In 2017 a lobster captured the world’s attention after a fishing crew caught it off the coast of New Brunswick, Canada. What made this particular crustacean special, and the subject of numerous articles, news stories, and op-ed pieces, was the Pepsi logo “tattoo” imprinted on its claw.
Exactly how the tattoo got there is unclear — perhaps the lobster’s claw was briefly trapped in a Pepsi can; perhaps a Pepsi-branded box was the culprit. But either way, evidence of the physical effect of ocean trash on a sea creature was delivered to a global audience, sparking fresh concerns about the sorry state of the world’s oceans.
Of course, we’ve known for a long time that our oceans are struggling. Seawater temperatures are rising; there’s a Great Pacific Garbage Patch three times the size of France; microplastics permeate shellfish; worldwide fish stocks are lower than ever before. Man-made changes to the environment are radically changing the world’s seas as we know them. And now, a social-media campaign revolving around the #IsThisYours is attempting to hold companies accountable for what they produce.
So, who’s responsible?
We all play a part in contributing to ocean pollution. Most, if not all, of us have bought products packaged in single-use plastics. And many of us opt for items that prioritize convenience — a powerful force in the modern world — which shows in the packaging of what we purchase.
But we don’t create the packaging in the first place; we don’t cleverly market our goods to target audiences; and we don’t value a financial bottom line above all else. We can begin to hold companies responsible for what they produce by using our consumer power to the environment’s advantage.
The big offenders
According to data from Greenpeace, PepsiCo (of lobster fame) is the second-worst offender when it comes to plastic pollution worldwide. Coca-Cola is in the number-one spot with Nestlé, Danone, and Mondelez International claiming the dubious honor of the remaining top-five places. Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and Mars Incorporated also rank highly.
Greenpeace published these rankings after conducting an audit of branded plastic garbage across 42 countries worldwide. Unsurprisingly, Coke bottles and Coke-branded plastics were found in all but two of the countries.
Consumers can avoid straws, say no to plastic bags, and boycott these multinationals as much as possible, but until these businesses start to say no to plastic, these efforts are really just a drop in the ocean. Change must come from the source. And that’s where divers come in.
Greenpeace started the #IsThisYours? Hashtag, a brilliant, tongue-in-cheek way to help foster accountability. It creates visibility and may help enact real change if enough people join the movement.
As divers, we have unique access to the underwater world. Unfortunately, it’s likely that each and every diver reading this has seen plastic pollution and litter underwater. Even when a dive site seems pristine, all it takes is a change of current and the trash starts rolling in. Divers have a vested interest in maintaining the reefs and dive sites we love, and we can help support the ocean by holding companies accountable for their packaging choices.
Name and shame
Getting involved is simple — all you have to do is take notice of any company-branded litter when you’re out on your next dive.
Before you pick it up, take a photo of the trash. When you’re out of the water, upload the image to any social-media site with the hashtag #IsThisYours? Crucially, remember to tag the company it belongs to by using the @ symbol.
All major companies and global corporations maintain very slick social-media presences across all platforms. You can use this hashtag and share the image with the company and their followers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other major social-media sites.
What’s the aim of #IsThisYours?
The aim is twofold. Firs, a mass-movement of this kind generates a lot of visibility and shows others the extent of the damage and the size of the issue. Plenty of people have been sharing images taken on land and tagging the companies responsible for the packaging, but divers have not shared as many underwater images.
Non-divers may not know just how much plastic is underwater. As divers, it falls to us to show them. We can put our cameras to excellent use and showcase the ocean pollution we see.
Second, enough pressure from consumers may cause major corporations to start looking into alternatives to single-use, non-biodegradable packaging. Viable options do exist, but companies have little financial incentive to change to sustainable options or put money into researching and developing these alternatives.
By filling up their social-media accounts with images of plastic pollution they manufactured, we draw attention to environmentally irresponsible practices. Not all publicity is good publicity and calling companies out with pictures of trash is not the kind of publicity they seek.
Eventually, these companies will not be able to afford the public outcry, which is increasing steadily. The plastic problem is only getting worse, but thankfully, it’s on our minds. Let’s keep the ball rolling by asking #IsThisYours?