Getting Help

Looking for answers is more than just combing the beaches for trash. It also involves talking to people. Often, people who live near the beaches know the plastics better than we do. They can help us as we do beach cleanups together.

Plastic on the beaches doesn’t mean that people who live there are to blame. In the ocean, plastic can travel all over the world riding on waves and ocean currents. That’s why we also go out on boats to find plastics still in the water. With a homemade net device, we snag plastics from the water.

Justine traveled to the Arctic to find out more about ocean plastics. 

Using the Marine Debris Tracker app, I can record what trash I find and where it is. 

Tools like this app are a part of a movement called citizen science. It means that anyone can go out and collect data, too. If you find plastics on one of your beaches, you can add it to the data we are collecting. 

By working together across various places, we can come up with a better picture of the problem. Hopefully, this will lead to solutions.

Making a Record

As we make our monthly rounds, we build a record of what we find. But we don’t write everything down in our notebooks. Instead, we use our cell phones to report what we find on an app called Marine Debris Tracker.

Putting our data in one central place helps us keep track of what we know and helps build the “plastics profile” of each beach. It also allows us to share our data. Anyone in the world who is interested in learning about our research can look up our findings. And, there’s more. This free app can be used by anyone. Even you.

I keep careful records when I’m working in the field. 

Even under a microscope, it can be hard to identify plastic trash and where it came from. 

Moving Forward

The plastics problem feels big, and it is. Some people think it can’t be solved. But we do have the power to reduce—if not eliminate—our plastics problem.

We can all make a difference. We might want to comb the beaches, record, and pick up plastic pollution. We might change our behaviors and avoid using single‑use plastics like straws, bags, and containers. We can work to make our oceans cleaner. I don’t mind picking up trash. Not really. Because in doing so, I’m working toward a solution. You can help, too. 

Under The Microscope

Live Smarter on Our Planet

Reducing human pressure on our planet is important! The National Geographic Society hopes to reduce the amount of plastic entering our rivers by 30 percent by 2030.