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 26, 2015

California Assembly votes to ban plastic microbeads

If approved by the California Senate, the ban would forbid the sale of soaps, creams with the tiny plastic beads


The California State Assembly on Friday passed the nation’s toughest ban on plastic microbeads, the gritty synthetic particles used in a slew of personal care products as an exfoliant.

The bill now heads to the state Senate where a similar measure was defeated by a single vote last year. A new ballot in the chamber could take place this summer.

Environmentalists have been lobbying for the ban, saying the minuscule beads — usually smaller than 1 millimeter in diameter — generate an estimated 38 tons of plastic pollution that goes through wastewater treatment plants and into rivers and oceans.

Californians Against Waste, a nonprofit group that is part of a coalition calling for the ban, says scientists estimate that 471 million plastic microbeads are released into San Francisco Bay every day, and that there can be more than 300,000 microbeads in one jar of facial cleanser.

That environmental group also cites studies that show that microplastics have been found in fish stomachs. Sea creatures can mistake beads for eggs and ingest them, as well as the toxins attached to them. People, in turn, eat the fish, passing on those chemicals all the way up the food chain.

“If a manufacturer tried to dump 40 tons of plastic pollution into the ocean, they would be arrested and fined for violating the Clean Water Act.” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste. “But these cosmetic and soap makers are doing the same thing on a daily basis with billions of plastic microbeads washed down millions of drains. Enough is enough.”

California also approved a ban on plastic bags that us scheduled to go into effect next year.

Several states, including Illinois, Colorado and New Jersey, have passed microbeads bans but the laws still allow for biodegradable substitutes. Environmentalists, including groups such as 5 Gyres that fight against plastic pollution in waterways, say there is no such thing yet.

Personal products giants, such as Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble, have begun phasing out microbeads in their products and are working on cost-efficient alternatives. Natural exfoliants — apricot pits, walnut shells and sand — are often more expensive.

Democratic state Assemblymember Richard Bloom said given the other options for companies, there’s no reason why the synthetic exfoliants should be allowed.

“Toxic microbeads are accumulating in our rivers, lakes and oceans at alarmingly high levels,” he said. “Continuing to use these harmful and unnecessary plastics when natural alternatives are widely available is simply irresponsible and will only result in significant cleanups costs to taxpayers who will have to foot the bill to restore our already limited water resources and ocean health.”

Consumers who want to know if their personal grooming products contain microbeads should look for polyethylene or polypropylene on the labels.

Friday, May 22, 2015

World's First Ocean Cleaning System to be Deployed in 2016

Published in Digital Journal by Robert Myles     
 Artist's impression of how the Tsushima Island array would look. When deployed in 2016 the 2000 meter long array would become the world's longest floating structure.

Seoul - Dutch-registered nonprofit, The Ocean Cleanup, today announced that the world’s first system to passively clean up plastic pollution from the oceans will be deployed next year.

When the system, which uses floating barriers to collect plastic debris and lets ocean currents do most of the collection work, is deployed it will become the longest floating structure in history. The novel idea works on the basis that, rather than attempt to collect the plastic swirling about in the seas, a series of arrays or floating barriers means the ocean currents do the collection work. Once plastic debris has accumulated at these barriers, it can be systematically collected for safe disposal or processing later. 

Close-up of one of The Ocean Cleanup s arrays for collecting plastic debris in the oceans
Close-up of one of The Ocean Cleanup's arrays for collecting plastic debris in the oceans

The Ocean Cleanup
The announcement was made by The Ocean Cleanup’s 20-year-old founder and CEO Boyan Slat, who was speaking at Asia’s largest technology conference, the Seoul Digital Forum in South Korea.

“Taking care of the world’s ocean garbage problem is one of the largest environmental challenges mankind faces today. Not only will this first cleanup array contribute to cleaner waters and coasts, but it simultaneously is an essential step towards our goal of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This deployment will enable us to study the system’s efficiency and durability over time,” said Slat. 

The Ocean Cleanup’s goal is to develop technologies to extract, prevent and intercept plastic pollution, in the process accelerating the fight against ocean plastic pollution, the worst example of which is the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch. If Ocean Cleanup’s plans come to fruition it would be the largest cleanup the world has ever seen.

Following publication of The Ocean Cleanup’s results of its year-long study into the feasibility of large-scale, passive and efficient removal of plastic pollution from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the organization was able to raise over $2 million from 38,000 contributors, spread across 160 countries, in a successful non-profit crowd funding campaign.

In November 2014, when he was just 19, Slat received the United Nations’ highest environmental accolade from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. This Dutch rising star has also been recognised by Intel EYE50 as one of the 20 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs Worldwide.

The Ocean Cleanup array should be rolled out in the second quarter of 2016, assuming successful completion of a feasibility study currently being conducted for deployment of the anti-pollution system off the coast of Tsushima, an island situated in the Korean strait between Japan and South Korea. Initially, Ocean Cleanup’s system will span 2,000 meters, making it the world’s longest floating structure.

The current record — 1,000 meters — is held by the Tokyo Mega-Float. The Tsushima array is projected to be operational for at least two years. During this time it will trap plastic pollution which would otherwise be washed up along the coastline of Tsushima Island. Tsushima Island receives a colossal amount of unwelcome plastic pollution. Every year, for every person on the island (pop. 39,716) about one cubic meter of plastic waste is deposited along the island’s shores.

Local government authorities on Tsushima are looking at a number of innovative solutions to what has become a perennial problem one of which might see the waste plastic recovered by The Ocean Cleanup’s array being used as an alternative energy source.

Next year’s deployment of the Tsushima array would represent an important milestone in The Ocean Cleanup’s aim of removing plastic pollution from the world’s oceans. But the Tsushima array, large as it is, would be dwarfed when the organization gets to work on its biggest task, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Within five years, after a series of deployments of increasing scale, The Ocean Cleanup has ambitious plans to put in place a 100 kilometer long system, located between Hawaii and California, to clean up roughly half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California.
According to The Ocean Cleanup’s computer modeling, by using a single system of this nature, it would be possible to remove almost half the detritus from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in ten years. 

4 Cities That Are Getting Rid Of All Of Their Garbage

Published in Fast Coexist.com by Jessica Leber

Achieving "zero waste" might seem impossible, but these cities have implemented plans that are getting them very close. Now it's time for the rest of the world to follow along.
New York City not too long ago had a landfill you could see from space. Now it has a plan to get to "zero waste" in the next 15 years—a task that might seem impossible to anyone who has wandered the city’s litter-strewn streets on a weekend and tried to find a public trash can that’s not overflowing.
So how does the nation’s largest city go about getting rid of its garbage? And what is zero waste anyway? Since the term became a buzzword two decades ago, it’s been adopted as a goal by many cities around the world. In practice, however, "zero" is a goal that's out of reach for even the most well-meaning cities. They can go far—even to 90% reduction of landfill waste—but the last bit requires a higher-level of change than cities can usually achieve, such as getting more industries to design their products for zero waste in the first place.

But there are a few cities around the world that have become leaders in the zero-waste movement. While New York City has gotten a start—with a pilot composting program and a long-needed ban on styrofoam containers—it still has a long way to go.
Drpixel/Pete Niesen via Shutterstock

San Francisco’s Composting Paradise

San Francisco became the largest U.S. city to commit to zero waste in 2002, promising to divert 100% of its waste from landfills by 2020. Likely, it will be the first to come close to this goal. Doing this, according to the Guardian, has taken "great political determination," including passing unpopular legislation (such as banning plastic bags and making composting mandatory) and working with restaurants, hotels, landlords, and the construction industry to get them to participate. It’s helped that the city had a good partner in the employee-owned, local waste management company Recology, which, for example, offers 20% discounts to residents who skip waste collection days twice a month.
Today, at more than 80% landfill diversion, San Francisco is well on its way to zero waste, but the last bit may be the hardest. The city says it can get to 90% landfill diversion by continuing its current activities. The last 10%, however, will require state or national laws that require or incentivize more product manufacturers to get on board with the program.
Huguette Roe/William Perugini via Shutterstock

Sweden Has No Trash, So It Has To Import It

Sweden (and every city in it) has a slightly different approach to zero waste. It fuels itself off of trash, burning about 2 million tons of trash a year in waste-to-energy plants, replacing a not-insignificant amount of the nation’s fossil fuel use, and drastically reducing landfill waste. This, however, has a caused a problem: Sweden has also become so efficient at recycling and reducing waste that it doesn’t have enough trash to burn to power its facilities. It imports about 800,000 tons of trash annually from neighboring countries to feed its incineration plants.
As the Huffington Post notes, Sweden’s success was rooted in a cultural shift around attitudes towards trash that began in the 1970s and took decades to bear fruit.
kastianz/Olga Selyutina via Shutterstock

Buenos Aires’ Grassroots Garbage Pickers

This city of 3 million struggles under its heaping amounts of trash. In 2005, it set a zero-waste policy goal on an ambitious 2020 timeline that banned landfilling of recyclable and compostable waste. But with the amount of trash generated by the city growing and the city’s trash services mostly run by private companies that have a profit motive to keep landfilling, this goal has been hard to meet.
The heroes of Buenos Aires’ recycling program are the cartoneros, or waste pickers, who sort through trash every night on the streets, pulling out recyclables and leaving the rest for waste haulers. In the last decade, these impoverished workers have organized into cooperatives that the city is only now starting to embrace. According to City Scope, about 5,000 are now working in city-built warehouses where they can sort in cleaner and safer working conditions and negotiate better prices with recycling companies. The city, however has a far ways to go before meeting its goals to capture 100% of its recyclable waste.
Flickr user Luigi Torreggiani /kaarsten via Shutterstock

Capannori, Italy’s Work To Change Companies

Capannori is a small town that is leading Europe towards its continent-wide zero-waste goal. It started in 1997 when local activists defeated a proposal for an incineration plant and developed an alternative instead: a waste tax that would reward residents for reducing non-recyclable waste. According to IPS News, the town gave residents garbage bags with codes on them to track each household’s waste production. This was only the beginning of a long education effort that saw a nearly 40% reduction in the amount of waste generated per person between 2004 and 2012. Because of recyclables it sells, its zero-waste program is financially self-sufficient and even makes money for the city.

Like San Francisco, the city is nearing its zero-waste goal but will have trouble with the remaining small bit that keeps getting sent to landfills. But it it won’t take no for an answer: The city is working to convince companies to change. The coffee company Lavazza, for example, responded to the town’s concerns with a pilot that changes the coffee capsules in espresso machines to recyclable materials.

Zero waste is a full-fledged movement today, one that is spreading from cities to states to countries as well as the corporate world. The cities above show just a fraction of the work that is happening, but represent a spectrum of approaches to the problem of waste. The biggest barrier is the shift that needs to happen in the mindsets of everyone who produces waste, which, of course, is all of us.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Toxic Plastic Found in the World’s Favorite Fish

Researchers discover that tuna and swordfish are eating microplastics contaminated with harmful chemicals.

(Photo: David Fleetham)
Published in Take Part.com May 07, 2015
John R. Platt covers the environment, technology, philanthropy, and more for Scientific American, Conservation, Lion, and other publications.
For the first time, plastic particles have been found in the stomachs of tuna and other fish that are a staple of the human diet.

More than 18 percent of sampled bluefin, albacore, and swordfish caught in the Mediterranean Sea and tested in 2012 and 2013 carried levels of plastic pollution in their bodies, according to a study published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.

All three species migrate between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean, so these plastic particles could make their way onto the plates of American consumers. The plastics found in the fish contained phthalates, nonylphenol, bisphenol A, brominated flame retardants, and other chemicals that previous research has linked to endocrine disruption, low reproductive rates, and other health risks.

A 2010 study by French and Belgian marine biologists estimated that 250 billion pieces of microscopic plastic were floating in the Mediterranean. A 2014 expedition by Gabriel Gorsky of Pierre-et-Marie Curie University found that “there is not one parcel of the Mediterranean Sea that is devoid of plastic or plastic fragments.” Another study published last year estimated that all of the world’s oceans combined carry more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic pollution.

The current study of large pelagic fish (which live in the open sea, away from the shores or the bottom of the ocean) examined 56 swordfish, 36 bluefin, and 31 albacore that had been caught in the Mediterranean. Of those fish, seven swordfish, 11 bluefin, and four albacore contained plastics in their stomachs.

The plastics varied in size from large pieces more than 25 millimeters wide to microplastics smaller than 5 millimeters. The swordfish were more likely to have ingested large fragments of plastic, while the albacore ingested mostly microplastics.

Most of the pieces were white or transparent, while some “yellowish” plastics were found in the stomachs of the swordfish and bluefin.

As large, “top of the food chain” predators, the fish could have picked up plastic that had first been eaten by smaller fish; a study published last year found that Mediterranean bogue, an important prey species for swordfish, ingest large quantities of microplastics. The researchers, from the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research in Italy, wrote that other plastics could have been ingested while the tuna chased schools of prey fish into shallow waters, where floating plastics are more abundant.
Although this study did not examine the effects of all this plastic, the authors did pose questions about how the toxic chemicals they contained could affect the health of the three fish species or the humans that ate them.

“Data continues to mount about the pressing problem that plastics pose for our ocean environment,” said Alison Chase, oceans program senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Plastic litter simply doesn’t belong in the ocean. It often looks like food to animals, may contain and soak up toxins like PCBs and pesticides in marine sediments, and can potentially be passed on to people when we eat seafood. We need to stop treating our oceans like a trash can and reduce the amount of plastic we produce and that reaches our waters.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Plastic pollution: California lawmakers to vote on banning 'microbeads' from personal care products

Published 05/17/2015 in Mercury News by Paul Rogers
File: A sample of "microbeads" collected in eastern Lake Erie is shown on the face of a penny.
File: A sample of "microbeads" collected in eastern Lake Erie is shown on the face of a penny. (AP)
They are in soaps, cosmetics, shampoos, even toothpaste. Tiny pieces of plastic -- most no bigger than a pencil dot -- called "microbeads" are designed to do everything from help exfoliate skin to whiten teeth.

But they are pouring by the billions into oceans, rivers and bodies of water like San Francisco Bay, scientists say, contaminating the environment and wildlife as people rinse and wash, sending the microbeads down drains and through sewage treatment plants, which aren't designed to filter them.
On Monday, state lawmakers in Sacramento are scheduled to vote on the nation's strictest ban on microbeads, prohibiting them in all personal care products starting Jan. 1, 2020.
"It's almost like confetti, like small grains of plastic sand," said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, an environmental group supporting the ban.
"We shouldn't be adding these plastics to our environment. We're just pouring them into the oceans."
The bill, AB 888, by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, is virtually identical to a similar bill that Bloom wrote last year. That measure, AB 1699, passed the California Assembly easily last May, and then died in the state Senate amid industry opposition when Republicans came out broadly against it and Democrats wavered.
This year, the chemical and cosmetics industry has so far kept a lower profile. But lobbyists working with the Personal Care Products Council and the California Manufacturers & Technology Association have been pushing for an exemption to allow biodegradable plastics to remain legal.
Earlier this year, the industry won that loophole when lawmakers in New Jersey and Colorado banned microbeads but allowed biodegradable plastic. The governor of Illinois signed a law last year with the same guidelines.
Lisa Powers, a spokeswoman for the Personal Care Products Council, a Washington, D.C., group that represents companies that manufacture cosmetics, sunscreen, toothpaste and other items, did not respond Sunday when asked for the industry's position on California's bill.
Last year, the council opposed the bill, as did the California Chamber of Commerce, Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups.

"Plastic microbeads are used in cosmetic and personal care products because of their safe and effective exfoliating properties," the Personal Care Products Council said in a statement last summer. "However, many personal care products companies have voluntarily committed to discontinue formulating with plastic microbeads in cleansing products in favor of other viable alternatives despite the uncertainty associated with the science.

"We urge policymakers to work with all sectors of the business community as they seek to eliminate plastic waste in our waterways and to identify effective and realistic solutions."

Supporters of the California ban say there are already lots of products for sale with natural alternatives, such as apricot shells and cocoa beans, and that they do not want to allow biodegradable plastics. Those plastics simply break into tiny pieces and are not consumed by microorganisms and decomposed as part of the natural food chain, particularly in cold ocean waters, they note. Also, there are no scientific standards in the other state laws to specifically define what "biodegradable" means.

"We are loathe to include an exemption for a plastic product that we can't define," said Bloom. "We are hoping that California will model a better approach that can be adopted by other states."

Tiny bits of plastic have been found in high concentrations in the Great Lakes, the Los Angeles River and the Pacific Ocean where, according to some studies, they outnumber plankton. Scientists say the plastic also absorbs contaminants such as pesticides and PCBs, which then are accumulated in fish when they eat the bits, mistaking them for fish eggs, plankton and other natural materials. People who eat the affected fish also can be exposed to the chemicals.

In January, scientists skimmed the water surface over nine large areas of San Francisco Bay. They found between 14,000 and 440,000 plastic particles, including microbeads, per square kilometer -- an area of about 250 football fields, said Rebecca Sutton, a senior scientist with the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a research organization based in Richmond.

"It's a persistent substance, and organisms like fish are trying to ingest it," Sutton said. "And you've got chemical contaminant issues. This is a preventable type of pollution, and it's certainly not something we could encourage to have in the bay."

Supporters of the bill include the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, Sierra Club California, the cities of Palo Alto and San Francisco, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, Breast Cancer Fund and the Surfrider Foundation.

Last August, Crest announced that although microbeads have been found safe by the FDA, the company would be phasing them out of its toothpastes by March, 2016. Responding to consumer concerns, Johnson & Johnson also said it will be removing microbeads from its products by 2017.

Bloom said consumers who don't want to buy products containing microbeads should look on the labels for ingredients like polyethylene and polypropylene.

"It's exactly like food," he said. "We have to be more conscientious about reading labels. These products are listed. The more educated people are about what's in their products, the healthier we will be."

Paul Rogers covers resources and environmental issues. Contact him at 408-920-5045. Follow him at Twitter.com/PaulRogersSJMN.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Plastic bag companies cry foul on Dallas ordinance

Dive Brief: 

  • Hilex Poly Co., Superbag Operating Ltd., Advanced Polybag Inc., and The Interplast Group have filed a lawsuit against the city of Dallas regarding a ordinance levying a nickel-per-bag fee on single-use plastic bags, claiming the fee contradicts state law.
  • The plaintiffs said the Dallas ordinance violates the Texas Health and Safety Code. The group is looking for a judgment invalidating it and stopping enforcement of the nickel fee.
  • According to the plaintiffs, it would punish the plastic bag makers because it would result in a sales decrease of single-use plastic bags. The new ordinance also would result in higher costs for Dallas-area shops and consumers, the plaintiffs said.

Dive Insight:

While the plaintiffs’ argument that the Dallas plastic bag ordinance will decrease sales of the bags and cost merchants and shoppers more money seems true, the fee also will likely have the effect of lowering the volume of plastic bags going into the landfill waste stream.
Plastic bags are a sizable portion of constantly accumulating ocean garbage. Ocean plastic fouls waters, destroys habitats and harms animals and organisms. The lasting effect of the city’s most recent conservation effort could be measurable.


Recommended Reading


Recycling Today: Plastic bag companies file suit over Dallas fee

Follow Pharrell & i-D's New Documentary, "A Plastic Age," Trailer

Published in Bustle by Eliza Florendo, April 2015

We are the plastics—but not like the infamous Regina, Karen, and Gretchen clique. Rather, we’re the generation that’s currently facing the issue of disposing the 288 million tons of plastic we make each year. Pharrell and i-D’s trailer for their new documentary called “The Plastic Age” is here, and it explores a new solution for clearing plastic out of our beloved oceans.

This problem is big. No, it’s huge. This new documentary follows Pharrell and G-Star as they figure out how to repurpose all of this waste. In the Pacific Ocean, there’s an area called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch apparently the size of Texas that’s composed of purely plastic that’s been thrown away, according to i-D. And what happens to that plastic? Well, as i-D puts it, “an estimated 700 million tons of the stuff has ended up in the big blue, worked its way up the food chain and ultimately into the blood of human kind.” There is plastic in our bodies. Not cool.

Last year, Pharrell announced that he would be partnering up with G-Star Raw in a project called “Raw for the Oceans.” This particular project focuses on Bionic Yarn, a textile producer that converts plastic into fiber, and uses that fiber to make clothing. How effing cool is that? And, according to Complex, Bionic Yarn has already collaborated with the NBA and Burton.

The documentary, which is directed by Jake Summer, explores RAW for the Oceans, a “partnered initiative from Palrye for the Oceans, G-Star RAW, and Bionic Yarn.” The one-minute trailer shows just how much plastic is caught in our oceans. A disheartening sight. But the short trailer also shows how the plastic-into-fiber process looks like. And Pharrell, the creative director, states “I’m not a pessimist when it comes to this. I see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Fashion faces its dirty secret

Published in Newsweek by

Pharrell Williams
Pharrell Williams addresses youth gathered in the UN General Assembly hall on the theme "Young People in Support of Climate Action"
Whoever would have thought that sustainability – not that long ago a worthy-but-boring background topic – would suddenly find itself the epitome of cool? It has become a hook in advertising campaigns for cars and hotels; high-street giants like H&M are outspoken about their commitment to it; and now German sportswear giant Adidas has announced it will be using recycled marine plastic in future designs. And music stars who care about the issue, like Pharrell Williams, are helping campaigners and brands link up. (It was Williams who introduced Parley, the ocean-saving group of thinkers and activists behind the marine-plastic initiative, to Adidas.)

According to a Danish Fashion Institute report, fashion is the world's second-most polluting industry, after oil. A quarter of the chemicals that the world produces are used in textiles – from pesticides used on cotton to petrochemicals used to make nylon and polyester. It's a huge consumer of water (making a single pair of jeans takes 7,000 litres) and after agriculture, it's the biggest polluter of clean water.

These days the topic is a pressing issue for the industry as Michael Schragger, executive director of the Sweden-based Sustainable Fashion Academy, explains: "There is the energy being used, the greenhouse gas emissions that result from running factories and the huge amount of water and chemicals used during textile production. Then there are the issues related to animal welfare and land use – if you are growing cotton, are you competing for the land with food growers? – and labour issues and living conditions for workers to consider."

The environmental consequences have led Greenpeace to launch a "Detox my Fashion" campaign. "We focus primarily on water pollution from the fashion industry and specifically the use of hazardous and toxic chemicals," says Tristan Tremschnig, its communication strategist. "China produced 57% of the world's total new fabric in 2010 and the impact on water quality is devastating: 64% of underground drinking water reserves in major Chinese cities are 'seriously polluted' while half of China's surface water is not suitable to drink. We've found the situation replicated in other production countries too, such as Indonesia and Mexico."

Fashion companies have responded and 18 including Burberry, H&M and Marks & Spencer have committed to weeding toxic chemicals out of their supply chains, while M&S has an extensive programme called Plan A that is already in its eighth year

Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of H&M, wrote in the 117-page sustainability report the firm produced last year: "Our business idea is to offer fashion and quality at the best price. It's about the best value, not the cheapest price. Sustainability is an important part of this."

It all sounds excitingly progressive, particularly when you read about the "bionic" yarn that is being spun from the recycled marine plastic, or initiatives such as trousers that are tough enough to make lasting workwear, but will vanish in months when packed into a domestic composter.

But think how strong the anti-fur movement seemed a decade ago, and yet fur has inched its way back onto the catwalks and into acceptance. Could sustainability go to the same way? What if the fashion consumers of tomorrow stop thinking the cause is cool?

It doesn't really matter if sustainability stops being fashionable, argues Michael Schragger. "There can be clear business risks to not-addressing sustainability issues and that alone should drive the movement forward. Initiatives like Adidas's marine plastic are their way of keeping sustainability interesting for the consumer. These may be passing fads but sustainability is not. It's more than here to stay because of the global mega-trends such as water use and pollution that are affecting every industry."

Factor those mega trends in along with consumer accountability, and with any luck bionic yarn from marine plastic will just be the start.

From the sea to sales
So how does plastic waste harvested from the oceans become fashion? Fibres made from recycled plastic are woven into durable textiles, and the resulting yarn is much stronger than cotton. The trendiest of these projects, Bionic Yarn, has Pharrell Williams as its creative director. "I have a connection with the ocean," he says. "It yields so much life including our own, so we owe it." The result of his collaboration with denim brand G-Star Raw is in the shops now. And the amount of plastic in the oceans is thought to cover 700,000 square kilometres, so we could be seeing a lot of bionic yarn in future.

Watch: Cigarette Butts, World's #1 Litter, Recycled as Park Benches

A growing movement targets cigarette waste as a solvable problem.

Learn how cigarette butts are collected and recycled into useful products.

Cigarette butts are, by some counts, the world’s number one litter problem.
Butts represent the most numerous form of trash that volunteers collect from the world's beaches on the Ocean Conservancy’s cleanup days. More than two million cigarette parts were recently collected in a single year around the world—double the amount of both food containers and beverage containers.

The hard numbers from some other sources are staggering.
New York state, for instance, produces an estimated 1.5 million tons of cigarette butts a year. And butts account for about 13 percent of the litter accumulated on Texas highways, 130 million butts a year.
The problem extends well beyond the gross factor. Cigarette filters are made from wood-based plastic fibers that take generations to fully decompose, says Tom Szaky, CEO and founder of the New Jersey-based recycling company TerraCycle.
And the filters can leach nicotine and tar into the ground or water.
Butts are also often eaten by birds, fish, and other animals, who can choke on them or be hurt from the poisons they contain.
Most commonly found pieces of trash in the oceans
Volunteers collected and tallied ocean litter on one day during Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup in selected spots around the world.
Cigarettes/cigarette filters
Food wrappers/containers
Beverage bottles (plastic)
Plastic bags
Caps, lids
Cups, plates, forks, knives, spoons
Straws, stirrers
Beverage bottles (glass)
Beverage cans
Paper bags

As seen in the video above, TerraCycle is one of a handful of companies that is working to collect and recycle spent butts, by turning them into plastic lumber that can be used for benches, pallets, and other uses.
Another company, EcoTech Displays, is working on a system to recycle butts into insulation, clothing, and even jewelry.
Governments have also increasingly taken note of the problem, by beginning to enforce littering laws against those who toss their butts or imposing extra taxes on cigarettes to help defray the cost of cleanup, from Maine to San Francisco.
Follow Brian Clark Howard on Twitter and Google+.