A blog set out to explore, archive & relate plastic pollution happening world-wide, while learning about on-going efforts and solutions to help break free of our addiction to single-use plastics & sharing this awareness with a community of clean water lovers everywhere!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Film Looks at Plastics in the Oceans

Published in VOA Science and Health on March 20, 2017

Plastic sludge and garbage, a blight on the world’s oceans.

Eight million metric tons of plastic wind up each year in the oceans, harming marine life and entering the food chain.

A film crew traveled the globe to document the rubbish, producing a new documentary film called A Plastic Ocean that looks at the problem, and its solutions.

Julie Andersen of the Plastic Oceans Foundation said what is seen is just the tip of the problem.

“Half of the waste actually sinks to the bottom, some plastic sinks to the bottom, and what remains on the surface actually breaks down," Andersen said.

The filmmakers found trash in ocean gyres, the circulating currents that trap large concentrations of pollution in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, home of what some have called a plastic island.

“What we found in the center of the Pacific was not a floating island of plastic. What we found was a plastic smog that permeated all the water," Andersen said.

The debris infects the food chain, sometimes visibly, and more so at the microscopic level, where the plastic particles interact with other pollutants.

Adam Leipzig, producer of A Plastic Ocean, said, “Heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, industrial runoff. It acts like magnets. These toxins hitchhike on the plastic, and when seafood ingests the plastics, those toxins offload into the fatty tissues.”

Those fish are then consumed by other sea life and by people.

China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are the worst plastic polluters. The United States, although a leader in recycling, is in the top 20, since it produces and consumes so much plastic.

There are efforts around the world to address the problem, including at this newly opened recycling center in Lebanon.

But Andersen said there is more people can do.

“Cut back on single-use plastics, straws, plastic cups, plastic water bottles, plastic bags and find alternatives like reusable materials," she said.

She said healthy oceans are essential to our survival.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Award-nominated film finds its facts from Brunel

published Sept. 29 by Brunel University in London 

Marine litter
An eye-popping film about plastic pollution featuring environmental science pioneered at Brunel is up for a leading industry award.
A Plastic Ocean is up for best documentary at this week’s Raindance Film Festival. It tells the insidious tale of the millions of tonnes of plastic litter turning the world’s seas into a toxic plastic soup.
In it, Ecotoxicology Professor Susan Jobling, explains the hormone-disrupting effects of chemicals linked to plastic pollution. Professor Jobling, Director of Brunel’s Institute of Environment, Health and Societies appears alongside other leading scientists and Sir David Attenborough.
“It is quite powerful. Shocking even in places,” said researcher Dr Christopher Green, one of the Brunel team of scientific advisors.
A Plastic Ocean is produced by BBC Blue Planet producer, Jo Ruxton and told though the eyes of journalist Craig Leeson and free diver, Tanya Streeter. It shows how plastic marine litter harms wildlife, the environment, and potentially human health. A South Pacific islander tells how the pools she swam and fished as a child are contaminated by plastic waste, saying it has ‘destroyed our paradise’.
Brunel got on board as scientific advisors when the team asked Professor Jobling to talk about endocrine disruption and how chemicals associated with plastic can affect the hormone system. In the early 90s, Professor Jobling was one of the first researchers to show chemicals in plastics can mimic the female sex hormones, oestrogens. In the film, she explains how these chemicals can interfere with reproduction and development and their links to hormone related diseases. “Endocrine disruption in aquatic wildlife was pioneered here at Brunel,” Dr Green explained.
Dead seabirds Image Plastic Oceans Foundation
An alarming statistic is that 90 per cent of seabirds are likely to have swallowed plastic. Without intervention, by 2050, 99% of sea bird species will have consumed plastic.
"I hope it will make people really think about how they use plastics and make them wonder for example if they really need a plastic drinking straw or a single use plastic bottle. I hope it starts to resonate with manufacturers, with industry and government and drives a wave of change towards a more sustainable future. Whatever happens, Brunel will be part of that change, through our innovative multi-disciplinary research."
Professor Jobling, who is researching public attitudes and understanding of plastic pollution with Brunel media sociologist, Lesley Henderson is calling for research into recycling and re-use of plastics. “Only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling,” she said. “We need a new future for plastic."
• The Raindance Film Festival winners will be announced on September 30. Find out about Brunel’s Institute of Environment, Health and Societies here.  Learn more from Plastic Oceans Foundation. Images courtesy of Plastic Oceans Foundation.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Florida brewery creates edible six-pack rings to protect marine wildlife

Published in The Growler on May 16, 2016
Screen Shot from Saltwater Brewerys Youtube video
Screen Shot from Saltwater Brewerys Youtube video
Screenshot from Saltwater Brewery’s Youtube video
Florida has a special connection to the ocean.
The state is home to the Florida Reef, the third largest living coral reef in the world and the only one found in the continental United States. Many of its professional sports teams are aquatic themed (Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for example).
So it’s no wonder that a Florida craft brewery in Delray Beach was the one to come up with an edible six-pack ring to help save marine life from being entangled or ingesting in plastic debris.
Saltwater Brewery and We Believers—an advertising agency in New York—developed the durable packaging solution for six-packs from spent grain from the brewing process. The resulting product is claimed to be not only biodegradable, but also edible for fish and other sea life.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Ocean Clean up deploys first prototype aimed at clearing Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2020

Published in ABC.net on July 5, 2016 by Pacific Beat
As scientists look to find a way to rid the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch of thousands of tonnes of waste plastic, a prototype ocean cleaning system has been deployed in the North Sea off the coast of the Netherlands.

Key points:

  • The Ocean Cleanup system collects plastic by acting as an "artificial coastline"
  • A full scale deployment is expected in the Pacific in 2020
  • The Dutch government co-funded the $2.2-million prototype
  • Private companies are expressing interest to buy the collected plastic
Developed by the Dutch foundation, the 100-metre-long barrier prototype — known as the Ocean Cleanup system — is powered by the ocean's currents and acts as an artificial coastline that can catch and concentrate debris in water.
The team behind Ocean Cleanup aims to achieve "the largest clean-up in history" when the nearly 100-kilometre full system is deployed in the Pacific in 2020.
Media player: "Space" to play, "M" to mute, "left" and "right" to seek.
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AUDIO: Listen to the interview with founder Boyan Slat.(Pacific Beat)
But compared to previous efforts and technologies aimed at cleaning up the Pacific patch, Ocean Cleanup founder Boyan Slat said the new system differed in that it allowed "the natural ocean currents to do the hard work".
"Instead of going after the plastic, we propose to deploy a very long array of long floating barriers, which are attached to the sea bed, and will allow the natural ocean currents to do the hard work for us," Mr Slat told the ABC's Pacific Beat program.
The Ocean Cleanup system collects plastic by allowing the ocean's currents to move through it, rather than deploying vessels to scour the oceans.
"Basically it acts as an artificial coastline where there is no coastline," Mr Slat said.
But for now, the purpose of the prototype is not to clean plastic from the ocean, but to use the North Sea's rough currents to ensure the system can survive for years out in the Pacific.
"The objective of this test is to see whether we can build something which is able to survive at sea for years," Mr Slat said.
"Right now what we see from the data is that it's still there, in one piece, and we've actually had some rough seas, so it's promising.
"But the whole reason to test is not to prove ourselves right but to look for the things that don't work."

Private companies interested to buy plastic

To date the project had mostly been financed through crowdfunding and donations, but for the 1.5-million-euro ($2.23-million) prototype, the Dutch Government came on board to co-fund the project.
Mr Slat said there had been increasing demand from private companies to buy the collected plastic.
"Part of our resources are currently dedicated to researching the recycling possibilities of the material we would retrieve from the ocean," Mr Slat said.
"And what we see is that the quality of the plastic is really high … and there are also a lot of companies now showing interest in buying up that plastic once we've taken it out of the ocean.
"Our hope is that once the technology is proven, we should be able to cut the clean-up costs, at least by using the revenue generated by selling this ocean plastic to make it into new products."
Mr Slat said the offers from companies to buy up the collected plastic demonstrated just how much plastic was believed to be out there.
"I think about a year ago some people told us there were 100,000 tonnes of plastic out there, while others have said 100 million tonnes out there, so it's quite a lot, but the uncertainty is even bigger," Mr Slat said.
"So what we then did in August last year, is cross the garbage patch with 30 boats at the same time to really take more measurements, and what we found is that there is actually a lot more plastic than people thought was out there."
Mr Slat said that was because his team did not only measure the extremely dangerous micro-plastics, as is often done, but the larger pieces as well.
"What we found is that most of the mass is in those big objects, which is obviously very relevant, because all those big pieces will crumble down into those dangerous micro-plastic over the next few decades if we don't do anything about it," he said.
"So if we don't clean it up, micro-plastics could potentially increase to up to almost 50-fold."

Here's another great post from Tech Insider about the Ocean Cleanup prototype:  http://www.techinsider.io/ocean-cleanup-floating-garbage-collector-2016-7

RIO OLYMPICS 2016: Aquatic Athletes advised to keep their mouths shut as they will ‘Literally be swimming in human crap’

Published in the Inquisitr July 28, 2016 by Tim Butters

Aquatic athletes competing in the forthcoming Rio Olympics have been advised to keep their mouths shut while competing because they will “literally be swimming in human crap” and could pick up heavy duty illnesses from the contaminated water.

Swimming and sailing in toxic filth is a far cry from the Olympic ideal but according to health experts, the raw sewage, household debris, and even the occasional bloated corpse which can be found infecting the waters of Rio’s Guanabara Bay and Copacabana Beach, will all combine to create a potentially deadly brew for the hearty Olympic athletes who are chasing greatness and aiming for glory at the 2016 Summer Games.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that marathon swimmers, sailors, and windsurfers who will be participating in events held at Guanabara Bay, where a bloated corpse was found floating recently, should take extra care because the polluted water is apparently a lot more contaminated than previously thought.

Ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the Brazilian government promised to eradicate over 80 percent of the pollution and waste from the bay. They have now admitted their clean-up goals won’t be met in time for the Games, and competitors will just have to do their best among the flotsam, jetsam, and pure unadulterated filth.

Rio Olympics
Rio Olympics
Something smells rather fishy about the Rio Olympics! (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In an age when desperate whales choking on plastic bags are approaching random deep sea fisherman for help, the state of the world’s oceans has never been more dire.

A recent report by the Inquisitr claims our world is drowning in plastic, and our oceans are toxic.

Charles J. Moore, a U.S. merchant marine captain and founder of the Algalita Marine Research Institute in Long Beach, California, said he’s utterly shocked at the huge increase in plastic litter found floating on the ocean’s surface in the past five years.

“Plastic is choking our future in ways that most of us are barely aware.”
In just three days, Captain Moore and his team estimated that the urban hubs of Southern California were responsible for polluting the sea with 2.3 billion pieces of plastic.

Garbage patches of floating plastic comprised of everything from shampoo bottles and toothbrushes to cigarette lighters and tires lie accusing and apathetic in the remote Pacific.

Passing seabirds often mistake these brightly colored objects for squid or fish. Weighed down with plastic fragments, the birds then return to their nests and unwittingly feed the plastic to their young.

Their stomachs are bursting with the toxic material, and they are unable to ingest any real food.

Skeletal remains of dead chicks lie scattered on remote islands, and where their stomachs should be lies nothing but a tangled mass of plastic. The extent of the plastic pollution cannot be over-estimated.

Science writer Gaia Vince has estimated that every square kilometer of the world’s oceans now contains an average of 18,500 pieces of plastic, and that’s before you add all the other putrid filth and raw sewage into the equation that awaits Olympic hopefuls at Rio.

Rio’s Copacabana Beach at the mouth of Guanabara Bay, which will host many swimming events, is thought to be a particularly polluted place, and the bay is actually more contaminated than environmentalists and scientists previously thought.

One Brazilian doctor named Daniel Becker has refused to pull any punches and warned Olympic marathon swimmers to take a deep breath because they will “literally be swimming in human crap.”

“Foreign athletes will literally be swimming in human crap, and they risk getting sick from all those microorganisms.”

Dutch sailing team member Afrodite took a pragmatic approach to the grim warnings and said, “We just have to keep our mouths closed when the water sprays up.”

The coach of the Spanish woman’s sailing team, Nigel Cochrane, said he was very concerned about warnings of “super bacteria” in the waters of Rio, and he has called the state of affairs “disgusting.”

Australian gold medalist sailors Mat Belcher and Will Ryan have had plenty of experience of Guanabara Bay, and none of it’s been too pleasant.

“There’s all sorts of rubbish – dead animals, furniture, plastic bags, a lot of coke cans. It’s not ideal.”


Come on in! The water is lovely. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/3357296/rio-olympics-2016-aquatic-athletes-advised-to-keep-their-mouths-shut-as-they-will-literally-be-swimming-in-human-crap/#1OX3Daf8548v9H4b.99

Monday, July 4, 2016

5 Frequently Asked Questions about Plastic Pollution

FAQs from Recent 5 Gyres Webinar
June 15, 2016 -for better reading quality, go directly to the 5 Gyres blog.

On June 2nd 5 Gyres held our most recent Webinar. Founders Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen spoke about plastic pollution in our oceans and focused on the latest research and policy on the issue, the importance of having a circular economy, and how community is essential to this problem as they have the power to demand change. The Webinar ended with a 15-minute Q/A session where audience members asked some very thoughtful questions and received passionate and insightful answers.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to address all of the questions, so Marcus has answered a few below that seem to be popular questions that we hope will clarify some doubts you might have.


Plastic is coupled with the price of oil, so it fluctuates equally. Right now, recycled plastic is too expensive, so virgin plastic is what's dominating the market. So, as suggested, subsidizing oil doesn't help recycling efforts.


Good question. It takes constant pressure over time, and alignment of organizations toward a common goal. That's how we won on microbeads. The bag ban took 10 years to win, and industry hired outside signature gatherers to make it a referendum. You can join Californians Against Waste, Surfrider Foundation, and other NGO's to fight the referendum in CA and get the word out.


From what I know, the polymer gets continually degraded over time, so you don't typically see products with 100% PRC (Post-consumer recycled content). So, technically you can't reused the same plastic material perpetually, as you can with Aluminum, which is a single element (Al). Plastic is made of 100 or 1000's of molecular bonds, and they don't last forever.


It depends on the polymer. Here's something I wrote recently on bioplastic:

Bioplastic has been around a while. Henry Ford produced the first soybean car in the 1930s, with bioplastic fenders and door panels made from soy-based phenolic resin. He demonstrated its resilience by bashing it with a sledgehammer without a dent. Petroleum plastics were cheaper and better performing and eventually edged bioplastic out.

But today, with the inconsistency of the fossil fuel market, companies like Proctor & Gamble, CocaCola and PepsiCo have explored plant-based plastics as a means to create a more reliable and consistently valued resource. In September 2015 the Brazilian company Braskem began production of polyethylene, the exact same chemical structure as polyethylene made from fossil fuels, but derived entirely from sugar cane fiber, called ‘bagasse’..

Poly-lactic Acid (PLA) is another common plant-based polymer, the one you see advertised as ‘corn cups’ or utensils called ‘spud ware’. Or Poly-hydroxy-alkanoate (PHA), made from the off-gassing of bacteria. Soy, bagasse, PLA or PHA, are all very different and create confusion, sometimes intentionally, over their actual biodegradability. PLA needs a large industrial composting facility that’s hot, wet, and full of compost-eating microbes. If you put a bunch of paper plates, napkins and PLA utensils in your backyard compost for a year, you’ll end up with rich soil and a bunch of forks and knives. On the JUNKraft we filled a nylon mesh laundry bag with 20 different PLA products. The result after the voyage was a laundry bag filled with unscathed products. PHA is the only marine degradable bioplastic, with ASTM standards that describe a 30% loss of material in the ocean in 6 months, but only in warm tropic waters, not higher latitudes or deeper waters.

There’s plenty of confusion and green-washing in advertising the value of bioplastic. While the label “biodegradable” has a relatively strict definition called ASTM standards, and strict guidelines for usage in advertising, the terms bioplastic, plant-based, bio-based do not. Bioplastic is the loosely-defined catch-all phrase that describes plastic from recent biological materials, which includes true biodegradable materials and non-biodegradable polymers that are plant-based. These definitions leave a lot of room for advertisers to manipulate public perception.

When CocaCola unveiled the PET PlantBottle a week before the 2009 Sustainability Summit in Copenhagen (COP15), with green leaves and circular arrows on labels, many NGOs and government agencies, like the Danish Consumer Ombudsman, took CocaCola to court for greenwashing, resulting in label modifications. Despite all of the leafy greenery, it’s the same PET bottle you’ll find floating across the ocean, despite being “plant-based”. The saving grace is the withdrawal from fossil fuels, but otherwise the same bottle.


Keep pushing. Continuous pressure over time. We love the people in our social circle, so we keep sharing our values. I have family that still haven't kicked the plastic habit. I just keep pushing without compromising my values.

BUT, if they are jerks about it and want to criticize your choices, then you have to decide for yourself if you're compatible. It's like any other relationship, i suppose. Breaking up is hard to do.


Dutch inventor harnessing waves to clean up the seas

Published in Yahoo News by Sophie Mignon - June 22, 2016

Scheveningen (Netherlands) (AFP) - The Dutch inventor behind a ground-breaking project to remove millions of tonnes of plastics floating in vast ocean "garbage patches" unveiled Wednesday the first prototype of his ambitious sea-cleaning device.

Boyan Slat's innovative idea -- first drawn on a paper napkin when he was still in high school -- seeks to use ocean currents to gather up the masses of bottles, plastic bags, flip-flops and other detritus that sully the planet's waters, eliminating the need for an army of boats to haul them in.

According to the Ocean Cleanup project, eight million tonnes of plastics enter the oceans every year, much of which has accumulated in five giant garbage patches, with the largest in the Pacific between California and Hawaii.

The plastic soup is created when the rubbish gets caught up in five main "gyres" -- or rotating oceanic currents.

But 21-year-old Slat believes he can harness the power of the currents to help the great cleanup.

"Why move through the ocean if the ocean can move through you?" Slat asked at a press conference in the harbour in the port of Scheveningen, on the outskirts of The Hague.

Slat's idea is to use a 100-kilometre (60-mile) long V-shaped barrier made up of large, rubber pillow-shaped buoys which float on the ocean surface, trailing a three-metre (nine-foot) long curtain from its arms into the water.

A smaller 100-metre (feet) prototype unveiled Wednesday will now be taken onto the North Sea Thursday for a year-long series of tests some 23 kilometres (12 nautical miles) off the Dutch coast.

The aim is to stop the plastic as it bobs along, gathering it into one place so it can be gathered up into a container and taken for recycling.

"All those plastic objects, big things like bottles, crates... will be cut down to micro pieces over the next few decades if we don’t do anything about it," he told reporters as he explained his project, The Ocean Cleanup.

"The question is: is this a future we accept will happen or do you want to create a future where the oceans become clean again?"

- 'Crucial to prevent permanent damage' -

The micro pieces released as the plastics break down are dispersed through the seas, entering the food chain with harmful effects for all marine life. Turtles, fish, dolphins and others can also become entangled in the rubbish, or swallow pieces believing it is food which they then cannot digest.

The prototype has been built at a cost of 1.5 million euros ($1.69 million), financed through crowd-funding as well as donations, including from the Dutch government.

Slat hopes is to fully roll out the system in 2020 once the tests have been evaluated and necessary modifications made.

He says his system could capture up to 3,000 cubic metres in its arms -- enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

"With a single one of those systems deployed for 10 years, we should be able to clean up about half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or more if we would deploy more systems," he told reporters.

Dutch Environment Minister Sharon Dijksma said it was "an inspiring example of how we can tackle the growing problem of ocean pollution".

The project was "crucial to prevent permanent damage to the environment and marine life," she added.

The project's most conservative estimate says that in the first 10 years, 70 million kilos (154 million pounds) of plastic would be removed.

The youngest ever winner of the Champion of the Earth award -- the UN's highest environmental honour -- Slat gave up his studies in aeronautical engineering to pursue his project.

Now the Ocean Cleanup has more than 40 staff backed by dozens of volunteers.