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, May 28, 2013

Record-setting sailor's new voyage charts plastic polluting our oceans

Record-setting sailor's new voyage charts plastic polluting our oceans

In this May 6, 2013 photo, Matt Rutherford and scientist Nicole Trenholm pose for a photo on the R/V Ault, in Annapolis, Md. Rutherford and Trenholm are preparing for a 75 day research trip to gather plastics pollution data in the Sargasso Sea. (AP Photo/The Capital, Paul W. Gillespie)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - So, how do you top setting a record as the first solo sailor to circumnavigate the Americas?

Work small and smart — again.

But this time, Matt Rutherford will have company.

Rutherford, who set foot on land in Annapolis last April after 309 days alone on a 27-foot sailboat, has organized the Ocean Research Project, a non-profit to enable scientific exploration of the oceans and other waters from a small-is-beautiful approach.

As soon as he gets his rigging squared away on the steel-hulled, 42-foot R/V Ault, he and his scientific partner Nicole Trenholm, will be off for a 6,500 nautical mile, 75-day cruise into the mid-Atlantic to gather plastics pollution data in the Sargasso Sea, and more.

"I am the captain — she is the science," he said.

Rutherford, who grew up in eastern Ohio, possesses seaworthy skills proven in his circumnavigation quest. Trenholm, a Bucks County, Pa. native, was of late working as a hydrographer for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, her office was a desk on a research vessel in the Chesapeake Bay.

Together they hope to prove the worthiness of marine research on a small scale.

After this voyage the Ocean Research Project will tackle something closer to home. They will collect data on oyster bars in the Rappahannock River. Using side-scan sonar and video, the project intends to both map oyster bars and get a solid look at the condition the oysters are in.

The next long voyage will be to the Northwest Passage in 2014. A vital part of that trip will be to gather data on acidic changes in Arctic waters.

"We are not trying to tell people this is a better way to do this research," Trenholm said. "This can be an extra resource to work with other organizations, all of us pulling in the same direction," to better understand changes in the ocean and the planet.

Rutherford said there could be a use for smaller platforms for research. "You might not need a big boat with a crew of 10 or 15," he said. Some projects with a larger craft and crew can have budgets of $10,000 or $15,000 a day. "Our daily budget for this trip is $73 a day."

Dennis Takahashi-Kelso, executive vice-president of the Ocean Conservancy, thinks a smaller research platform can be valuable.

"This is a small vessel and small crew, but it can be a big deal in terms of its usefulness," he said. With smaller equipment, he said a small vessel and crew can make measurements that "can be quite precise."
Sampling in the Sargasso Sea was an excellent choice because there much more study needed there, Takahashi-Kelso said.

For this Ocean Research Project's inaugural trip, the goal is to sail east to the far edge of the Sargasso, and work their way back — 600 miles south, then 600 miles north, collecting data along each leg.

On each leg they will be dragging a 20-foot wide net behind the R/V Ault, for an hour at a time to gather particles of plastics that have broken down in the ocean. They will measure the amount of material versus the amount of water that passes through the net.

"We will do that day and night, 24 hours a day," Rutherford said. "We will store the samples in Nalgene bottles to be analyzed when we get back." The analysis will help determine the amount of plastics in the ocean and the toxicity emitted from them. They will go preliminary processing of the samples and some will be analyzed by a laboratory in Japan.

They will also deploy two other devices. One will measure water conditions that will be sent back to NOAA's Atlantic Oceanic Meteorological Laboratory. The other looks like a stout wine bottle and will locate tagged fish species for the Ocean Tracking Network headquartered at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Scientists tag fish in order to analyze migration patterns.

"Technological advances have made the scientific equipment much smaller," Rutherford said. "And you can get good data for less cost."

To say the voyage will be spartan is an understatement.

"We won't be sipping wine in the Azores or drinking Dark and Stormy's in Bermuda," Rutherford said.

The menu on this cruise consists of freeze dried food, with a little freeze-dried food on the side.
Rutherford's favourite: "Creamy chicken noodle, with extra chicken."

"I'm bringing a jar of Nutella," Trenholm said. (They have bottle of homemade apple wine for the 4th of July.)

How about water? He hoped to get a donation for an automatic desalinization unit but no luck. "I hate to do it, but it looks like I'll have to use my manual water maker from the last trip. That will be tough; it takes 45 minutes to make a glass of water."

One section of the boat is already stocked with the freeze-dried cuisine, another with Nalgene sample bottles.

Two wind turbines will generate electricity. An AutoHelm wind vane will help steer to keep her on course.

Rutherford named the boat, which he bought for $35,000 in Florida, R/V Ault after the World War II destroyer his grandfather served on in the Pacific. "She's painted battleship grey, it seemed natural," he said. The R/V stands for research vessel.

The major hurdle to shoving off — a mast. A company had suggested it could do the work but got held up.

Rutherford brought the mast up to Port Annapolis where R/V Ault is docked, and threw a rigging party. "I'll buy the pizza and beer," he said. The boatyard's crane was on the fritz, but was expected to be repaired May 15.

Once the mast is in place, they'll be off on a 75-day trip.

That's a lot of time for two people who met four months ago.

The relationship is more than scientific. They met at the Oxford Yacht Club and later Trenholm indicated an interest in moving to Annapolis. From there both a personal and professional relationship blossomed.

Rutherford looks forward to having company after his solo voyage last time out.

"I guess if she doesn't hit me in the head with a winch handle, I'll be OK," Rutherford said.
"We had better get a second winch handle," Trenholm said.

Donations, both in kind and financial, for the work of the Ocean Research Project can be made at www.oceanresearchproject.org where the voyage can be tracked via real-time map and a weekly blog.

Top 10 items found during 2012 coastal cleanup

Posted in salon.com
Top 10 items found during 2012 coastal cleanup 
File - In this Aug. 11, 2009 file photo provided by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography shows Matt Durham, center, pulling in a large patch of sea garbage with the help of Miriam Goldstein, right, in the Pacific Ocean. Plastics discarded by people often end up in the ocean, creating coastal pollution that harms marine life and gathers out at sea in what's become known as the great Pacific garbage patch. Now, California state lawmakers have introduced a law that if passed would require makers of plastic bottles, bags and packaging to replace plastics with more environmentally friendly alternatives. (AP Photo/ Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Mario Aguilera, File)(Credit: AP)
The Ocean Conservancy, a Washington D.C.-based environmental organization, released its 2012 list of trash collected during its International Coastal Cleanup. More than 10 million pounds of debris was collected globally, with more than 769,000 pounds collected in California alone. The most common items found during the cleanup:

1. Cigarettes/Cigarette Filters: 2,117,931

2. Food Wrappers/Containers: 1,140,222

3. Plastic Beverage Bottles: 1,065,171

4. Plastic Bags: 1,019,902

5. Caps/Lids: 958,893

6. Cups, Plates, Forks, Knives, Spoons: 692,767

7. Straws/Stirrers: 611,048

8. Glass Beverage Bottles: 521,730

9. Beverage Cans: 339,875

10. Paper Bags: 298,332


Source: Ocean Conservancy

Calif. plastic ocean debris bill dies in committee

Posted: May 24, 2013 3:08 AM CST Updated: May 24, 2013 5:48 PM CST
Published in khq.com By JASON DEAREN

Associated Press 
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A California bill that would have required manufacturers to figure out how to keep the most common plastic junk out of state waterways died in the state Assembly without a vote Friday.

Assembly Bill 521 was before the chamber's Appropriations Committee, and the panel failed to act on it, effectively killing the legislation for the session. It had previously passed the Assembly Natural Resource Committee.

State Assemblyman Mark Stone, a D-Monterey Bay, one of the proposal's sponsors, was disappointed by the outcome.

"Plastic pollution will continue to harm our oceans and coastline, so Assemblymember Stone is committed to working on this problem," said Arianna Smith, Stone's legislative and communications director.

Once in the ocean, plastic takes ages to decompose. The manmade junk either collects into floating trash islands called "garbage patches," or it breaks into smaller pieces that harm and kill sea creatures throughout the food chain.

It's a complex problem with no easy fix, but some European countries have already implemented "extended producer responsibility" laws with some success.

AB521 would have required manufacturers to figure out how to reduce 95 percent of plastic pollution along the state's coastline by 2024. It carried financial penalties for companies that did not comply: up to $10,000 per day for the worst violations.

Assemblyman Eric Linder, R-Corona, said during Friday's Appropriations Committee meeting that he opposed the measure in part because it singled out one industry as the source of ocean pollution.

"I agree that cleaning up our oceans should be something that's very, very important to us, but this bill places the burden of compliance directly on the producers instead of the violators, the people who are littering," Linder said.

The regulation was just the latest California legislative attempt to address some of the world's toughest environmental problems, often at the expense of private business, critics say.

The state's large economy and population has already influenced automakers to produce cleaner burning cars, forced warning labels for toxic chemicals on a range of consumer products and put a price on heat-trapping carbon emissions from industrial sources.

"With nearly 40 million people in the state, what happens here matters whether it is cap-and-trade and renewable energy portfolio standards, solid waste reduction, water conservation," said Mark Gold, associate director of the University of California, Los Angeles Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

"What happens in California matters both nationally and globally," he added.

Gold said legislation won't solve the plastic pollution problem, but could have a wide-ranging effect. The failed proposal could have been the first significant legislation in the U.S. to try to reduce the amount of plastic junk in the ocean that makes up trash formations such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, known as the world's largest landfill.

The plastic industry, California Chamber of Commerce and other business interests opposed the bill, saying they already fund recycling and other programs to reduce marine plastic pollution. Plus, they say, the bill asks manufacturers to develop new products or other ways to reduce trash, but it doesn't say how.

Extended producer responsibility laws have already taken root in more than two dozen European countries.

In France, nearly 90 percent of consumer products are part of the "Green Dot" program, requiring manufacturers to pay into a program that recovers and recycles packaging materials. It has successfully influenced manufacturers there to cut down on packaging or use alternative materials.

Stone's office said the assemblyman is unsure if he will reintroduce the bill next year. He is "weighing his options for how to continue to work to address this problem in the future," Smith said.
Laura Olson contributed to this story from Sacramento.
Follow Jason Dearen on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JHDearen
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Looking for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Posted on MyOcean.eu - May 17, 2013
From May 20th onwards,the EXPEDITION "7th CONTINENT" will use MyOcean Daily Forecasts for identifying convergence areas of plastics.
The European Union aims to be at the forefront of efforts to reduce marine litter which is a serious threat to the coastal and marine environment around the globe.

Little is known however on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Marine habitats are contaminated with man-made garbage and other waste, posing growing environmental, economic, health and aesthetic problems. Marine litter is a composed of up to 80 % of plastic, and originates from a diverse range of sources. Plastics tend to persist in the marine environment, possibly for hundreds of years.

It is therefore no surprise that MyOcean supports the Expedition to the “7th continent”, this huge ‘soup’ of plastic waste located in the North Pacific’s great subtropical gyre, commonly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, discovered by Captain Charles Moore in 1995.

The Team
The Expedition crew (from the right to the left) : Claire Pusineri, marine biologist ,Les Georges, the boat captain,Soizic Lardeux, photograph and video maker and Patrick Deixonne, the Expedition leader.© OSL

What is the Expedition Goal ?
Bring back an eyewitness account to raise awareness of the general public of this new ecological disaster that is directly caused by human behaviour.

How useful are MyOcean services ?
The crew will daily receive forecasts of currents (surface and -30m) and of Sea Surface Height based on the MyOcean product introduced in the latest catalogue release on April 23rd : Global Ocean Physics Analysis and Forecast updated Daily 

This information is key for optimizing the routing and for identifying plastics convergence areas.

Who is leading the Expedition?
The expedition is organized by the French Guyana association OSL (Ocean Scientific Logistic) which aims at promoting and raising awareness about marine environment through scientific studies and expeditions. Patrick Deixonne, OSL founder, navigator and member of the Société des Explorateurs (French Explorers Society), is leading the first French expedition to the “7th continent. He is accompanied by Claire Pusineri, marine biologist and Soizic Lardeux, photographer and film editor.

When Does it starts from which location?
The expedition will set out to sea from Ocean Side, California on 20th May for a one-month trip of around two thousand nautical miles on a 35-foot boat , a super Swan.
Location in North Pacific :  32°36'000’’N / 140 °34'000”W

The Educational component of the Expedition
The French Space Agency CNES is a major partner of the expedition in the frame of the educational project ARGONAUTICA (the French Space Agency Educational project ) for classes which will follow many aspects of the expedition, such as a buoy’s itinerary via a website  equipped with ‘plastic’ sensor capable of differentiating plastic micro-waste from plankton and then determining concentrations of the former in a given area. They will also be able to access the expedition’s log book, display maps showing sea-surface height and currents ( MyOcean product) which will help the crew navigate towards the gyre's centre...

The Scientific component of the Expedition ?
To quantify and characterise plankton, micro-plastics and pollutants , macro waste encountered on the journey, the crew has on board a few devices able to collect data or samples
  • 3 drifter buoys (Oceansites) to be cast overboard in the gyre area.
  • Gyroplastic buoy’s instruments will determine the environmental parameters (temperature, luminosity, salinity, presence of phytoplankton and plastic) of the top 30 metres of the water column. The buoy will be cast overboard for about an hour per day and the data collected will be transmitted directly to CNES via the Argos system.
  • Crew members will characterise any floating macro waste encountered during the expedition (size, type, number, location). These observations will be illustrated with photos and videos made both on the surface and underwater.Samples of micro-plastics and plankton on the surface will be collected using a small size ‘Manta’ plankton net (50 x 20 cm opening and 300-micron mesh) cast into the sea for about an hour every day. The samples will be analysed at a French Laboratory (IMRCP) and by some of the classes participating in the programme.
  • Use of new easy-to-use pollutant sensors (developped by the French Laboratory IMRCP)  which are able to fix large quantities of organic pollutants (hydrocarbons, bisphenol A, phthalates etc.). These sensors will be cast into the ocean at three points along the journey in sectors with low, medium and high pollution levels respectively. The pollutants concentrated in the sensors will be analysed by IMRCP laboratories on our return.A fishing line will be trained. On capturing a fish, the crew will use IMRCP laboratory sensors to concentrate any pollutants found in fish flesh. The pollutants will be analysed by IMRCP laboratories on our return.
  • At sunrise and sunset, when animals are most active, the on-board biologist will be observing the scene. She will record and characterise (species, number, behaviour, location) all large marine animal observations (birds, marine mammals, sharks, turtles).

To be followed on MyOcean Website...
For any question, contact = contact-com@myocean.eu.org
Expedition Web site: www.septiemecontinent.com

David Graas’ Specked Modular Lamps Diverts Plastic From Our Soup

by , 05/13/13  posted on inhabitat.com

Most plastics can be endlessly recycled without losing their indestructibility. But instead of being reused, the majority of plastics will end up as one-time-use products, finding their end as pollutants on land or in our oceans. Save Our Soup is Dutch designer David Graas’ colorful, speckled collection of recycled plastic lamps that have been created with then intent of diverting plastics from the Pacific Garbage Patch, or “soup”.

Save Our Soup’s brilliant modular lights can be arranged and rearranged into various shapes thanks to its construction using small triangules with plastic snap joinery. The lamp comes in three different sizes and is sure to brighten up any room in a funky way.

We originally spotted the lamps at Dutch Design Week last November, and we can’t wait to see what other functional designs Graas has in store employing reclaimed plastic waste.

+ David Graas
Photo © Ana Lisa Alperovich for Inhabitat

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Styrene Can Be Listed as Carcinogen On Government Report, Federal Judge Rules

Posted Monday, May 20, 2013 By Robert Iafolla on BNA.com

Styrene can be listed as a “reasonably anticipated human carcinogen” in a government report identifying substances that potentially put people at increased risk for cancer, a federal judge decided May 15 (Styrene Information and Research Center Inc. v. HHS, D.C. Cir., No. 11-01079, 5/15/13).

Judge Reggie B. Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected an industry challenge to the Department of Health and Human Service's inclusion of styrene in the 12th Report on Carcinogens, one in a series of congressionally mandated reports prepared by the National Toxicology Program.

Walton said in his 28-page decision that the carcinogen report provided a rational explanation for the department's decision to list styrene and that its decision is adequately supported by the administrative record.

The Styrene Information and Research Center Inc., a trade association representing 95 percent of the styrene industry, has not decided whether it will appeal the ruling, spokesman Joe Walker told BNA May 16.

Styrene is used to make plastics, rubber, and resins. The annual U.S. styrene production capacity in 2008 was 12.2 billion pounds, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that about 90,000 workers are potentially exposed to styrene.
Worker Exposure
Workers exposed to styrene in its reactive form during production are at the highest risk for adverse health effects, while consumers exposed to plastics and other substances made from styrene face a low risk, said Peter Orris, professor and chief of occupational medicine at University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System. Orris joined the legal case in support of the government.

“When the materials are solidified--unless you grind them up and put them in the air--you won't have much of a problem with them,” Orris told BNA. The risks for firefighters and disposal workers who might be exposed to smoke from burning styrene products is less clear, he added.

The inclusion of styrene on the government report on carcinogens, in concert with OSHA's hazard communication standard, essentially ensures that workers will be told that the material is a carcinogen, said Mike Wright, director of health, safety and environment for the United Steelworkers.

Moreover, Wright told BNA that the carcinogen report is an authoritative document that labor advocates can reference in talks with employers to ensure that workers are protected. Occupational safeguards include leak controls so styrene does not escape pipes or reactors, proper venting for any fumes that might be released when reactors are opened, and adequate protective equipment for maintenance workers, he said.

“I've been in plants where there is not a lot of exposure because the styrene is in a closed system,” Wright said. “But there is exposure when [the system] is opened for maintenance.”
Process for Listing
Wright said the Steelworkers joined the case in support of HHS to defend the government's right to communicate the risks of substances after going through a scientifically valid process. The Environmental Defense Fund also joined on the government's side.

SIRC and styrene manufacturer Dart Container Corp. objected to the government's listing process in its lawsuit, which it filed in June 2011--on the same day HHS released the carcinogen report. The lawsuit alleged a series of procedural problems, including violations of the Administrative Procedure Act, the Information Quality Act, and the Federal Advisory Committee Act (41 OSHR 558, 6/23/11).
Walton's Ruling
The May 15 ruling turned aside all of SIRC's arguments. Walton's opinion appears to criticize the lawsuit at times, including his discussion of SIRC's claim that HHS acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner contrary to the Administrative Procedure Act.

“The plaintiffs have taken a scattershot approach in attacking the secretary's listing decision, with little discussion of the actual justification for the decision set for the substance profile for styrene,” Walton wrote. “Insofar as the plaintiffs do attack that document, though, their arguments fall flat.”

For example, Walton cited SIRC's claim that the substance profile for styrene misconstrues a 2006 study supporting the proposition that exposure increases a risk for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The judge wrote that the study does say exposure is linked with increase risk for lymphoma and that SIRC does not explain how substance profile misconstrues the study.

Furthermore, he wrote that even if the profile did misconstrue the study, it contains several other studies about the link between exposure and elevated risk of lymphoma--studies that SIRC does not address.

Walton's ruling also laid out the seven-year process that went into the determination to include styrene on the carcinogen report. That process included preparing a 405-page background document surveying scientific knowledge, convening four separate expert panels, and soliciting two rounds of public comments.
No Precedent, But Possible Message?
Walton's emphasis on the strength of the record used to support the government's decision on styrene, as well as his rejection of SIRC's multi-pronged lawsuit, could send a message, said Earthjustice attorney Marianne Engelman Lado.

“The court gave a pretty resounding 'no' to that approach,” Lado told BNA. “I would hope that the chemicals industry would take a look at that opinion and think twice before using that approach again.”

The opinion by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Styrene Information and Research Center Inc. v. HHS is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=jstn-97rut5

Friday, May 3, 2013

Plastic buildup becomes environmental nightmare

 Posted by Elissa Torres on April 14, 2013 in the Golden Gate Xpress

It’s a nice summer day, 85 degrees and sunny. You decide to go to the beach, not only to show off your new summer bod, but to cool off for a swim in the Pacific. While swimming, you find yourself amongst plastic bottles that bob like buoys and you become tangled in Safeway labeled white plastic bags.

Over the last 60 years, plastic has become essential to our lives and mankind has subjected the planet to a tsunami of plastic waste. According to the environmental group Ocean Crusaders, there are believed to be 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean.

The Pacific contains one of the highest concentrations of plastic materials suspended between North America and Asia. The cluster of plastic materials is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex is a culmination of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other debris that have been trapped in the ocean currents of the North Pacific Gyre. The material is naturally gathered from all across the North Pacific Ocean, which includes coastal waters from North America and Japan.

Although the size of the patch is unknown, it is estimated to be around 700,000 square kilometers or roughly the size of Texas, according to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch website. Plastic is not a material that can be easily broken down.

The building blocks for making plastics are small organic molecules. These molecules contain carbon along with other substances. They generally come from oil (petroleum) or natural gas, combined with plant extracts, crude oil and toxic chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA), vinyl chloride and dioxin. The small molecules are known as a monomer, meaning one part, because it’s capable of joining with other monomers to form very long molecular chains called polymers, meaning many parts, during a chemical reaction called polymerization. Imagine a paper clip as a monomer, and a paper clip necklace as a polymer.

But how does all that plastic get from the factory to the ocean? The answer is as simple: humans + ocean currents = trash vortex, according to How Stuff Works. More specifically, the plastic stems from trash that was blown off of cargo ships and plastic that was thrown into the ocean, both by mistake or on purpose, that then found its way into the middle of the ocean.

According to scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, nine percent of fish located in the Pacific had plastic waste in their stomach. Also, the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastics Expedition traveled 1,000 miles off the coast of California in August 2009 and found an alarming amount of human generated trash. Most of the plastic had been broken down to the size of a fingernail, floating across the ocean.

Not only are plastics made with toxic materials, but they continue to leach toxicants wherever they are. Chemicals are leached from plastics, which can affect fish, mammals and other marine life. We, as humans, are also affected. We surround ourselves with plastic, eating products that are wrapped in plastic and drinking from plastic containers that put toxicants into our bodies.

It is vital that consumers ask questions about where their recycled products go, ensure their products are taken to a recycling facility where the collectors are using the plastic to make refurbished products like automotive accessories, bags and carpets, according to the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council. Also buying less plastic is a must. The less plastic that is incorporated into your life, the less likely you are to get toxicants in your body from that bottle of water you used or that Tupperware you used to warm up last night’s pasta.