Preventing Ocean Pollution

Keeping plastics, trash and toxic waste out of our oceans

We can stop huge amounts of ocean pollution without ever leaving home. Much of ocean pollution begins on land, and that means so does ocean protection.

Turtle in a Trap - Defending Our Oceans (Mediterranean Sea: 2007)

A turtle is caught in a fishnet trap in the Mediterranean Sea.

© Greenpeace / Marco Care

Believe it or not, we dump more garbage into the ocean than the tons of fish we take out. We can choose to stop doing that and be one less pollutant choking our seas.

What’s Polluting Our Oceans?

Oil spills and other pollution at sea—while they carry serious consequences—actually account for a small fraction of ocean pollution.

Nearly half of all ocean pollution comes from activities that take place on land, like sewage, industrial and agricultural runoff, garbage dumping, and chemical spills. Another third comes from airborne pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide and mercury from coal-burning power plants.

Pesticide and fertilizer runoff are creating huge dead zones—oxygen-depleted areas where many marine species struggle to survive. The world’s largest dead zone, located in the Gulf of Mexico, is roughly the size of Connecticut.

Learn more about how pollutants are entering our oceans.

What You Can Do

Every year, 15 billion pounds of plastic are produced in the U.S., but only 1 billion are recycled. Much of what’s left makes its way in our oceans.

We’re all responsible for this mess, and it will take all of us to clean it up. Here’s how you can pitch in:

  • Any time you see litter, wherever it is, pick it up and dispose of it properly.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle—you’ve heard this phrase before, but now you know what happens when you don’t. Try to avoid products with excessive packaging and bring a reusable bag to the grocery store.
  • When you purchase or find a plastic six-pack holder, be sure to cut each and properly dispose of it. In the ocean, these rings expand and can ensnare or choke wildlife.
  • Talk trash to your friends and family! People can’t change what they don’t know about, so help us spread the word.

Ready to do more? Get involved in stopping ocean pollution today.

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Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.