A New Jersey environmental group contends we could go a long way toward helping the environment, the ocean and marine life by kicking a growing dependance on a certain type of disposable product.  

Clean Ocean Action reveals how you can kick the plastic habit. (EnolaBrain, ThinkStock)

   
Clean Ocean Action contends our reliance on disposable eating utensils and water bottles is getting worse.

"We really need to get at the issue of single use plastics," Clean Ocean Action Executive Director Cindy Zipf said.

According to Zipf, it is not only causing unsightly beaches and occasionally concerns about health with some of the materials that wash up, but in particular, it is really bad for marine life because creatures that live in the water can be harmed by becoming entangled, or even by ingestion of discarded plastic.

"Animals are eating the plastic or adult animals are feeding it to their young in a case of mistaken identity," she said.

The group has unveiled 12 steps to help people kick the plastics habit, including the use of reusable knives and forks and refillable water bottles.

"It is all about the choices that we make, and if we just do a little," Zipf said, it will make a difference.

Here are Clean Ocean Action's 12 steps to reduce your reliance on plastics, according to the COA website:

  1. Recognize your plastic habit. Look at your trash and take special note of things with excess packaging or single-use items. Make a list of how many disposable items are in the trash and set a personal goal to reduce or ban those items.
  2. Know the numbers. Recycling more plastics starts with being familiar with the recycling number system. The "chasing arrow" indicates it's recyclable. The number inside the arrow indicates the source of the plastic material. "I" (PETE) and "2" (HDPE) are the most widely recyclable. Check with your town to see if other types are accepted.
  3. Be straw-free. Each American uses the equivalent of a school bus full of straws a year. Just say "hold the straw." There are plenty of reusable straw options, such as glass, stainless steel or bamboo.
  4. Ban the bead. Avoid using any products with microbeads, such as the ingredients polyethylene and polypropylene.
  5. BYOB. Bring your own bag and bottle. Keep a reusable bag in your car, briefcase, backpack or purse and carry a reusable bottle.
  6. Fork it over. Pack your own meal in a reusable lunch box or bag and use reusable sandwich bags or containers. If needed, bring your own silverware, not plastic ware.
  7. DIY at home. Clean your house using products you already own, such as lemons, vinegar and baking soda, instead of buying harsh chemicals in plastic containers. Look online for cleaning "recipes."
  8. Can it. Choose cans over plastic. Aluminum is recyclable.
  9. Be a smart shopper. Look before you buy. Avoid disposable towelettes and items with excess packaging.
  10. Support action. Stay informed about plastic and microplastic policies.
  11. Rally more converts. Help friends and family members understand the importance of reducing plastic usage.
  12. Join the campaign. Get involved.