Rise Above Plastics

Rise Above Plastics is designed to eliminate 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.

Plastic Pollution


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 Is 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. 

Program Mission And Goals


Our mission is 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.

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 our Rise Above Plastics Activist Toolkit for detailed tips and ideas.

10 Quick Tips To Reduce Your Plastic Footprint

  • 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 way 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.

RAP Activist Toolkit E-mag version to View or RAP Activist Toolkit PDF version to Print


Statewide Preemption

There is a trend happening in the United States that halts local ordinances to address plastic pollution through a mechanism called “preemption”, which is effectively when the state government takes the power to regulate on a certain area away from the local municipalities.  Over 10 states have already preempted local regulation of single-use bags and/or expanded polystyrene foam and other plastic pollution.  However, there are ways to defend local rule and the right to a cleaner community.  Find out more here.


RAP Facts

  • The amount of plastic produced from 2000 - 2010 exceeds the amount produced during the entire last century.[1]

  • Plastic is the most common type of marine litter worldwide.[2], [3]

  • Up to 80% of the plastic in our oceans comes from land-based sources. [4], [5], [6]

  • Plastics comprise up to 90% of floating marine debris.[7]

  • In 2010 about 690,000 tons of waste HDPE plastic “bags, sacks and wraps” were generated in the United States, but only 4.3% of this total was recycled.[8]

  • 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.[9]

  • 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.

See even more RAP Facts here.


Ocean Friendly Restaurants

Surfrider Foundation has launched a new program to recognize restaurants that employ practices friendly to our ocean and coasts. A main goal is eliminating EPS foam foodware (aka Styrofoam) because it is a top item found at our beach cleanups. There are other types of pollution and issues that restaurants can help with so we added criteria such as conserving water and serving responsible food. To learn more please visit our Ocean Friendly Restaurants website.

Hold On To Your Butt

Surfrider Foundation's Hold On To Your Butt program aims to raise awareness about the environmental impact of cigarette butt litter on our ocean, waves and beaches, and to help eliminate cigarette butt litter at the beach and in the ocean. Cigarette butts account for approximately one in every five items collected during beach cleanups. Often littered on our sidewalks and streets, they end up in our storm drains, flowing to our streams, rivers, bays, lagoons and ultimately the ocean. To learn more please visit our Beachapedia page.


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:

Learn more about Rise Above Plastics on the Coastal Blog, and Beachapedia.

Connect with RAP at , and our Plastics Fail page.

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.

Visit the Surfrider Foundation Store for reusable bottles and more!


5 Gyres

Algalita Marine Research Foundation


Citizens Campaign for the Environment

Clean Seas Coalition

Earth Resource Foundation

Heal the Bay

Kokua Hawaii Foundation

Save The Bay - The Bay vs. The Bag


For more information or questions:

Rachael Coccia, Plastic Pollution Manager

Surfrider's Plastic Pollution Initiative and Rise Above Plastics program is supported by our partners 

Love Beauty and Planet & Love Home and Planet!

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.