The Plastic Problem


What was the point of plastic? Plastic is relatively inexpensive to make and highly transformative.

  • Plastics could be pulled into thread and used to create clothing.
  • It is used in parts for the automotive and aircraft industry, that allows us to travel the world.
  • It can be used to create hard building material for furniture, cabinets, glasses, and utensils which are impact-resistant and durable.
  • Pipes are often made out of plastic, which doesn’t corrode and is cheaper to make than metal pipes.
  • We use plastic to keep our food fresh and safe for long periods of times. It is used commonly in bottles, bags, and food wrapping to contain goods that we consume on an everyday basis.

Plastic is everywhere. And plastic does not go away. See some Plastic in numbers

When plastic was first invented, humans were not aware of what the consequences would be. Research around plastic had not been established. No one seemed to think about what this incredible invention would mean one hundred years down the road. Back then, it was easy. Now… we know better.

While it may sound like an insurmountable problem, change does happen. It starts on the individual level. To save global, we must fix locally. The change starts with you. Where can you make lifestyle changes, or smarter decisions to help prevent plastic in the first place? It is possible, and it is an accessible goal for everyone.

Fix Local to Change Global

Through the individual and community caring, with help from scientific research and exploration, entire countries are capable of change.

  • Rwanda and Bangladesh have banned all plastic bags
  • Canada added microbeads to its list of toxic substances
  • France will ban single-use plastic cups, plates and cutlery by 2020
  • The United States and the United Kingdom have banned microbeads in cosmetics

On a global scale, the United Nations has begun its CleanSeas Campaign to combat the global marine pollution problem. As of October 2017, over 30 countries have formally joined the campaign, declaring their support to its overall goals and taking specific commitments at the national level

UN Environment participates in working groups gathering leading global companies, with the aim of improving plastics management in the upstream production processes and reusing plastic recovered from the ocean.

This initiative is being put into action in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017/2018. Britain’s Dee Caffari leads team Turn the Tide on Plastic in the global sailing race, to amplify the United Nations message. The Volvo Ocean Race holds 3 clear directions in its Sustainability Program: maximize impact, minimize footprint, and leave a positive legacy.

The problem is a big one, and combating it is possible IF everyone is able to make the little changes in their everyday life to contribute to the larger solution. It all begins with a conversation, an outreach or message to help spread the word just as the Turn the Tide on Plastic team is doing. So ask yourself: what am I going to do today to make a difference? What can I do myself, at home, and in my community, to start the tidal wave of change that we as humans on this planet can create? It all starts today. It all starts with you.


Write a BLOG about one of the following options:

Option 1:

Identify one to three changes that you can make in the following areas:

  1. Your own life/decisions
  2. Your home space
  3. Your community space. This could be a school, center, sports field, playground, etc.
  4. In a business.
  5. In the city

Write a blog about how these changes could be communicated and accomplished. Think about both the disadvantages and advantages and who would be most impacted by this change. Is it feasible? 

Option 2:

Challenge yourself by Going Green! "Going Green" is a term that can apply to many different initiatives. It essentially means adjusting parts of your lifestyle to be more environmentally friendly or sustainable. These do not have to be big changes either. Something as simple as bringing your own reusable grocery bags to store, buying products and food that is made locally, or using bringing your own coffee mug to the cafe. All these little changes have an impact on your local environment, and can help influence others to make changes themselves.

You will need a clear jar for this activity. This can be found in your home, such as an empty jam or peanut butter jar, or can be found at supermarkets or dollar stores.

For 3 to 5 days, carry this jar with you. Take it everywhere you go. Every time you use a piece of plastic that would otherwise go into the garbage, put it into your jar. Collect all of your single-use plastic for one week, and see just how much plastic (or how little) you use in 5 days.

After the 5 days, examine the contents of your jar. Write up a BLOG about the experience.

  • Were there any plastic products that you could have avoided?
  • Was there any plastic that was unavoidable?
  • What was the biggest obstacle you faced during this challenge?
  • What advice or strategies would you suggest to others to help them go plastic-free?
  • What is something you learned during this experience?

Option 3

Locate a water source away from the coastline. This could be a lake, river or stream that is in a landlocked area of your country. How does water travel in and out of this water source? What journey would plastic take if it were to begin in this water source.

Create a map to demonstrate the journey that both water and plastic would take, starting from your selected water source. Your map could be hand-drawn, digital, a photo series, or a stick map. Whichever form you feel most connected to, which will tell the story of your place and the water it is connected to.

If possible, go and visit your water source. What threats can you identify that might impact your water sources? Are there any protective measures in place to protect your water source? Are there any containments already in your water source? Post your map to the Gallery, and include these observations in the description of your map.

If you would like to return to the Ocean and Human Connection page, click HERE

To take the principle quiz, click THIS

Learning Objectives

To understand that the actions we make in our daily lives have an affect on the ocean, and simple easy changes can be made to help minimize the damage that we cause. Recycling is a great way of doing this but even better is Reducing and Reusing!


Vancouver Aquarium Research Programs:

Chemical Heritage Foundation:

BBC News:

How Stuff Works:

Clean Seas:

Volvo Ocean Race:

Continue to Oceans Unexplored »