Last Update: February 25, 2024
Recently, a group of more than 50 Thrive Market volunteers—including employees, local members, and influencers—came together to clean up some of the trash littering Breakwater Beach in Venice, California. In partnership with Surfrider Foundation, an organization committed to the “protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans,” the volunteer group removed 87.6 pounds of trash from the beach in under two hours. Even more shocking: 90% of what was removed was seemingly weightless, single-use, plastic consumer products.
At first glance, Breakwater Beach looked spotless. But, as is true for many beaches, the problems lie beneath the sand. Our team of volunteers scattered in all directions, armed with reusable trash bags and gloves, combing the beach for hidden trash. Together, we collected 681 plastic wrappers, 1,955 cigarette butts, 321 plastic bottle caps—most of which would have been carried by the tide into the ocean, where it disrupts marine ecosystems.
While it’s great that we were able to clean up so much trash, volunteer clean-up crews aren’t a sustainable solution to the much larger problem of plastics littering our oceans.
Every year, thousands of marine animals are killed after ingesting plastic or getting entangled in it. Fish in the North Pacific “ingest 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year,” which can lead to injury, death, and the transfer of plastic up the food chain. What does this mean for you? A quarter of fish at markets in California contained plastic in their flesh in the form of plastic microfibers.
Sea turtles, sea birds, and other marine mammals also commonly mistake floating plastic garbage for food. By frequently ingesting plastic, these animals are more susceptible to starvation as the storage volume of their stomach rapidly depletes. An estimated 60 percent of all sea species have eaten pieces of plastic, with that number predicted to increase to 99 percent by 2050.
And when these pieces of plastic and garbage aren’t simply floating freely in the ocean, they are likely aggregating into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This collection of marine debris, also known as the Pacific trash vortex, “spans waters from the West Coast of North America to Japan.” About 54 percent of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from land-based activities in North America and Asia, and plastics make up the majority of the debris. From plastic bags, to bottle caps, and plastic water bottles, the sun breaks down the plastics into tiny pieces. This process, known as photodegradation, also leads to the release of harmful pollutants such as bisphenol A (BPA).
While there’s no simple solution to this problem, reducing the use of plastic packaging—especially single-use containers—can have a big impact. Here are a few easy ways to adopt better habits at home.
Packing for an eco-friendly and low-waste trip to the beach has never been easier. From reusable water bottles to stainless steel containers to beeswax sandwich bags—there are so many ocean-friendly packaging alternatives that easily travel with you.
Bee’s Wrap Assorted Sandwich Wrap, 3-pack
Similar to the (re)zip baggies above, Bee’s Wraps are natural, reusable alternatives to plastic wrap. Made from organic cotton coated with antibacterial jojoba oil and beeswax plus natural tree resins, this malleable wrap will hold its shape as it cools and form a moisture-proof seal for sandwiches, pre-cut fruit, and other beach snacks.
Thrive Market Glass Water Bottle With Silicone Sleeve
This dishwasher-safe, reusable water bottle is leak-proof and comes wrapped in a BPA-free silicone sleeve. It’s perfect for everyday use.
Thrive Market Stainless Steel Nesting Trio
For your larger snacks or meals, skip the styrofoam and use stainless steel. Dishwasher-safe, BPA-free, and available in an array of colors—this trio will make packing full meals much easier.
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