Preventing Ocean Plastics

Up to 13 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, threatening marine life and polluting shorelines. That’s the equivalent of a garbage truck emptying its rubbish into the sea every minute.

Plastic is interlaced with nearly every aspect of human life, from plastic bags and food packages to car parts and cellphones. But once it enters the ocean, plastic can remain there for hundreds of years, breaking down into even smaller pieces that are more costly and difficult to remove. The plastic is also deadly to marine life, who mistake it for food and starve as it fills their stomach.

As of 2017, factories had produced a cumulative 8.3 billion metric tons of new plastic, and only 9 percent of that amount has ever been recycled. Plastic packaging and single-use items enter the waste stream immediately after use and account for 61 percent of the litter scattered across beaches. But debris can be found in just about every corner of the ocean, including remote islands, the two poles, and even the deep seafloor.

In an effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste entering marine waters, Pew will work with governments, industry, scientists, and other nongovernmental organizations (or civil society) to better understand this global problem and offer solutions.


  • Perform economic analyses on plastic production to assess the costs and mitigation potential of various scenarios for preventing the flow of plastic into the ocean.
  • Produce a report that examines regulatory actions taken at local, national, and international levels.
  • Create a global roadmap aimed at reducing the amount of plastic entering the ocean.
Underwater shot of plastic bottle
Underwater shot of plastic bottle

Breaking the Plastic Wave

New analysis describes actions needed to stop plastic from entering the ocean

Quick View

Plastic has become ubiquitous on store shelves and in our homes. From wrapped food and disposable bottles to microbeads in body washes, it’s used widely as packaging or in products because it’s versatile, cheap, and convenient. But this convenience comes with a price.


Breaking the Plastic Wave | Pew