We have a problem. Nearly all the plastic ever made still exists, and we’re adding more than 8 million tons of it to the ocean each year.

We produce 300 million tons of single-use plastics annually, and with a growing population dependent upon convenience, things are getting worse.

It’s estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Seabirds, turtles and whales are dying with stomachs full of plastic, including a pilot whale who died after ingesting 80 plastic bags, and a sperm whale who died with 64 pounds of garbage in its digestive tract.

Plastic is found in the most remote areas on Earth, including the deepest parts of our oceans. Samples show that it’s contaminating waters and seafood in Maine, too. To quote the Marine and Environmental Research Institute, “No one expected to find that much plastic in ‘pristine’ Maine waters, let alone amounts on par with those in heavily industrialized coastal areas.”

Plastic fibers, largely created by the erosion of plastic trash and microfibers that come off synthetic materials (nylon, spandex, polyester, etc.) in the wash, escape capture in treatment plants and are the main type of debris found in seafood. They’re also in 83 percent of the world’s tap water and over 90 percent of bottled waters.

Our planet’s health is dependent upon the health of our oceans. We must avoid disposable plastics and Styrofoam, and clothing made of synthetic fibers. We can refuse, reduce, reuse, compost and recycle. We can bring reusable bags and jars to the market.

We mustn’t underestimate the power of our choices. As Jane Goodall says, “Never forget that every single day that you live you make a difference, you impact the world, and you have a choice as to what kind of impact you’re going to make.”

Rebecca Tripp