Los Angeles Chapter

Rise Above Plastics



It’s in our homes, our offices, our vehicles, our yards, our playgrounds. We use it to package food, bottle products, bag produce, make dinnerware and utensils, make toys, you name it and the chances are it has been altered, affected, or made possible by plastic.

Plastics have undoubtedly helped us to manufacture, package and ship goods more easily, for less money, and in some cases more safely than ever before.

But plastics pose a significant threat to our planet as well.

Part of the problem is plastic itself. The very qualities that make it an adaptable and durable product to use, also make plastic an environmental nightmare. You see, plastics do not biodegrade. Instead, they photodegrade – breaking down under exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, into smaller and smaller pieces.

Bottom line: with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated, virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form. Single-use plastics are littering our beaches, streams, waterways and polluting our oceans around the globe.


Rise Above Plastics is designed to eliminate the impacts of plastics in the marine environment by raising awareness about the dangers of plastic pollution and by advocating for a reduction of single-use plastics and the recycling of all plastics.

Using a combination of online tools, classroom, and beach education, the Surfrider LA Chapter developed the Rise Above Plastics Speaker Program which offers training courses for the passionate activist that want to combat plastic pollution in their communities.

Arming RAP Speakers with the knowledge and resources necessary to teach their communities about the impact of plastic pollution, we hope to spread the simple solutions each person can take to address this global crisis with an eye on turning the tide.


  • If plastic production is’t curbed plastic pollution with outweigh fish pound for pound by 2050.
  • The amount of plastic produced from 2000 – 2010 exceeds the amount produced during the entire last century.
  • Plastic is the most common type of marine litter worldwide.
  • An estimated 100,000 marine mammals and up to 1 million sea birds die every year after ingesting or being tangled in plastic marine litter.[3]
  • Up to 80% of the plastic in our oceans comes from land-based sources.[4]
  • Plastics comprise up to 90% of floating marine debris.[5]
  • In 2009 about 3.8 million tons of waste plastic “bags, sacks and wraps” were generated in the United States, but only 9.4% of this total was recycled.[6]
  • Plastics do not biodegrade, but instead break down into small particles that persist in the ocean, absorb toxins, and enter our food chain through fish, sea birds and other marine life.[7]
  • Plastic bags are problematic in the litter stream because they float easily in the air and water, traveling long distances and never fully breaking down in water.
  • Cleanup of plastic bags is costly. California spends $25 million annually to landfill discarded plastic bags, and public agencies spend more than $300 million annually in litter cleanup.[8]
  • It is estimated that Americans go through about 100 billion plastic bags a year, or 360 bags per year for every man, woman and child in the country.


Surfrider Foundation’s San Diego chapter created the Rise Above Plastics Program to educate about solutions to the issues of single-use plastics.  In 2007, Jack Johnson selected the Rise Above Plastics Program to go on his educational tour happening at each stop of his summer tour.  In 2008, Ximena Waissbluth, a marine debris expert and Monterey chapter member embarked on a one-year marine debris educational slide show tour, from September 2007 to October 2008.

Creating an interactive presentation on plastic pollution, its causes, issues and solutions, Ximena presented 80 groups and over 2,500 people in Northern California, Central California, Southern California, Portland, Reno, Virginia Beach, and South Jersey.

This training program is modeled after the Monterey Chapter Rise Above Plastics Program that took place in 2010 and the Environmental Charter Schools Rise Above Plastics Program. Key learning’s from both those programs have been implemented into this program.


Leveraging this existing model, Surfrider LA has expanded on the program, with success in two areas: Education and Local City Ordinances.  Since 2009, trained adult volunteers have delivered approximately 40 presentations per year to approximately 4000+ total people in community groups, education systems, businesses and more. At Environmental Charter High School, a leading charter school located in South Los Angeles, the chapter has created a student speaker program. Over the past 5 years, the student program has trained 60 student speakers who have in turn delivered their presentation to more than 8,000 Los Angelenos.  Because of its effectiveness, the Rise Above Plastics program has become part of every student’s required green curriculum.   The school also offers educators the opportunity to learn and share the Rise Above Plastics program at their own schools through a course offered at UCLA Extension.

OTIS College of Art & Design has also partnered with the local chapter to offer students a Rise Above Plastics class through it’s integrated learning department for the past three years. To date, the Rise Above Plastics Program has reached approximately 50,000+ persons in Los Angeles Metro areas.