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Youth activists ages 11-18 learn to fight plastic pollution at the inaugural Ocean Heroes Bootcamp. Ocean Heroes Bootcamp

By 2018 Ocean Heroes: Claire MacQueen (13 years old), Sabine Thomas (13) and Ava Inskeep (14)

We despise single-use plastics. We want to keep our oceans and our beaches clean. Early last year I (Claire) lived in India for several months and became curious about plastic waste, as it was much more visible in India than back home in the U.S. Seeing all the plastic waste while I was visiting helped me to understand that much of the trash produced by the U.S. actually ends up in developing countries, like India, which does not have a proper waste management system like we do at home, which causes a ton of trash to end up in waterways and the ocean.

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A recycling team on the river Thames' Southbank cleaning the beach from plastic and garbage on Aug. 23, 2018. Alberto Pezzali / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The UK government announced plans Monday to "overhaul" its waste system, with the aim of reducing plastic pollution and moving towards a circular economy that would not rely on single-use items.

To that end, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is launching four major consultations on proposed changes, including a plan to make packaging producers pay fully for processing their waste and a tax on plastic packaging that is not made from at least 30 percent recycled material.

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Can you go 21 days without using plastic water bottles? Well, you've been challenged. Too easy of a challenge for you? Share the idea with your friends and family. Imagine if the entire world went 21 days without consuming plastic bottles.

Let's make 2019 the year of plastic pollution solutions. We have unimaginable power as consumers to create a better world for our children.

You've Been Challenged

EcoWatch teamed up with China's first professional surfer Darci Liu and #5minutebeachcleanup founder Carolina Sevilla to create an exciting challenge to help you on your path to making a huge difference on this planet. Get engaged with your friends and family and embark with us on this journey.

It's simple: refuse plastic bottles for 21 days, talk about it on social media, hashtag #PlasticBottlesChallenge and reflect on your experience for a week via social media posts. Let us know via social media direct messaging if this challenge has made a difference in your life. Mention @EcoWatch, @5minutebeachcleanup and @take__away_from_the_sea so we can consider featuring your experience in our Instagram story.

We Need a Massive Shift

"We get used to very easy lifestyles," said Darci Liu, bu we've got to shift our mindsets and move away from the single-use mentality.

"What we need to realize is how much that bottle has traveled to be where you are," said Carolina Sevilla as she spoke about the carbon footprint of plastic water bottles. We are responsible for the destruction happening on this planet. Sevilla urged viewers to get engaged, reject single-use plastic and realize that "this can really make an impact."

Plastic Is Wreaking Havoc On Our Health​

"It's way healthier for us to bring our own water bottles" instead of consuming whatever bottles of water or beverages are available when we are on the go, said Darci Liu. Plastic Pollution Coalition points out in the above Instagram post that we are still learning about the health implications of plastic.

Plastic Bottles or Tap Water?

93 percent of bottled water contains microplastics. The chemicals used in plastic bottles create these microplastics. Have we all processed the fact that these chemicals do leach into the liquid, and thus end up in our systems as well?

Coke, Pepsi and Nestlé Are World's Biggest Producers of Plastic Trash

Darci Liu lives on Hainan Island China where she has direct connection to the ocean each day, a rare opportunity considering most of China is away from the sea.

"Every single day there is more trash in the ocean next to me while I'm surfing," said Darci. "Kids ask me the question why there are so many plastic bottles in the ocean. I don't know how to answer the kids."

At this point, you likely have a solid understanding of the importance of this challenge. So find yourself a water bottle that you enjoy drinking from, and be sure you have access to a water refill station or water filtration system if needed. You are officially a change maker and an #EcoWatcher committed to making a difference.

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Two turtles being rescued from a line that had tied them together. ANATOLI MYSHLYAEV / Getty Images

2018 was a major year for raising awareness about the buildup of plastics in the world's oceans. But it also ended with one of the most high-profile attempts to solve the problem—Boyan Slat's Ocean Cleanup system—returning to port for repairs before managing to clean up any plastic.

Now, National Geographic and Sky Ocean Ventures are teaming up to make 2019 an important year for resolving the crisis. On Monday, the two organizations launched the Ocean Plastic Innovation Challenge, a competition that will award up to $500,000 in prize money and potentially at least $1 million in investments to teams that can develop solutions to the plastic crisis.

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Tavish Campbell attaches a GPS tracker onto ghost fishing nets in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Justin Hofman / Greenpeace

By Graham Forbes

Corporations have created a plastic monster. More than 90 percent of the plastics ever produced have not been recycled, yet corporations have plans to dramatically increase their production of plastic packaging. With plastic production set to quadruple by 2050, recycling can never be enough to solve this problem.

But the global movement to hold these corporations accountable is growing. More than 3 million of you have joined us in urging companies to stop polluting our planet with throwaway plastic. And together with over 1,400 allies in the global Break Free From Plastic movement, we conducted 239 cleanups in 42 countries to identify the biggest corporate polluters.

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Biofase

In Mexico, a startup has found an innovative way to deal with the tons of avocado pits that producers discard every day.

Michoacan-based Biofase, located in the heart of Mexico's avocado industry, is transforming the dense seeds into disposable drinking straws and cutlery that are said to be 100 percent biodegradable.

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