Our Ocean’s Plastic Pollution and what we need to do about it!
2016 was a year in which awareness of the plastic pollution problem exploded around the world. So we needed to do a round-up of all the stories that spotlight the problem as well as those stories that offer solutions to the problem. Which brings us to the conclusion that it is all about making better choices, sustainable choices on how we handle plastics everyday. (art- Bonnie Monteleone)
22 Million Pounds of Plastic goes into the Great Lakes every year
EcoWatch, Dec. 2016 – Each year 22 million pounds of plastic pollution are thrown into the Great Lakes, according to a study from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
“This study is the first picture of the true scale of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes,” said Matthew Hoffman, lead author of the study. Much of this plastic pollution washes up on beaches, but much remains as floating microplastics, which can be consumed by fish and enter the food chain or make its way into the ocean. (photo – Plastic World)
“Every piece of plastic entering our watersheds is an example of a serious design flaw: we are manufacturing products that have no recovery plan or value after they leave consumer’s hands,” said Anna Cummins, co-founder and global strategy director of 5 Gyres Institute
Sea Turtle vs Straw
In April, 2016 we posted one of our most heart- rending articles that described what a group of divers had to do when they encountered a sea turtle with a plastic straw lodged in its nose. The removal of the 4” straw went viral on You Tube with over 7 million views and became a graphic teaching moment on the hazards that carelessly discarded plastic waste held for sea animals. See our article and the video.
We also asked our Blue Ocean Community to take the “No Straw Pledge”
An Albatross Addicted to Plastic
Not that the albatross is responsible. Here is another hard-to-read story. With a wing span over 6 feet the Laysan Albatross is a magnificent bird. They can effortlessly soar vast distances over the Pacific, but they cannot escape our Plastic Ocean. As they skim the ocean surface looking for seafood they frequently mistake floating plastic waste for food. The adult albatross returns to feed their chicks, but for the chicks, who cannot regurgitate the plastic, it often has disastrous implications. The chicks might die because their stomachs feel full and they starve to death or as on Midway atoll many of he chicks die from lead poisoning. Magnificent birds tens of thousands of miles away are dying because of the plastic we unthinkingly, throw away. (photo – Chris Jordan)
NOAA Animation Tracks Immense Garbage Patches in the Ocean
Now you can see where that soda bottle that you threw overboard last weekend will end up. Thanks to NOAA this simulation tracks the voyage of that bottle across the high seas and eventually being sucked into one of five huge mega-gyres. The simulation pulls together computer models of ocean currents and 35 years of data from buoys that NOAA has spread in the oceans. (image – NOAA) See the simulation at How Floating Garbage Patches Form in the Ocean
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Taking Out The Trash
Breaking News: How do you clean up The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a giant swirl of floating debris bigger than the state of Texas? Two companies think they know how!
Stiv Wilson and Plastic Microbeads
The immense Pacific Garbage Patch has been well documented and was discussed by several of our Blue Ocean Summit Speakers: Stiv Wilson talked about his path of awakening to the perils of plastic microbeads in personal care products. And his success in getting legislation passed that curbs plastic waste from a variety of products. “Get your feet wet through global activism”. (photo – Alliance for the Great Lakes)
Breaking News: We might have thought we won the battle against the use of microbeads, however think again, the law that President Obama passed had a loophole big enough to drive an industry through. Now other countries that want to curb the use of microbeads are faced with the same issue. Find out more at: The Huffington Post – Obama’s Ban On Plastic Microbeads Failed In One Huge Way
Dianna Cohen and the Plastic Pollution Coalition
“We’re choking the ocean and everything that lives in it on plastic garbage and chemicals from plastic, and its really time for all of us to step up and take responsibility and be good ocean stewards.”
Dianna Cohen’s article “Our Plastic Seas: There is No Away” describes how plastic pollution takes its toll on marine creatures and how she became an Ocean Change-maker and founded the Plastic Pollution Coalition. (photo – Zak Noyle, Surfer Magaine, no photoshopping)
The big takeaway from both Stiv’s and Dianna talks was that we all need to start making better and more sustainable choices in our everyday handling of plastics.
Breaking News: See our post: If You Love Seafood You Might Not Want To Read This
Solutions to Plastic Pollution
Blue Ocean has been reporting on the inspiring stories that evolved out of our community’s fight to eliminate our ocean’s plastic pollution. Many of these stories began as seemingly small efforts that transformed with very large, positive results.
The Ocean Bottle
In August, 2016 Blue Ocean brought you: ”The Ocean Bottle brings attention to our Daily Plastic Waste” that focused attention on the huge amount of plastic waste that goes into the ocean every day, the repercussions that this has for both sea live and human life, and the solution that one company is offering to help solve the problem. The Belgian company Ecover is now making their “Ocean Bottles” from plastic waste fished out of the sea. (photo – Burt Jones, Secret sea visions)
Your Next Pair of Running Shoes can be made of Ocean Plastic
A similar story appeared as a Blue Ocean post “Your Next Pair of Running Shoes can be made of Ocean Plastic” and focused on what Adidas and Parley have done to recover plastic pollution from the Indian Ocean near the Maldives and recycle that waste into running shoes. Each pair of shoes recycles the equivalent of eleven plastic bottles and it is Adidas’ intention to produce one million pair in 2017. (photo – Adidas)
Breaking News: In the Swim With Plastics recovered From the Sea
Does Your coffee Cup Take 30 Years to Break Down
The question of what happens to that Styrofoam coffee cup you drank from this morning, was focused upon in our article from October: “Does Your Coffee Cup Take 30 Years to Break Down” Most users assume that these cups are recycled, when in fact they end up in landfills, requiring decades to decompose. Our article presents sustainable alternatives to the ubiquitous Styrofoam cup. (Image: Wikimedia Creative Commons)
Turning Ocean Garbage into Gold,
From the Smithsonian, Dec., 2016, Tells how a handful of organizations in British Columbia took part in Canada’s largest marine debris cleanup in the summer of 2016. And how one Canadian Company, Ocean Legacy has the ambitious goal of up-cycling the 20 tonnes of waste collected this summer and in the process demonstrate that plastic waste can become something valuable. Once the waste is sorted into homogenous groups then they can deliver the results to companies like Adidas and Lush that will vaporize the waste into petroleum and remold it into new products. It takes a lot of hard work, and devotion, but no one seems to have any intention to give up. (photo – Ocean Legacy Foundation) See the entire article at the Smithsonian.
Could 5 Countries solve 50% of the world’s Ocean Plastic Pollution
Our BlueOcean.net article focused on the big payoff if we could get just five countries to improve their waste management. Interestingly all five countries are in Asia and are Indonesia, China, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines and together they produce approximately 50% of the Ocean’s plastic waste. (photo – Getty Images)
The World’s Largest Beach Clean-up
However some of our most optimistic stories are also coming out of Asia. Here’s one!! In October of 2015 two men, Afroz Shah and an octogenerian friend began the seemingly impossible job of cleaning up Mumbai’s Versova Beach. One year and 1500 volunteers later the world’s largest beach cleanup has collected over 3 million kilograms of trash and a grassroots movement transcending religious, and social divides was born.
A Date With the Ocean
Every weekend hundreds of volunteers, school children, politicians and slum dwellers to Bollywood stars come together for what Afroz calls “a date with the ocean”. Studies suggest that Mumbai’s millions of residents produce more than 9,000 tonnes of waste per day, a portion of which clogs the creeks and canals that carry the trash into the Indian Ocean where tides carry it back onto Versova Beach. But the volunteers keep returning because as Afroz states when they began the beach clean-up, the plastic waste was over 5 feet deep, today it is merely ankle deep, that is real progress and most importantly their efforts are focusing the attention of the people and governments around the world onto the need to change policy and curb plastic pollution. (photo – Afroz Shah)
We produce 300 million tons of Plastic Waste every year!
Annually, around the world, we produce nearly 300 million tonnes of plastic waste and nearly 13 million tonnes of it ends up in the ocean, wreaking havoc on fisheries and marine ecosystems and costing an estimated 13 billion per year in environmental damage. Beach clean-ups can only remove a tiny fraction of that total, consequently reductions in production and consumption and improvements in waste management are the only realistic solutions. (photo – United Nations Environment Program)
Recently France became the first country to ban disposable plastic cups and plates. While Ghana, Senegal, Morocco, Tanzania, Rwanda and Malawi imposed a ban on plastic bags, similar to those bans passed by states and cities in the US. California’s ban on plastic bags was upheld by voters after being challenged by industry. So action is beginning and with the help of volunteers like those that appear every weekend on Versova we can still “have a date with the ocean.”
Take the Pledge: Coastal Clean-Up Day, September 17th
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