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!

Friday, July 29, 2016

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

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

Key points:

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

Private companies interested to buy plastic

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

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

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

Published in the Inquisitr July 28, 2016 by Tim Butters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Monday, July 4, 2016

5 Frequently Asked Questions about Plastic Pollution

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Dutch inventor harnessing waves to clean up the seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- 'Crucial to prevent permanent damage' -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miami-Dade County joins list of South Florida communities enacting eco-friendly Styrofoam ban

Published July 1, 2016 by Kevin Byrne on AccuWeather.com

The Miami-Dade County Commissioners recently passed an ordinance that would ban disposable Styrofoam products from county parks and beaches, joining a host of other South Florida communities striving to reduce one of the most common and harmful forms of litter.

Styrofoam, also known as polystyrene, can have numerous health and environmental impacts. The problems occur when Styrofoam, which is non-biodegradable, breaks into smaller pieces and gets scattered throughout public spaces and neighboring bodies of water.

The petroleum-based plastic is made up of a harmful monomer called styrene, which is used extensively in the manufacture of plastics, rubber and resins, according to the Earth Resource Foundation. Styrene has also been classified as a possible human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Lakeside litter (Photo/DWalker44/iStock/Thinkstock)Pieces of broken up Styrofoam debris litters the ground along Biscayne Bay. (Photo/Dave Doebler)

More than 20 environmental groups wrote a joint letter to the county commissioners outlining the necessities for the ban, which include the potential for more street flooding, the cost of removing the debris and wildlife fatalities.

"Most marine-based foam debris comes from land-based litter that degraded into small pieces, traveled down the storm drain, and ended up in the ocean," the letter reads. "Storm drains clogged by debris also contribute to flooding and can cause infrastructure damage that require costly maintenance and repairs."

Sea birds, fish and sea turtles can often mistake the floating white particles as food. Sea birds have been found dying of starvation with plastic particles in their stomachs.

Additionally, the ordinance cites Miami-Dade County's tourism-dependent economy and how the pollution can create an "unsightly nuisance."

"[Styrofoam] is a huge problem," said Dave Doebler, founder of Volunteercleanup.org, one of the organizations to sign the letter. "In fact, every cleanup we do, we find a tremendous amount of Styrofoam. It's one of the top items that we find floating in the bay, trapped in the mangroves and along the shoreline."

Doebler said his website has coordinated about 400 cleanups in the last year, amounting to over 27,000 volunteer hours and 50 tons of plastic trash debris removed from the South Florida shorelines.

"Styrofoam is absolutely littered everywhere," Doebler said, adding that it's incredibly difficult to clean up.

There are roughly 10 variations of Styrofoam bans in South Florida, with Miami-Dade County's being the most recent, according to Doebler. The most stringent belongs to the city of Miami Beach, which is in the middle of enforcing a city wide ban scheduled to be fully implemented in September.

The ban in Miami-Dade County will go into effect by July 2017. After that, any first-time offender who violates the ordinance will have to pay a $50 fine. Over the next year, officials plan to educate the public through public service announcements, social media and other public media.

As part of outreach efforts, the City of Miami has hosted cooler swaps where, rather than hand out violations, the city offers beachgoers a reusable cooler in exchange for a Styrofoam one.

While Doebler said it's a little early to say if existing restrictions have produced positive results, one of the benefits has been increased awareness throughout the public that plastic marine debris is a significant problem in South Florida.

There have already been some instances where coffee shops and restaurants have switched from Styrofoam to paper cups and are exploring biodegradable and compostable solutions for other materials, according to Doebler.

Styrofoam bans have been steadily increasing across the county and are already in effect in Minneapolis, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. The New York Supreme Courtoverturned New York City's ban in September 2015.

For those interested in volunteering to help fight ocean pollution, Doebler recommended taking part in International Coastal Cleanup day, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17.

More than 18 million pounds of trash were collected with the help of nearly 800,000 volunteers during the 2015 event.

Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Kevin Byrne atKevin.Byrne@accuweather.com, follow him on Twitter at @Accu_Kevin. Follow us@breakingweather, or on Facebook

San Francisco Bans Polystyrene aka Styrofoam, New Ordinance to Take Effect in 2017

Published June 30th, 2016 By CB Condez in Nature World NewsPlastic Ocean
See how many pieces of plastic you can find in this small sample of stuff that washed ashore after a storm. This is all over Ocean Beach in San Francisco. For more on plastic in the ocean and what it does to our food chain (and ultimately us humans), just Google or Bing "plastic ocean" or "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" or "North Pacific Gyre"  (Photo : Flickr/Kevin Krejci)
The city of San Francisco in California will no longer allow food packaging and other products made of polystyrene starting next year. The news came after the SF Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on Tuesday, June 28, to restrict its use in the city.  
According to Time, the ban, which will become effective starting Jan. 1, 2017, includes foam items like coffee cups, coolers, packaging for food, disposable dishware, toys for swimming, and other foam items. Trays used for meat and fish will have an additional six months to be phased out, until July 1, 2017.  
This new ordinance, Mother Jones reports, is part of San Francisco's "zero waste" goal by the year 2020.  The city already forbade to-go food containers made of polystyrene in 2007. And while other cities in the United States also have similar regulations, San Francisco's latest ordinance is considered as the toughest ban on foam products thus far.  
Polystyrene foam, a synthetic aromatic polymer, is non-biodegradable and is deemed as a pollutant. The sponsors of the new bill reportedly reasoned that foam pollutes waterways and are harmful to animals.  
Environmentalists have been trying to make such a point for a long time.  The ocean is accumulating plastic debris, which fish, birds, and other marine animals end up eating.  
"Plastics biodegrade exceptionally slowly, breaking into tiny fragments in a centuries-long process," reads the post by non-profit organization Algalita, which focuses on plastic pollution. "It entangles and slowly kills millions of sea creatures; that hundreds of species mistake plastics for their natural food, ingesting toxicants that cause liver and stomach abnormalities in fish and birds, often choking them to death."  
Polystyrene is commonly called Styrofoam, although the latter is a trademarked brand for a material produced by the Dow Chemical Company. According to Time, Styrofoam products like those used in construction and insulation are not included in the outlawed items.