Ocean plastic waste is an urgent environmental crisis, subject to growing media and policy scrutiny. We use Q-methodology to assess stakeholder perspectives on management practices, finding four emergent discourses concerning: environmental citizenship, global policy responsibility, health prioritisation and economic incentivisation. We find stakeholder consensus on the impacts, levels of media coverage and need for action – creating a ‘policy window’ for strong environmental governance. Yet there remains disparity over who should lead pro-environmental action, and whether consumer behaviour will genuinely change over time. Visual communication emerges as a popular tool to build social capacity for change. It behoves policymakers to learn from other visual behaviour change initiatives, such as those on cigarette packaging, to stimulate long-term public engagement. By combining visual communication with taxes and levies to alter demand-side management for single use plastic products, we suggest that longer-term sustainable behaviour change can be achieved.