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!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cleanup Nets 50 Tons of Ocean Trash Near Hawaii

Published in Courthouse News, April 17, 2017 by Nicholas Fillmore


Marine debris being loaded into cargo containers at Midway Atoll. (Holly Richards/USFWS)

HONOLULU (CN) – Federal agencies and the state of Hawaii removed 50 tons of garbage from the newly expanded Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument this month during an annual multi-agency cleanup.

Twelve shipping containers holding an estimated 100,000 pounds of derelict fishing gear, bottles, lighters and plastics were loaded onto the charter vessel Kahana and shipped to Honolulu. The garbage will be cut up and incinerated for electricity at the Covanta Honolulu/H-POWER plant.

The annual cleanup of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands is headed by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Island Marine Debris Program in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hawaii’s Division of Land and Natural Resources-Forestry and Wildlife division, and the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

Since the program began in 1996, some 985 tons of debris have been removed from the monument. At Midway and Kure atolls, plastic debris is found in albatross nests along the beach and often consumed by the chicks. Endangered green sea turtles also mistake plastic for their main food source, jellyfish. And marine mammals die after becoming entangled in discarded fishing gear.

According to regional coordinator Mark Manuel, removal efforts are accomplished “with two hands and lots of backs.” Barges carrying heavy machinery cannot be brought in because their drafts are too deep in the shallows, so 17-19 foot inflatables are used and abandoned fishing nets – often twined around coral heads – are hauled up by hand.

Purse-seine nets found in Papahanaumokuakea do not appear to be local, Manuel said, nor does much of the trash cleared. Weather events associated with El Nino tend to push the North Pacific gyre – an area formed by four prevailing ocean currents in which garbage from across the Pacific collects – south. The gyre then deposits debris along the 1,500-mile Northwest Hawaiian Island chain which, virtually pristine otherwise, acts to comb detritus out of the ocean.

Researcher Capt. Charles Moore first discovered the so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” in 1999, when he sailed his catamaran through the rarely traveled gyre.

“As I gazed from the deck at the surface of what ought to have been a pristine ocean, I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic,” Moore wrote in an essay for Natural History. “It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot.”

Plastic takes centuries to biodegrade, breaking down into smaller pieces along the way. These fragments easily find their way into the food chain, Moore said, “adding to the increasing amount of synthetic chemicals unknown before 1950 that we now carry in our bodies.”

Research also implicates plastic in mammalian endocrine disruption. The resulting “feminization” of animal species threatens population collapse.

Complicating the picture, according to Moore – whose Algalita Organization is a pioneer in the study of ocean plastic – is the discovery of pre-manufacture microscopic plastic beads called “nurdles” in the water, suggesting that the problem is not just a post-consumption phenomenon.

The NOAA Marine Debris Program has led efforts to research, prevent and reduce the impacts of marine debris. Authorized by Congress through the Marine Debris Act in 2006, its staff supports projects “in partnership with state and local agencies, tribes, non-governmental organizations, academia, and industry. The program also spearheads national research efforts and works to change behavior in the public through outreach and education initiatives.”

The Hawaii Nets to Energy Program is one example of that partnership.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Will Consumers Pay More for Recycled Ocean Plastic?

Published in the Environmental Leader - March 23, 2017 by Jessica Lyons Hardcastle 

beach plastics

In a move that could increase consumer awareness about marine plastic pollution — and thus, consumer willingness to pay more for products made from recycled marine plastic — recycling company TerraCycle plans to expand its beach cleanup programs to collect up to 1,000 tons of plastic waste globally.

Earlier this year TerraCycle, in partnership with Procter & Gamble and Suez, developed the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made from up to 25 percent recycled beach plastic. The Head & Shoulders shampoo bottle will debut in France this summer.

TerraCycle told Plastics News that the partners have major expansion plans.

The initial beach cleanups collected 15 tons of material in Europe; Brett Stevens, vice president of material sales and procurement at the recycling company, told the publication that the company plans to expand collection efforts to North America and Asia.

“The collection goals we’ve set forth in total approach I would say probably 500 to 1,000 tons coming off beaches over the next 12 months,” Stevens said. “It is very much not a fad. I think that we’re investing the staff and resources and building our programs with our partners, making this a long-lasting impact.”

TerraCycle’s statements come as other leading companies are turning their attention to plastic waste ending up in oceans and other waterways.

Last month Dell said it has developed the technology industry’s first packaging trays made with 25 percent recycled ocean plastic content. In January, Unilever CEO Paul Polman called on the consumer goods industry to address ocean plastic waste and employ circular economy models to increase plastic recycling rates. Adidas is also working to solve the problem of plastic pollution in oceans by turning this waste stream into new material for its shoes.

But as environmental groups like Greenpeace and circular economy advocates like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have shown in recent reports, more needs to be done. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, one-third of the plastic packaging used globally ends up in oceans and other fragile ecosystems. An earlier study by the foundation found there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050.

However, as Waste Dive reports, the cost associated with collecting and cleaning marine plastic for reuse in products and packaging means virgin material is cheaper. “A coordinated global campaign that can demonstrate the path from cleaning beaches to putting new products on store shelves might help drive consumer interest in paying a little more for packaging made from this content.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Film Looks at Plastics in the Oceans

Published in VOA Science and Health on March 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Andersen said there is more people can do.

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

She said healthy oceans are essential to our survival.