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, December 29, 2015

The Seabin Project - Ocean Cleanup Technology

Published in techmalak by Matthew Barnes / Dec. 29. 2015

The Seabin Project is designed to make ocean cleanup a simple automated project that cleans our harbors, water ways, ports and yacht clubs of the garbage we humans discard into the water without much thought.

Founders of the Seabin project Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski, have put together what they call is the “Seabin”.

Its process is very simple as it sits in the waters and gathers any trash that floats into the bin aided by natural wind currents.

Water passes through a a catch bag which is made of natural materials, and the flows from the bottom of the bin up through a tube into a water pump that sits on a floating dock above.

This water pump can separate water and oil particles, returning the filtered water back into the ocean further benefiting marine life by cleaning the water.

Seabin Project Ocean Cleanup
All of this operates on a 24/7 365 days a year cycle. All a worker needs to do, is to collect the insert within the bin and properly dispose of the waste.

And according to the project creators, even when the Seabin is full, it still works by pulling garbage and keeping it against the sides of the bin.

With these Seabins in every port, we could do much in the way of moving towards cleaner waters for generations to come.

This ocean cleanup project is starting in and around marines and yacht clubs where lots of garbage can be collected. But it can be used anywhere in large bodies of waters.
Since the Seabin is easy to use and environmentally friendly, it aids in a broader effort to help cleanup our oceans and waterways.

Pete Ceglinski Andrew Turton Ocean Cleanup Project
As stated on the company’s website, the goal of this clean up project is:
  • To help rid the oceans of plastics and pollution.
  • To have a Seabin production in place by mid to end of 2016 and start shipping.
  • To create Seabins from the most sustainable materials and processes available.
  • To have the lowest carbon footprint possible in the production of the Seabins by means of alternative materials and processes. Also by reducing shipping and having the Seabins manufactured in the countries of installation.
  • To create and support local economies with the production, maintenance and installation of the Seabins world wide.
  • To have future models of Seabins for specific locations.
  • To educate people and cultures about being more responsible with the use and disposal of plastics.
  • To setup educational programs for students in schools.
  • To convert our captured plastics into energy.
  • To reuse or recycle our Seabins for other uses and or applications.
  • To have pollution free oceans with no need for the Seabins.
We can all agree that the worlds oceans have taken tremendous amounts of abuse since the industrial age.

Toxic chemical spills that have leaked out into our waters do nothing but harm the ecosystem which in the long run has an effect on us.

Many people don’t give a second thought to dashing pieces of rubbish into the middle of the ocean somewhere not realizing the harmful effects it has on the wildlife.

We see birds and fishes get caught and sometimes die in plastic meshes left because of carelessness.

The mission of Seabin Pty Ltd, is simple. Improving one of the Earth’s most precious resources which:
  • Covers 71% of our planet
  • Provides the majority of the worlds protein for human consumption in fish
  • Houses roughly 90% of life on Earth
  • Is no more than 10% explored
Anyone interested in supporting the project can do so through the Seabin INDIEGOGO crowdfunding campaign.

Currently as of this writing with well over five thousand backers, Seabin has reached 86% of its $230,000 goal to which the want to start shipments in the middle part of 2016.

Futuristic Oceanscapers are Floating Villages 3d Printed from Algae and Plastic Waste

Aequoreas, Vincent Callebaut, energy consumption, energy eslf-sufficiency, floating architecture, ecosystems, organic farming, desalinization, algae, 3d printed architecture, 3d printing
The project aims to resolve long-lasting tensions between Western governments and African countries when it comes to global energy consumption. Thanks to Archibiotics, a discipline pioneered by Callebaut, a new type of architecture would be born-one that combines renewable energies and information and communication technologies (NTIC) in order to offer energy independence to each state in the world and end oil-related conflicts.

Aequoreas, Vincent Callebaut, energy consumption, energy eslf-sufficiency, floating architecture, ecosystems, organic farming, desalinization, algae, 3d printed architecture, 3d printing

The inhabitants of these utopian structures, called the People of the Seas, would invent new underwater urbanization processes to mitigate ocean acidification and pollution, while living in a self-sufficient way. They would recycle 100 percent of ocean plastic waste to create a sustainable habitat called Aequoreas. Once built, these ecosystems would continue to grow on their own, using calcium carbonate contained in water to form an external skeleton, semi-permeable membranes to desalinate seawater and microalgae to produce energy for heating and climate control.

Aequoreas, Vincent Callebaut, energy consumption, energy eslf-sufficiency, floating architecture, ecosystems, organic farming, desalinization, algae, 3d printed architecture, 3d printing

The villages move like submarines and ships and can accommodate up to 20,000 people. The main access is located on the surface of the water and leads through four marinas covered with a mangrove rooted on a floating dome 500 meters in diameter. All residential units are modular and accompanied by co-working spaces, fablabs, recycling plants, science labs, educational hotels, sports fields and aquaponic farms.

Aequoreas, Vincent Callebaut, energy consumption, energy eslf-sufficiency, floating architecture, ecosystems, organic farming, desalinization, algae, 3d printed architecture, 3d printing

Algae, plankton and mollusks rich in minerals, proteins and vitamins are grown for food and maintained as “nurseries for the aquatic fauna and flora”. Produce from on-board organic farms, orchards and vegetable gardens are distributed in bulk, in reusable, biodegradable containers. Even the furniture is made from bio-based materials glued together with materials synthesized from mussels.

Aequoreas, Vincent Callebaut, energy consumption, energy eslf-sufficiency, floating architecture, ecosystems, organic farming, desalinization, algae, 3d printed architecture, 3d printing

Aequoreas villages are not only an architectural proposal. The architect devised an economic system to complement its energy self-sufficiency. A horizontal egalitarian model envisioned by Callebaut is based on ” eco-conscious individual entrepreneurship” acting as the social and economic backbone of a utopian society.

+ Vincent Callebaut Architectures

Monday, December 28, 2015

Congress Bans Plastic Microbeads, Bill Heads to President Obama’s Desk

Microbeads Continue to Menace the Ocean


On Friday, December 18th history was made. The Senate approved a bill - which is now awaiting the President's support - to phase out personal-care products such soaps, body washes, toothpaste and more, containing plastic microbeads in 2017.

(note from Melanie:  The bill phasing out the manufacture of beauty products with plastic microbeads by July 1, 2017, and the sale of such products by July 1, 2018. The Microbead Free Waters Act (H.R. 1321) bans all plastic microbeads in beauty products, including those made from so-called “biodegradable plastics,” the majority of which do not biodegrade in marine environments.)

This comes on the heels of the House of Representatives' decision, just one week earlier, to pass a bill to ban microbeads too, including so-called "biodegradable" plastic microbeads.

Why is everyone working to "ban the bead?" Super tiny, but insidiously dangerous, these long-lasting micro-plastic particles wash down our drains, and because they are too tiny to be filtered by municipal sewer systems, they travel directly into the ocean. That is when the real damage begins.

Often mistaken as fish eggs, marine life "eat" the microbeads, which are known to absorb toxins. But things don't stop there. The toxin-filled microbeads travel up the food chain to us, as we're likely to then eat seafood that have ingested these microscopic bits of plastic.

Nine states have already outlawed microbeads and it is great to see a ban being considered at the federal level. But some are questioning if the laws are moving fast enough. The federal bill, if it becomes law, isn't slated to go into effect until 2017 and California, one of the largest states to pass a law, which happens to be one of the most stringent, is set to start in 2020.

Even with all this progress, the question that must be asked is, "What damage will occur before the microbead bans go into effect?"

Here are some facts to consider:

1. Researchers at State University New York, Fredonia calculated an average of 17,000 microbeads per square kilometer in Lake Michigan.

2. A report published by the College of Science at Oregon State University found that eight billion microbeads are sent into aquatic environments each day in the U.S. This number translates to approximately 2.9 trillion beads per year, which according to an article written by Oregon State University is "enough to wrap the Earth more than seven time if lined up end to end."

3. Science Alert equates the eight billion microbeads sent into our waters each day as "enough to cover more than 300 tennis courts."

4. Litter, including plastics and microbeads, are already costing each one of us. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that 95 communities in California have already spend $428 million per year to prevent litter from becoming pollution. Imagine what total cost would be for all of California, or the rest of the United States! By avoiding waste in the first place, this money could be put toward other issues. We just need to make better choices when it comes to avoiding single-use plastics and microplastics in the first place.

For these reasons, there is no need to wait for laws to pass and be enacted. Each of us can stop microbeads from entering our waters today. It's simple. Do not buy products - ranging from toothpaste to body scrubs to face wash - that contain them. It's time to start checking your labels. If you see the words "polyethylene" or "polypropylene," which represent microbead materials, choose another item.

While each of us take personal action to become more thoughtful consumers and shoppers, the Surfrider Foundation will continue to advocate for microbead regulation while we wait for President Obama to sign this bill into law. It's all hands on deck to rid the world of this senseless and avoidable form of plastic pollution.

National Microbead Ban Moves Forward in the House

Published in The Center for Effective Government / Dec. 10, 2015 by Ronald White

UPDATE (12/10/15): On Dec. 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which prohibits the manufacture of cosmetics containing microbeads as of July 1, 2017 and bans the sale of cosmetics with microbeads as of July 1, 2018. Rinse-off cosmetic nonprescription drugs are provided an additional year for both deadlines.

The bill was sent to the Senate on Dec. 8, where it will be reconciled with a similar bill introduced in May 2015 by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI), which bans the sale of cosmetics containing microbeads as of Jan. 1, 2018.

In addition to Illinois, California recently adopted legislation banning the sale of cosmetics containing microbeads, including those made of so-called biodegradable plastics as well as synthetic plastics, as of 2020, and both Ohio and Michigan are considering similar legislation.

However, once national legislation is adopted, the federal law would supersede the state bans.

Examples of cosmetics and other consumer products that contain microbeads, as well as those that do not contain them, is available here.

UPDATE (6/23/14): Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) introduced legislation, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2014, on June 18 that would prohibit the sale or distribution of personal care products that contain synthetic plastic microbeads. The bill would ban the sale or distribution of cosmetics products containing plastic microbeads effective January 1, 2018.

“These tiny plastic particles that are polluting our environment are found in products specifically designed to be washed down shower drains,” said Pallone. “And many people buying these products are unaware of their damaging effects.

If we know that these products will eventually reach our waterways, we must make sure that they don’t contain synthetic plastic that does not biodegrade and ultimately pollute our waterways. We have a responsibility to put a stop to this unnecessary plastic pollution. By phasing out the use of plastic microbeads and transitioning to non-synthetic alternatives, we can protect U.S. waters before it’s too late.”


Illinois has become the first state to ban the manufacture and sale of consumer products containing synthetic plastic microbeads, frequently found in facial scrubs, body washes, and cosmetics. The state passed the ban to address an increasing water pollution problem in Lake Michigan and other waterways across Illinois.

On June 8, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed Senate Bill 2727, which amends the state Environmental Protection Act with new requirements for the elimination of synthetic plastic microbeads in personal care products. The new law restricts the manufacture of personal care products containing such microbeads effective Dec. 31, 2017 and bans the sale of personal care products containing the material beginning Dec. 31, 2018.

Microbeads are minute plastic beads that are used in consumer products such as toothpaste and cosmetic scrubs to produce a “feel-good factor.” After use, they are flushed into wastewater systems where, because of their small size and non-biodegradable composition, they escape into waterways.

A major concern with microbeads is that because of their very small size, they have a large surface area by volume, thus serving as highly efficient toxic accumulators. Once discharged into the water, they can be immediately ingested by tiny organisms at the bottom of the food chain, with toxins then accumulating in larger fish and other animals, posing both an immediate and long-term threat to the health of our lakes, rivers, and oceans and the seafood we eat.

While Illinois is the first state to enact a ban on the sale and production of microbead-containing products, the issue is gaining attention in other states. Similar bans are being considered in California, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and New York. A growing number of soap and beauty product manufacturers are voluntarily phasing out the use of microbeads.

According to the advocacy group Plastic Free Seas, Unilever, The Body Shop, Johnson & Johnson, Beiersdorf AG, L'Oreal, and Procter & Gamble have all agreed to discontinue their use of microbeads in consumer products over the next several years.

Scientists Alarmed as Tiny Plastic Ends up in Lakes

 Published in the Toledo Blade by Tom Henry / Nov. 2, 2015

Tiny bits of plastic known as microbeads are emerging as one of the more troubling forms of pollution in the Great Lakes, especially Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

So small that they pass undetected through sewage treatment plants, microbeads are part of the larger issue of plastic that has plagued oceans worldwide for years. Biologists fear that microbeads — which are ingested by fish that mistake them for eggs or zooplankton — could lead to a long-term impact on the Great Lake’s $7 billion fish industry and ultimately work their way into the human food chain.

Microbeads differ from traditional plastic litter in that they’re manufactured for more than 100 different varieties of soaps, facial scrubs, toothpastes, and similar hygiene and personal care items in response to a preference by consumers for better exfoliants to scrub away dirt and germs.

But that’s not the only source of them. They’re also found in some clothing, such as fleece.

Barely large enough to be seen by the human eye, microbeads are by definition no bigger than 5 millimeters in diameter and usually less than 2 millimeters. They’re small enough that dozens of them could occupy a human fingertip or cover a penny; a tube of facial cleanser has about 330,000 of them.

Microplastics, on the other hand, are fragments of soda bottles and shards of other plastic items.
Humans unknowingly rinse most microbeads down the drain, ultimately flowing into rivers and streams that flow into larger bodies of water.

Research on them is still in its infancy.

In a statement to The Blade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognizes problems associated with the general issue of plastic pollution, but said there “are no EPA regulations addressing microplastics or microbeads under the agency’s statutory authorities.”

The Ohio EPA does not regulate them, agency spokesman Heidi Griesmer said.
“The science is catching up to the policy here,” according to Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which is comprised of fish industry policymakers from each of the eight Great Lakes states.

But while stating the commission is eager “to find out the extent of the risk,” Mr. Gaden also said microbead pollution simply “doesn’t pass the basic sniff test of Great Lakes stewardship.”

Jeff Tyson, Lake Erie fisheries program manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, agreed.

“That’s primarily because there isn’t a lot of research out there,” Mr. Tyson said. “It’s not that there’s inconclusive research. It’s just not out there.”

What little research that has been done to date — mostly by the State University of New York at Fredonia and the University of Michigan — has gained a lot of traction.

In a report issued last April by the New York State Attorney General’s Office, Sherri “Sam” Mason, a SUNY Fredonia chemistry professor, collaborated with Jennifer Nalbone, an environmental scientist in that office, to assess how wastewater treatment plants are not equipped to filter out microbeads.

According to Ms. Mason, each of the 34 facilities studied had some form of plastic in their treated effluent, whether it was plastic fibers, fragments, or pellets.

“Every facility we looked at had plastic coming out of it,” she said.

Their report shows 25 of the 34 had microbeads.
“Treatment plants are not designed to remove microbeads from the wastewater stream, and treatments potentially effective at removing microbeads are unproven.

Even if effective treatment technologies are found to be available, the potential cost and time necessary to retrofit wastewater treatment plants with such technology is likely to be substantial,” the report states.

In an interview with The Blade, Ms. Mason said her lab — using open lake water highly filtered by fine mesh screens between 2012 and 2014 — found Lake Ontario to be the No. 1 spot in the Great Lakes region for microbeads and Lake Erie to be No. 2.

That was not a surprise, given the population densities along those shorelines and the fact that microbeads are light and buoyant.

They are believed to migrate from the Upper Lakes down to Lake Erie and Lake Ontario with water that flows out to the St. Lawrence Seaway, and from there into the Atlantic Ocean.
Scientists want to know how much microbeads have become part of the fish diet and what it may be doing to them.

One theory is that in addition to the petrochemicals of plastic itself, the material may be absorbing free-flowing pesticides and other chemicals in the water.

They don’t dissolve or break down, at least not for years.

“In our waters, microbeads persist for decades, acting as sponges for toxic chemical pollutants,” another report issued by the New York State Attorney General’s Office said. “Mistaken for food by aquatic organisms, microbeads serve as a pathway for pollutants to enter the food chain and contaminate the fish and wildlife we eat.”

Although Ms. Mason’s research is preliminary — so fresh it has not been written up, peer-reviewed, or published yet — she said all 25 fish species her team has studied to date have plastics in them.

So did double-crested cormorants, which eat a lot of fish.

“Every single species has had plastic in it,” she said.

Microbeads present an extra challenge because of their size.

“Smaller pieces of plastic are harder to control,” Ms. Mason said. “We could actually be eating plastic when we have fish frys on Fridays.”

In response to growing concerns, several manufacturers have voluntarily taken microbeads out of their products.

Illinois became the first state to ban sales of such products in 2014.

Several other states have followed suit or are in the process of considering bans, including Ohio and Michigan.

In Ohio, Senate Bill 193, introduced earlier this year by Ohio senators Mike Skindell (D., Lakewood) and Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) calls for a ban on sales of anti-bacterial soaps, hand soaps, bar soaps, liquid soaps, body washes, lotions, moisturizers, facial and body cleansers, facial masks, exfoliating facial scrubs, sunscreens, acne products, shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes, shaving creams and gels, and foot-care products that contain microbeads.

The bill was assigned to the Ohio Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee on Sept. 17.

Experienced fishermen such as Paul Pacholski, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association president, worry that microbeads will clog fish intestines.

Groups such as the Alliance for the Great Lakes urge manufacturers to use crushed almonds, oatmeal, or pumice as natural exfoliants.

In testimony before a U.S. House subcommittee on May 15, Molly Flanagan, the alliance’s vice president of policy, urged members of Congress to pass a federal ban on microbeads.

“We have enough issues we’re facing now,” Mr. Pacholski said. “It’s a vanity product that has no other purpose than a slightly better facial scrub.”

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com, 419-724-6079, or via Twitter @ecowriterohio.

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2015/11/02/Scientists-alarmed-as-tiny-plastic-turns-up-in-lakes-could-harm-fish.html#bBdecs3O88KMdpyT.99

Monday, December 21, 2015

These 3D-Printed Sneakers Are Made From The Trash We Throw Into The Ocean

Published in IFL Science - December 15, 2015 | by Robin Andrews
Photo credit: The release of the design coincided with the Paris climate change agreement announcement. adidas
Coinciding with the historic Paris climate change agreement, sporting goods giant adidas has shown off its new sneakers. Made of a combination of plastic found in the ocean, recycled polyester, and fishing nets, these sustainable shoes were 3D printed. For now, they’re just a prototype, but this collaborative effort with Parley for the Oceans shows what can be done with all the man-made waste drifting in our seas.

3D printing these days is incredibly advanced, with medical scientists even able to print 3D heart structures using off-the-shelf technology, so it should come as no surprise that the midsoles of a pair of sneakers can be manufactured using this process.

Earlier this year, adidas and Parley for the Oceans showcased a shoe made entirely from recycled ocean plastic and illegal, deep-sea gillnets. The 3D-printed midsole is the new development being showcased this month; it is an offshoot of adidas’ Futurecraft 3D, a technique of 3D-printing midsoles designed to suit the need of any specific individual.
Image credit: The 3D-printed midsole. Adidas

“World leaders forging an agreement is wonderful, but we shouldn't need to be told to do the right thing,” Eric Liedtke, adidas Group Executive Board member responsible for Global Brands, said in a statement, referring to COP21. “The industry can't afford to wait for directions any longer. Together with the network of Parley for the Oceans, we have started taking action and creating new sustainable materials and innovations for athletes.”

Parley for the Oceans is an organization that seeks to permanently end ocean plastic pollution. Through education and activism, they hope to use high-profile projects like this to draw attention to the detrimental effects that humanity is having on the world’s marine environments. Adidas is a founding member of the group.

Plastic is, for the most part, not biodegradable. If it makes its way into the ocean, it will remain there for an extremely long time. Plastic bags take up to 20 years to decompose, whereas a plastic beverage bottle takes up to 450 years. Humanity has flushed and dumped so much plastic into the sea that it is accumulating at an astonishing rate in huge whirlpools known as “gyres.”

Two in the North Pacific, for example, are collectively called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – appropriately named, as it contains enough surface plastic to spread out across an area roughly twice that of the continental United States, by some estimates. This trash represents a huge threat to marine life, which can become entangled in or consume the stuff.

More info. from Take Part, published Dec. 12, 2015:  

Between 10.5 billion and 28 billion tons of plastic were released into the oceans in 2010, according to a study released in February. Not only does that debris harm birds, turtles, and fish, but—between cleanup costs and pollution’s negative impact on tourism and human health—it also end up costing about $13 billion a year.

Adidas executives hope their recycling project educates consumers while at the same time creating a sustainable product.

Some experts are concerned that incorporating plastic into a shoe could be counterproductive. Harmful microfibers in shoes could shed in washing machines and eventually wind up back in the oceans.

But Adidas officials note that gathering ocean plastic is just one part of their plans for becoming environmentally friendly. The company has already begun phasing out the use of plastic bags in its retail stores and is working to eliminate the use of microbeads in its body care line.

For now, the German-based sports brand has just unveiled a prototype, but it’s hopeful that one day it can bring the shoes into stores.

“That’s the dream,” Liedtke told Women’s Wear Daily. “We haven’t figured everything out yet, but we continue to move forward.”

World’s Most Comprehensive Study Shows More Plastic in Our Oceans Than Scientists Thought

Published in Eco Watch by Marcus Eriksen - Dec. 15, 2015

The 5 Gyres Institute co-authored this study which is the most comprehensive estimate of small plastics in the world’s oceans. There were two other papers published earlier, one by Cozar (2014) and Eriksen (2014) using separate data sets.

The paper published last week in Environmental Research Letters, A Global Inventory of Small Floating Plastic Debris, uses three ocean models and every dataset published since the 1970s. With 10 authors contributing to it, it’s the best so far. This new study suggests there are 15 to 51 trillion microplastic particles in the world’s oceans, weighing somewhere between 93 and 236,000 metric tons. This is roughly seven times more than what we thought before.
Photo credit: 5 Gyres
Why is it more? It has more data and more recent data. It combines the efforts of three different ocean models, so the resolution is a lot better. There’s also a lot more plastic in the ocean. Consider that in 2013 the plastics industry reported 300 million metric tons of new plastic produced in that year and a lot of it used for single-use throw away products sent to countries that have poor waste management. That combo is a recipe for trashed seas.

What is the end game for all of the plastic out there? Research shows that if we can turn off the tap, most of it will sink or wash ashore. The ocean is very dynamic and turbulent, constantly throwing things out, tearing it apart and sinking it. Humanity will have to live with this geologic layer on the ocean floor and beaches worldwide. Call it the Plasticene. Plastic is the index fossil that marks in geologic time that humans were here.

What can we do about it? We’ve got to turn off the tap using two big ideas.
1. Waste management around the world must improve and that means getting away from burning and burying our waste. Diverging waste to responsible management schemes, like compost facilities and recovery and recycling, must improve.

2. Product design is a mandatory part of the solution. The single use throwaway product concept is trashing our oceans. No waste management scheme is going to effectively clean up the proliferation of poorly designed products and packaging, like plastic bags, plastic straws, microbeads, water bottles, etc. Go to our microbeads campaign to see how we’re holding companies accountable for putting millions of microplastic fragments in your facial cleansers and toothpastes.

These two solutions—waste management and product design—must happen simultaneously. We cannot expect countries to take out huge loans to pay to improve their waste management. It would be grossly unfair to create that economic burden, while the poorly designed products and packaging continue to trash our land and sea. We need the plastics industries that make and manufacture single-use throw away products to step up and design for a better future.

The Ocean Is Contaminated by Trillions More Pieces of Plastic Than Thought

Published in Take Part by Taylor Hill - Dec. 15, 2015
New research shows that the plastic problem is growing, but the full impact on marine life remains unknown.

(Photo: Rosemary Calvert/Getty Images)
Somewhere between 15 trillion and 51 trillions pieces of plastic litters the world’s oceans, a new study has found. That’s three to 10 times more plastic than scientists had previously estimated.

The study, led by climate scientist Erik van Sebille at London’s Imperial College and coauthored by researchers at nonprofit group 5 Gyres, built on the findings of two papers published last year. The scientists tapped every data set on plastic pollution published since the 1970s and ran the numbers through three computer models
The total weight of small plastic pieces that accumulated in 2014 alone is estimated to be between 93,000 and 236,000 metric tons, “which is only approximately one percent of global plastic waste estimated to enter the ocean” annually, the researchers wrote.

The study only focused on microplastics (those less than 200 millimeters in size) that could be captured by trawling nets pulled along the ocean surface. Thus the researchers’ estimates do not count plastic waste that ends up sinking to the ocean floor or is ingested by fish and other marine species.

Each American throws away as much as 185 pounds of plastic a year. In the last decade, the total weight of plastic products entering the market has risen from 225 million tons in 2004 to 311 million tons in 2014, according to industry group association Plastics Europe.

“These estimates are larger than previous global estimates, but vary widely because the scarcity of data in most of the world ocean,” the researchers wrote. Studies estimate that large amounts of plastic go undetected because they sink to the ocean floor or are eaten by fish.

In one study, deep-sea fish in the North Pacific gyre were estimated to have ingested between 12,000 and 24,000 metric tons of microplastics annually.

According to the new study, the wide range in the estimated amount of plastic entering the world’s oceans every year “reveals a fundamental gap in understanding.”

But the data available shows that the North Pacific Ocean, often referred to as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” has the highest density of plastic thanks in part to the region’s circular ocean currents and wind patterns.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Boyan Slat One Step Closer to Launching World’s Largest Ocean Plastic Cleanup

Published in EcoWatch Nov. 13, 2015 by Lorraine Chow

Boyan Slat’s plan to rid the world’s oceans of plastic with his revolutionary ocean-cleaning system is set for real-life trials next year after last week’s successful tests in the Netherlands of a scaled-down prototype at Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN), the Guardian reports.

The 21-year-old Dutch is the founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, an ambitious operation involving a massive static platform that passively corrals plastics with wind and ocean currents. The array features a floating V-shaped boom so that fish and other marine life can swim underneath.

Further trials will take place off the coasts of Japan and the Netherlands, and if all goes to plan, the project will officially launch in 2020 and be the longest floating structure ever deployed in the ocean.
The Ocean Cleanup describes itself as the “world’s first feasible concept to clean the oceans of plastic,” but the journey hasn’t all been smooth sailing.

“Testing for this is no simple matter,” The Ocean Cleanup wrote in blog post from MARIN. “The oceans are an environment with unpredictable, powerful forces that defy perfect simulation. Waves come from a variety of directions at once, and currents below the surface complicate matters even more.”

Hydrodynamic engineer Mark Paalvast said in the blog post that the tests at MARIN will determine the feasibility of the project.

“The MARIN offshore basin is one of the best facilities in the world to do these tests,” he said. “It can send currents and waves from many different angles simultaneously, and at varying speeds. We will do lots of simulations and then use the data for additional computer modeling too.”

There have been other road blocks as well. Some critics have written off the idea, and Asma Mahdi, a spokeswoman for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told the Guardian there’s the potential for harming sea life caught in the project’s cleanup barrier.

“By skimming floating debris off the surface, we may be doing more harm than good for marine surface-dwellers,” she said. “This includes the microscopic plankton that are the base of the marine food web and responsible for nearly half of the oxygen production that occurs on our planet.”

Slat responded, “The current flows underneath the barriers, taking away everything with neutral buoyancy—like plankton and other fish—while the positively buoyant plastic, up to a certain threshold, remains in front of it.”
The operation involves a static platform that passively corrals plastics as wind and ocean currents push debris through 2,000 meter booms. Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup
He has taken his other critics head-on with a 530-page feasibility report composed of 70 scientists and engineers. The report concluded that the concept “is indeed likely a feasible and viable ocean cleanup technique.” Their conclusion has also been peer-reviewed by external experts, Slat attested in a blog post.

Another problem is the economic sustainability of the project. While half of The Ocean Cleanup’s €30m ($32 million) budget was raised through crowdfunding and from wealthy donors, the company hopes to stay afloat financially through a ocean plastic retail line, the Guardian reports.

“We’ve analyzed the quality of the plastic which was surprisingly good,” Slat said. “We did some tests and the material is very recyclable. Tens of companies—large corporations—have shown an interest in buying up the plastic and that is our holy grail; funding the clean-up using revenues created by the plastic we extract.”

Slat, a former aerospace engineering student, proposed this ocean plastic-capturing concept when he was only 17, making headlines about his plan to clean half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within a decade.

Over the years, Slat and his Ocean Cleanup team have taken several ocean research expeditions and discovered after a trip to the Pacific earlier this year that the plight of plastic pollution was much worse than they imagined.

“The previous studies estimated 10 kilos of plastic per square kilometer but we found it was in the hundreds of kilos per square kilometer,” Slat said.

Plastic pollution is a clear threat to aquatic life and marine ecosystems. About 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans annually.

A recent study found that 90 percent of seabirds have mistakenly eaten plastic and the numbers will rise if plastic pollution worsens.


Biodegradable is Bunk: World’s ‘Ocean Waste Baskets’ Still Filled With Plastic Trash

Such products ‘will not bring about a significant decrease either in the quantity of plastic entering the ocean or the risk of physical and chemical impacts on the marine environment,’ UN report states.

Published in enewspf New York –November 20, 2015
Pieces of plastic litter a black rock beach on the island of Hawaii in 2008.  (Photo: LCDR Eric Johnson, NOAA Corps./via flickr/cc)
Plastics in the world’s oceans, whether floating or resting at the bottom, is a problem that’s on the rise, and is said to have “reached crisis proportion.”

And while they may be assumed to be more eco-friendly, plastics labeled “biodegradable” still pose a threat to marine environments, a new United Nations study has found.

The report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions, Concerns and Impacts on Marine Environments (pdf), explains how these products still fail to tackle the growing problem.

The agency’s executive director, Achim Steiner, underscored the magnitude of the problem. “Recent estimates from UNEP have shown as much as 20 million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans each year. Once in the ocean, plastic does not go away, but breaks down into microplastic particles.”

The report notes that just what proportion of this plastic is biodegradable versus non-biodegradable has yet to be analyzed.

One of the problems, the report states, is that in order for some of the plastic debris to be completely broken down, conditions found in industrial compositing units that can achieve prolonged temperatures of above 50°C are needed. Yet those conditions “are rarely if ever met in the marine environment.”

And while some have the inclusion of a pro-oxidant, which would induce degradation, “[t]he fate of these fragments (microplastics) is unclear, but it should be assumed that oxo-degradable polymers will add to the quantity of microplastics in the oceans, until overwhelming independent evidence suggests otherwise.”

Contributing to the problem, the report says, is evidence suggesting the biodegradable label could make the public more likely to litter.

The report concludes that “the adoption of plastic products labelled as ‘biodegradable’ will not bring about a significant decrease either in the quantity of plastic entering the ocean or the risk of physical and chemical impacts on the marine environment, on the balance of current scientific evidence.”

Peter Kershaw, one of the authors of the study, put the problem in blunt terms.

“Essentially the ocean is being used as a waste basket and the waste basket is getting fuller and fuller, and so the impacts of that plastic litter are just going to keep on increasing,” he told CBC News.

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Source: www.commondreams.org