“End Plastic Pollution” is this year’s Earth Day theme, and there’s no denying that it’s a timely, important one. 

A sperm whale who washed ashore in Spain — with nearly 65 pounds of plastic inside of him — is just one of the most recent examples of a heartbreaking problem. 

post on the Earth Day Network points out this startling fact:

If nothing changes, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish (by weight).

A Vast Problem

How did all this plastic get in the oceans, anyway? And what are people doing about it? Check out some of our top articles on the topic:

Death in the Water: How Plastic Is Poisoning Our Oceans

Plastic has been collecting in the marine environment since plastic production began in the 1950s — in fact, each square mile of the ocean contains more than 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. Eight million metric tons of plastics make their way into the ocean each year.

‘Trashy’ Sea Sculptures Focus Attention on Ocean Pollution

Washed Ashore, a nonprofit organization in Oregon, transforms tons of debris from waterways in the Pacific Northwest into bold, vibrant sculptures designed to focus public attention directly on the wildly diverse assortment of objects that are polluting oceans and endangering wildlife.

How to Keep Plastics Out of the Ocean

“Oceans are never going to stop filling up with plastic unless we stop the source,” says Sandra Lewis, director of business development for Envision Plastics. “We need to prevent plastics from washing into the oceans in the first place.”

Seabin Project Aims to Reduce Ocean Pollution

The Seabin Project, the research and development branch of Australian technology innovation company Seabin, has created a floating, bucket-shaped trash bin for use at marinas, private pontoons, residential lakes, inland waterways, ports harbors and yacht clubs.

Taking Action

Now it’s your turn to make a difference. Start by calculating your plastic consumption with Earth Day Network’s Plastic Pollution Calculator.

If you don’t like what you see, make a plan to change it. Here are some ideas from Earth Day Network:

  • Before buying anything new, ask yourself if you can use something else you already have instead.
  • Select products without plastic packaging.
  • Avoid fabrics with plastic microfibers, such as nylon and polyester.
  • When at a restaurant, ask that no straw be brought out with your drink. If dining out, say no to disposable silverware. 
  • Put your produce in reusable mesh bags.
  • Make a plan for how you’ll reduce, refuse, reuse and recycle all the plastic in your life. This toolkit can help.

You can also sign the Earth Day Network petition — aimed at world leaders, national governments and local legislators — to phase out single-use plastics, support sustainable alternatives and tackle the billions of tons of plastics that are already out there. 

We can end plastic pollution. Let’s make Earth Day 2018 the day that starts that revolution.

By Haley Shapley

Haley Shapley is based in Seattle, where recycling is just as cool as Macklemore, walking in the rain without an umbrella, and eating locally sourced food. She writes for a wide range of publications, covering everything from sustainability to fitness to travel. Read more of her work here.