingesting or being tangled in plastic marine litter.
- Up to 80% of the plastic in our oceans comes from land-based sources.
- Plastics comprise up to 90% of floating marine debris.
- In 2009 about 3.8 million tons of waste plastic "bags, sacks and wraps" were generated in the United States, but only 9.4% of this total was recycled.
- Plastics do not biodegrade, but instead break down into small particles that persist in the ocean, absorb toxins, and enter our food chain through fish, sea birds and other marine life.
- Plastic bags are problematic in the litter stream because they float easily in the air and water, traveling long distances and never fully breaking down in water.
- Cleanup of plastic bags is costly. California spends $25 million annually to landfill discarded plastic bags, and public agencies spend more than $300 million annually in litter cleanup.
- It is estimated that Americans go through about 100 billion plastic bags a year, or 360 bags per year for every man, woman and child in the country.
RAP on the Web
Rise Above Plastics (RAP) likes to stay connected with our supporters as much as possible and we welcome your feedback and ideas. Here are some of the main places you can find more info and stay connected:
Check out Surfrider Foundation 'RAP' Campaigns across the county HERE.
Surfrider Foundation has new public forums where you can share your ideas and ask any questions you may have about RAP.
Links to Partners
November 26 2013
As we close in on the end of another great year of coastal protection it seems appropriate to look back at the hard work that’s been done by Surfrider Foundation volunteers and staff. Our activists have been busy this year, racking up 33 campaign victories so far
November 25 2013
The legal work at Surfrider Foundation moves at a fast pace; however, we took a few minutes to look back on the year 2013 and acknowledge some of Surfrider Foundation’s accomplishments and strategic movement in legal campaigns. Since the organization-wide programmatic priorities for the past year were (1) Rise Above Plastics, (2) Water Quality, and (3) Beach Access, the following is a breakdown of top achievements in those areas.
November 19 2013
While the debate rages on about simple steps to reduce plastic pollution such as a reusable bag ordinance or plastic bag ban, wildlife feels the impacts. On a macro level, plastic litter is photodegrading into microplastics that are turning the ocean into a plastic soup. On a more micro level, plastic litter is impacting wildlife through ingestion and entanglement. Here's an example of entanglement as this baby dolphin can't seem to escape from a plastic bag until rescued. Cheers to responsible fishers and activists working to reduce plastic pollution, like those with your local Surfrider Chapter.
November 13 2013
If you are a lanternfish in of the five subtropical gyres, chances are you are chomping down on bits of plastic as part of your diet. While lanternfish are small and there are very few commercial fisheries, they are a major food source for many marine animals. While plastic ingestion is a big enough problem on it's own, add the fact that plastics can adsorb toxins that could bioaccumulate, and we really need to take a look at the impacts of plastic pollution.
October 31 2013
October of 2013 marked the third year of the Surfrider Foundation’s annual Rise Above Plastics Month, presented by Teva, during which Surfrider aimed to raise awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution and focus on finding solutions. Throughout the month, we shared plastic-related facts as well as tips on how to reduce your individual plastic footprint. As part of Rise Above Plastics Month, over 40 Surfrider Foundation chapters, members, and volunteers hosted “One Foot at a Time” cleanup events, during which volunteers removed plastic fragments and other trash from our beaches and coastal environments. The debris collected was then repurposed into fun, colorful, and eclectic trash art mosaics!
October 30 2013
A recent exclusive report from the Associated Press highlighted the deficiencies with the California state law passed in 2006 that requires larger food retailers to recycle plastic bags. It's been clear to us that plastic bag recycling does not work and this is more proof. While the plastics industry and manufacturers often push for curbside recycling because of the convenience, the message to take certain items back does not work without a financial incentive.
October 17 2013
The Surfrider Foundation Kauai Chapter has taken the unofficial lead in Rise Above Plastics Month efforts with their Net Send Off Party. The event was a culmination of hard work done primarily by volunteers that stockpiled 17,600 pounds of nets hauled from Kauai beaches!
October 15 2013
Today was a good day for plastic bag reductions in Santa Barbara! This afternoon the Santa Barbara City Council gave final approval to a citywide plastic checkout bag ban at all food retailers in the city that is scheduled to take effect in six months at larger stores then twelve months from now at small stores. Later in the afternoon, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors moved a similar item forward for final votes to come next year.
October 11 2013
The West Coast Governors Agreement on Ocean Health released their Final Marine Debris Strategy this week, with the help of Surfrider Foundation, Heal the Bay, state and federal government, industry and academia. The goal of the strategy is to lay out a plan to effectively address ocean pollution with an ultimate visions of zero waste entering the marine environment from land, and zero impact from any debris entering the ocean.
October 10 2013
Have you heard of the One Foot At A Time cleanup contest where you could win great prizes like Teva sandals and a Firewire surfboard?! It's pretty simple, collect plastic litter from the beach or your favorite place to play outside and create an art piece with the templates we provide. This month there are over 30 Surfrider beach cleanups across the country where you can also participate. Eight of them are this weekend so please join us or participate on your own to tackle plastic pollution One Foot At A Time!
October 07 2013
Plastic bag recycling rates are typically in the single digits. When they do get recycled, plastic bags are often 'downcycled' into less desirable items such as benches that can't be recycled or part of a new plastic bag - not the whole thing. Sarah Bellums in San Luis Obispo, CA has found a way to 'up cycle' used plastic bags into beautiful bikinis.
October 02 2013
Yesterday was a good day for reducing plastic bag litter as the Santa Barbara City Council and South Lake Tahoe City Council in California both voted to ban plastic checkout bags. The ordinances cover grocery stores and other food retailers while including a ten-cent fee on paper bags as the incentive to remember a reusable bag or go without one for a small purchase.
September 30 2013
The Surfrider Foundation is excited to announce that “Rise Above Plastics Month” is underway! The goal for October is to educate people on the threats single-use plastics pose to our marine environments, and challenge them to reduce their plastic footprint by making simple changes in their daily lives. Two main components of the month long efforts are the One Foot At A Time plastic pollution cleanup contest and a special Surfrider Foundation membership package!
September 26 2013
Recently a Surfrider Kauai Chapter activist sent along this photo of a plastic nest. Not a nest with a few pieces of plastic, but a nest with "very uniform tough plastic fiber…with a few natural fibers." Hawaii is in the middle of the ocean, but basically on the edge of the North Pacific Garbage Patch so certain parts of the islands see shocking amounts of plastic pollution.
September 18 2013
Last night El Cerrito took a big step towards sustainability and plastic litter reduction by finalizing two ordinances - one to ban plastic checkout bags and another that bans polystyrene food containers at restaurants. California is on the leading edge of plastic litter reduction with over 80 municipalities covered by a bag ban and over 60 municipalities covered by a foam foodware ban but much more needs to be done.
September 17 2013
Surfrider recently announced that October will be Rise Above Plastics Month - A Challenge to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint! The goal of the month is to educate people on the threats single-use plastics pose to our marine environments, and challenge them to reduce their plastic footprint by making simple changes in their daily lives.
September 11 2013
"Plastic Paradise" is an independent documentary film that chronicles Angela Sun's personal journey of discovery to one of the most remote places on Earth, Midway Atoll, to uncover the truth behind the mystery of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Along the way she encounters scientists, celebrities, legislators and activists who shed light on what our society's vast consumption of disposable plastic is doing to our oceans -- and what it may be doing to our health.
August 29 2013
The plastics industry and major corporations want you to believe that recycling is the holy grail of conservation. If they keep pumping out products and we recycle it all, everyone wins! Right? The truth seems to be a bit more complicated than that. It starts with the realization that the 'chasing arrows' logo was not developed for recycling, but simply to tell what type of resin a product is made from. #1 and #2 plastics can get recycled at decent rates but relatively little of #3 through #7 plastics get recycled, according to the EPA.
August 20 2013
Of course you like sea turtles, I think it's really hard not to like them. I was in Hawaii over the weekend for the Hawaii Chapter Conference and took an extra day to escape Waikiki and head up to the North Shore of Oahu. It's a surfing mecca in the winter but the waves were flat, as is typical in the summer. My main objective was to check out the plastic beach at Kahuku but I also felt inclined to search out some sea turtles.
August 05 2013
While plastic bags are typically required to have a suffocation warning, unfortunately deaths from suffocating on plastic bags do happen, most often to kids. Just last week a story came out of Hastings, Michigan where a three-year-old boy died after playing with a plastic bag. These are horrible accidents that are most easily prevented by taking plastic bags out of the equation.