Plastic Pollution

Moving Away From Single-Use Plastics


Plastics are all around us and a part of our everyday lives. Some plastic is beneficial and serves a specialized purpose including its use in vehicles, computers, and many medical applications. However, single-use plastics which are used for a few minutes and then discarded, have created a major pollution problem. Our ocean is filling up with plastic trash - choking fish, birds, turtles, and whales. It is even entering the human food chain in the form of microplastics. Plastic isn’t made to pollute the ocean, but up to 11 million tons of plastic still enter marine waters each year. Much of it starts out on land from overflowing landfills or as litter on our beaches, streets, and sidewalks that are swept into storm drains, creeks, streams, and rivers — all leading to the ocean. 

We must change the current flow of plastic pollution by stopping plastic at the source - advocating for better product alternatives and switching to reusables for our everyday needs. We encourage individuals, industry, and governments to protect our ocean, waves, and beaches by moving away from unnecessary single-use plastics.

Common Plastic Pollution Sources



Expanded polystyrene foam products, including foodware, easily break into small pieces that litter the beach. Find more sustainable alternatives to plastic foodware in the Ocean Friendly Foodware Guide.



The 100 billion single-use bags used per year in the U.S. are easily replaceable with reusable bags. Currently, over 500 local and state bag laws have been adopted in the U.S.



Plastic straw litter can be very harmful to marine life, like blocking the airway of a turtle. Choose to go strawless unless you need one, or opt for a reusable one instead.



Hold On To Your Butt. Cigarette butts account for approximately one in every five items collected during beach cleanups. Surfrider’s local Hold Onto Your Butt programs provide ways to actively engage in solutions.



From microbeads to plastic fragments to microfibers, this small but pervasive form of plastic is found from the highest mountain peaks to the deepest parts of the ocean, including in the stomachs of fish. Microbead bans and improved filtration on washing machines are part of the solution, but this classification is so diverse that source reduction generally is the most effective.



Despite the availability of recycling, still, less than 1/3 of plastic bottles are recycled in the U.S. and can be replaced by reusable bottles or more sustainable alternatives like glass and aluminum.

Surfrider Foundation has been tackling plastic pollution head on for over a decade.


Beach Cleanups To Date


Pounds Of Trash Removed


Volunteers Engaged

280 Plastic Pollution Victories since 2005


Since 2005, we have achieved hundreds of victories to stop the flow of plastics into our environment, but these victories do not come easy. So how exactly do these plastic reduction policies, laws and bills get passed and implemented? 

Watch this video to learn more about our work to stop plastic pollution at its source!


learn more

Rise Above Plastics


Rise Above Plastics is Surfrider’s education and outreach initiative designed to eliminate the impacts of plastics in the marine environment by raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution and advocating for solutions that reduce single-use plastics.


learn more

Ocean Friendly Restaurants


Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants program recognizes restaurants that are committed to cutting out wasteful single-use plastic. We represent an inclusive community that supports a healthy lifestyle for ourselves and our planet in order to find more joy and peace in our everyday lives.


learn more

Beach Cleanups


The national cleanup program tackles the ocean litter issue - primarily caused by plastic pollution - through data collection, citizen science, and campaign support. We are all part of the solution and together we can restore our coastlines, one beach at a time.


learn more

Plastic Policy


The Surfrider Foundation has successfully helped pass legislation to reduce plastic pollution at the local, state, and national levels for over a decade. We’ve been tirelessly pushing for legislation that will minimize plastic’s harmful impacts on our environment and communities.


learn more

Ways To Get Involved


Join our network and help us tackle the issues that face our ocean, waves and beaches.


Support Surfrider and our network of coastal defenders.

Take Action

Take action right from your computer by contacting your elected officials.