Session Chairs: Ruth Abbe, Zero Waste USA; Richard Anthony, Save the Albatross

The audience will learn concrete strategies for making positive change to reduce marine debris (such as bottle caps) through outreach, education, and public policy initiatives.

We have all seen the pictures of dead albatross chicks with their bellies full of plastics (including mostly bottle caps). We can help raise awareness and identify solutions! How?

For nearly 20 years, the Algalita Education Foundation has been searching for answers on plastic pollution in the marine ecosystem. Algalita joined the Albatross Coalition to promote grassroots strategies to stop plastic pollution at the source. The Bottle Cap Awareness project builds on our ongoing work. They sponsor beach cleanups with community organizations, school groups, and service organizations in their local area in Long Beach. They also use beach cleanups to educate their corporate partners about the types of materials that end up on our beaches. This year, in cooperation with the Albatross Coalition, they encouraged their participants to separate bottle caps from the other materials that they collect and talked to them about the impacts to sealife including the albatross. They count and photograph the bottle caps they collect and use the information to share with beverage industry and legislature and work towards solutions like leashing the lid to the bottle.

Decades of data from Coastal Cleanup Day show that plastic bottle caps are the 4th most prevalent item found at cleanups. In the last 26 years, 1,044,414 plastic bottle caps have been collected and recorded. Those that don’t get picked up by volunteers join the plastic soup in the ocean where they are then ingested by many animals, notably the impressive seabird, the Albatross.

It’s time to leash the lid! In the 1970s the pull-tab or “pop top” on aluminum cans was replaced by the much safer and environmentally friendlier “sta-tab”, and is still in use today. We did it then, we can do it again.

In 2009, the Clean Seas Coalition worked with California Assembly Member Lori Saldana  (D-San Diego) to introduce Assembly Bill 925. That bill would have required that all plastic bottle caps on single-use containers be attached to the bottle. Unfortunately, the bill did not make it out of the Senate. At that time, recyclers did not want folks to keep their polypropylene lids on their PETE bottles. Times have changed and now recyclers are able to recycle both the lid and the bottle through the sink/flow mechanism.

The Albatross Coalition picked up the charge and recruited California Assembly Member Mark Stone (D-Santa Cruz) to reintroduce the bill. Assembly Bill 319 would prohibit a retailer, on and after January 1, 2020, from selling or offering for sale a single-use plastic beverage container with a cap that is not tethered to or contiguously affixed to the beverage container.

If successful, this legislation could change bottle packaging design and help save the albatross.



  • –      Richard Anthony, Save the Albatross
  • –      Miriam Gordon, UPSTREAM
  • –      Ruth Abbe, Zero Waste USA
  • –      Katie Allen, Algalita
  • –      Lori Mendez, Save The Albatross Coalition



Plastic and Marine Debris: What Can Be Done about bottle caps?

Authors: Richard Anthony (Save the Albatross, United States)

When will the weight of all fish in the ocean equal the weight of plastic discards in the ocean? These plastic discards in the water impacts birds and sea life around the world. Just as the canary in the coal mine forewarns of danger, the Laysan or Pacific Albatross provides a way to measure the impact of plastics in the ocean. Known as the sailor’s companion, this once ubiquitous bird is threatened to extinction because of the unintended consequences of our discards that look like food but are not.

The cultural change needed to reverse this trend is to focus the public’s attention to the unintended consequences of single use non-recyclable plastic packages, containers, and products. The plight of the Albatross due to the large amount of plastic debris washing up on Midway Atoll and the Northwest Hawaiian Islands is somewhat like an oil spill. The flow must be stopped and the residual must be removed.

The Save the Albatross ( Campaign objective is to motivate identified producers to pay for plastic cleanup on Midway and other US Pacific Islands which are nesting areas for the Laysan and Black-footed Albatross. Bottle caps are one of the most frequent plastic items found in coastal clean ups. There is need to bring the producers these products and packages to the World table to draft Zero Waste responsibility plans for proper management of discarded plastic via redesign for recyclability, buy back purchasing opportunities (closed circle), and recovery campaigns for vagrant plastics on land and sea.

The paper discusses the science and the campaign which includes legislative action to force the redesign to leash the lid, a law suit to fund the cleanup and a public education campaign that includes returning the caps found.