Many people want to blame brands for the plastics that end up into the ocean, as if a company such as Coca Cola tells you to throw the bottle in the ocean. They don’t. But those bottles still end up in the ocean.

anilao trash
Broken corals interspersed with plastic trash. Anilao, Philippines. Photo by John Virata

We as consumers have to find ways to minimize the plastic, paper, tin, e-waste etc. that we use everyday from leaking into the ocean. The solution can be as simple as buying less. Reduce and then refuse.

If you can do without soda, that’s one less consumer and one less plastic bottle that ends up in the ocean.

If you can do without SPAM, that’s one less tin can that ends up in the ocean.

See where you can cut down. Imagine if 8 billion people cut down on soda intake, do the math.

Reduce your use of online shopping. For example, according to Fast Company, about 165 million packages are shipped every year in the United States. That equals about 1 billion trees. That is a lot of cardboard that gets, for the most part thrown away, with much of it ending in the oceans.

In the Philippines, online shopping portal Lazada broke records for Singles day last November 11. It reported that a single shopper spent P1.2 million, and more than one million products were sold during the first hour of the online shopping sale. Imagine what the total was for the entire day. Filipinos spent 205 million minutes shopping on the website November 11. A sample of the breakdown, according to Interaksyon, is telling: More than 200,000 toys and games were sold, 13 million diapers, 240,000 pairs of sneakers and 10,000 pieces of luggage. That is not to mention 348 pre-ordered cars.

Where does all that packaging go? It has to go somewhere. Lazada and the maker of Pampers are not entirely responsible for the waste that is generated, the consumer is. The consumer is responsible for what is purchased. Companies though are beginning to take notice in how their products are packaged. Coca Cola announced that Coca Cola Sweden is the first to adopt 100 percent recycled plastic for its products. The company says the switch will prevent the use of 3,500 tons of virgin plastic each year and 25% fewer CO2 emissions.