Did you know that plastics account for 80% of all ocean pollution?

This is one of the most pressing challenges facing the ocean. Right now, there is more plastic in the ocean than phytoplankton, a microscopic plant creature that sustains life for the entire food chain!

Plastics pose a huge threat to the ocean ecosystem because they do not biodegrade. Instead, they continue to break into smaller and smaller pieces, which litter the ocean and its beaches. Countless sea animals and birds die each day from ingesting and getting entangled in plastic debris.

For this year's contest, we want you to explore the major questions surrounding ocean plastic pollution. Why is there so much plastic in our oceans? Where does it come from? How does it affect ocean animals and ecosystems? Is this a problem worthy of international attention? Are there alternatives to plastic that could help alleviate the ongoing problem of ocean pollution? How does our “throwaway culture” impact the amount of plastic in our oceans?

We invite you to explore these questions and more in the 2014 Ocean Awareness Student Contest, which runs through June 15, 2014. You may work alone or in a group, and submissions can take one of the three following forms:

This is how much plastic is dumped into the ocean
every 15 seconds!

Courtesy of the Plastic Garbage Project; Museum of Design Zurich.

art

If you like to be creative, try exploring what plastic marine pollution means to humanity and/or the environment through art.

How will you express yourself? Drawing, painting, mixed media, collage or sculpture are all welcome formats — simply provide us with a photograph of your completed artwork (be sure to follow the submission criteria!).

Because we want to hear your voice, too, we ask that you also submit a 250-word artist's statement that elaborates on how you explored the topic through your work.

Need inspiration? Think of what interests you the most! You could focus your work on an animal impacted by plastics pollution — like sea turtles, whales, or birds — or make a sculpture from discarded beach plastic. Interpretations are open.

 

Here’s some valuable inspiration and resources to begin your art project:

(And get it right! Make sure you read all of the submission criteria before sending in your entry.)

essay

Do you have a more analytical mind? Are words spilling onto the page? Then write an essay about the role of plastics pollution on the ocean environment.

Your 5-8 page essay can take two forms: analytic or nature writing.

If you opt for analytic writing, we encourage you to define the problem of plastic pollution and the role that our disposable culture plays in it. Also think about ecologically friendly developments that could help reduce plastics in the ocean.

If you feel a more personal connection to the issue, try the nature writing approach, which blends research with personal voice. Great environmentalists including Rachel Carson and Henry David Thoreau have fancied nature writing.

Here’s some valuable inspiration and resources to begin your essay:

(And get it right! Make sure you read all of the submission criteria before sending in your entry.)

advocacy

Want to take action to help save our oceans? Show us your idea for raising awareness of marine plastic pollution in a short video.

We know that advocacy can be tough… we have been working on it for a long time! Your advocacy can take the form of a video, like making a documentary on pollution or a mockumentary on marine life. Or you might come up with another kind of project — for example, making an info-graphic series illustrating the problem, organizing a beach clean up, designing a program to reduce plastics consumption in your school or community, or creating a t-shirt campaign — which you show us in your video. Creative or entertaining videos are welcome!

In addition to a 5-10 minute video, we want you to submit a 250-word reflection that tells us about your audience and what impact you want to have. Then give us a measure of your success! In short, show us what you did, why you did it, how it went, and what you learned.

Here’s some valuable inspiration and resources to begin your advocacy project:

(And get it right! Make sure you read all of the submission criteria before sending in your entry.)