aDayWithoutPlastic.org

It's a simple idea. One day without plastic. Just a day. Think you can do it? We do.

Here's what's at stake: your health and the future of the ocean.

So, live like you love the ocean. Make June 8th, World Ocean Day or September 19th, International Coastal Cleanup Day YOUR Day Without Plastic.

Or pick your day, tell us how it goes.

And get a pluckfastic.org sticker for your reusable water bottle now!

Plastic Videos

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Life Without Plastic?

Once you've tried aDayWithoutPlastic.org you may as well check out:


They make it easy to just say pluckfastic!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

pluckfastic.org stickers!


Get your new pluckfastic.org stickers now!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rise Above Plastic!

Rise Above Plastic Bottles: RAP for Sea Turtles from Wallace J. Nichols on Vimeo.

Rise Above Plastic for Sea Turtles!

Rise Above Plastic: Plastic Kills Turtles from Wallace J. Nichols on Vimeo.

Attack the Garbage Patch: Reduce and Remove!


It’s been the summer of plastic. A half dozen ocean expeditions launched to study the impact of plastic on marine life, new research shows that plastic breaks down in the ocean into dangerous components and, of course, millions of tons of new plastic has poured into the ocean all around the world. The troubles with plastic in the ocean and the growing, continent-sized “Garbage Patch” forming out at sea have been described and shared on Twitter, Facebook, the New York Times, Oprah, the website of the American Chemistry Council and numerous scientific journals.


Still, from Indonesia to El Salvador to Mozambique many tons of plastic slide into the sea each day. We understand in ever greater detail how plastic breaks apart, drifts away, washes up, is eaten by sea turtles, birds and fish and eventually comes back to us in our food and water. It’s very clear that the problem will get much worse before it gets better. For example,BevNet.com, the beverage industry newsletter says, “...it's still the fact that you can put the stuff in a package and move around with it that makes bottled water such an important part of the firmament...even in the face of environmental headwinds...we're seeing everything from protein to skin care under the aegis of bottled water.”


So, what’s a concerned, ocean-loving citizen to do?


Some innovative people are looking at ways to scoop all the little plastic bits up in their nets and convert it to energy. Others in Hawaii are already turning stray plastic nets and rope into electricity. Plastic recycling also makes a small dent in the mess.


But when we practice the 4-R’s, reduce, reuse, recycle and remove, it’s the first and the last R’s we should focus on.


We have to seriously reduce the amount of plastic used each day, particularly the plastic we use for 5 minutes. Next time you use a plastic fork, consider that it will be around, looking good-as-new, well after your great, great, great, great, great grandchildren have come and gone from the planet. Set yourself up for a test run and see if you can go one day without using any disposable plastic. Get your coffee mug, water bottle, canvas shopping bag and a fork and spoon from the kitchen drawer and stash them in your bag. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to say “no plastic spoon, please” or “put my drink in this cup, please”. Squeezing a lemon into your own reusable water bottle will save you money and calories too.


Personal action is critical to making these changes happen. But not everyone will follow your lead. Legislation creating tax incentives, such as the twenty cent plastic bag tax shot down recently in Seattle, and bans on some of the most egregious materials like plastic bottles with BPA and plastic foam are part of the changes we need too.


Meanwhile, a century’s worth of plastic remains on our planet. Much of it ends up in the ocean. Lots of it washes up on our beaches day after day, year after year. There’s no better way to understand the scope and scale of plastic pollution than to walk the beach and pick it up--remove the plastic from the beach with your own hands. Thousands of organizations around the world organize coastal cleanup efforts year-round. The largest takes place on September 19th when nearly a half million people from more than 70 countries roll of their sleeves and hit the beach. In 2007 alone, this one-day volunteer event removed 6 million pounds of trash from the world’s beaches. Almost 90% of the most common items were made of plastic.


This year be sure you’re one of those volunteers. Get out there and remove some of the plastic from our coasts and oceans. And while you’re at it, reduce the plastic in your own life.


The future of the ocean can be one where beaches made of plastic bits are the norm, where sea turtles commonly dig through trash to nest and where our health is compromised by the chemicals that leech from these materials.


Alternatively, we can adopt a new set of creative ideas and sustainability principles that drive our consumption. We can choose to live like we love the ocean, because we do. We can act like our life depends on the ocean, because it does. What will you do with your single blue marble?


Sign up to remove plastic from the coast and ocean at www.coastalcleanup.org and learn how to reduce your plastic footprint at www.aDayWithoutPlastic.org

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thinking Like a Coconut

On a small island you’ve never heard of, in a small group of islands you’ve never heard of, in the South China Sea, native coconuts grow. Green sea turtles climb the beach at night. They lay their small round eggs in a narrow, deep hole they carved in the sand with their rear flippers. Then they go back to the sea, across the reef, to wait for another night.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

AdAge: Can an Ad Campaign Make Millennials Love Plastics?

YUCK. Let them know that AVOIDING plastic is cool...

ten million bucks to convince you that plastic isn't bad for you and the environment? wow.

In an effort to improve the public's perceptions of its products, the plastics industry will launch a $10 million social-media blitz aimed at millennials. Created by the Apco Worldwide agency for SPI, the industry trade group, the four-year effort is designed to spark viral conversations among millennials about the many benefits of plastic. This interview with SPI President-CEO William Carteaux took place at last week's NPE2009 conference in Chicago.

More HERE

Monday, July 6, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Trash bag leads to death for whale, nursing calf

By Bo Petersen
The Post and Courier
Friday, June 19, 2009

Full story and images HERE

SULLIVAN'S ISLAND — A mother and nursing calf pygmy sperm whale were found rolling in the late-night breakers near Fort Moultrie earlier this week. Litter killed them.

A necropsy found a large black plastic garbage bag in the mother's stomach, said Wayne McFee, of the National Ocean Service's marine mammal stranding program. She couldn't eat and was in severe pain. The calf couldn't survive without her and wouldn't leave her. When found, they were still alive but too sick to survive.

Marine animals can mistake plastic in the water for food. Pygmy sperm whales eat squid.

Beachgoers who found the pair struggled for two hours late Monday pushing the 900-pound female and the calf farther into the water twice; both times they simply floated back in.

"The animals were totally exhausted and the calf was cut up by something. The female just wasn't going to be able to make it. The baby was about gone," said veterinarian Johnny Ohlandt, who worked with McFee on the stranding. The whales were euthanized with an injection.

"It's just another case of dumping trash overboard off the boat," McFee said. "Now you've got two females out of the population, which is not good."

Not a lot is known about pygmy sperm whales. They're not considered endangered, but they're rarely seen at sea. Strandings of the small whales are not uncommon, with as many as four or five per year in South Carolina. A pygmy sperm whale stranded on Sullivan's in 2007. They die when brought into aquariums to be rehabilitated. It's dangerous to try pushing them back out to sea.

"These animals are on the beach for a reason. They're typically sick or injured. Pushing them out isn't going to do any good. It's just going to prolong their suffering and expose them to predation. I tell people, would you rather be attacked repeatedly by sharks or humanely euthanized?" McFee said.

"These people (trying to push the whale back out) put themselves in grave danger. They've got a 900-pound animal in the surf at night. There's that sign at Fort Moultrie warning of dangerous currents. One whack of that tail and they can knock you out, then you've got a search and rescue on your hands," he said.

Marine debris is one of those gnawing concerns for conservationists and biologists. Animals eat it and get tangled up in it. Debris can damage ships and transport invasive species. And human health concerns have begun to be raised. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched a multi-agency task force trying to educate people.

"Stow your waste on board the boat and if you see things floating in the water, pick them up and dispose of them on the dock," McFee said.

Reach Bo Petersen at bpetersen@postandcourier.com or 937-5744.

Copyright © 1995 - 2009 Evening Post Publishing Co..

For information about NOAA’s Marine Debris response program, go to marinedebris.noaa.gov

Full story and images HERE

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

David Suzuki: What we do to the oceans we do to ourselves

By David Suzuki and Faisal Moola

Our planet with its atmosphere is an exquisitely interconnected system of ocean, air, and land. Water flows through all of it and keeps it—and us—alive.

Water continually cycles above, on, and below the Earth’s surface, driven by the sun’s energy. It evaporates from the seas, transpires from plants and soil, flows from glaciers and aquifers, and falls as rain or snow.

It covers 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface. It can be liquid, gas, or solid. And it regulates the planet’s temperature.

Part of the way water maintains a fairly steady surface temperature on Earth is by mixing with carbon dioxide to create a heat-trapping blanket in the atmosphere. But when we pump too much carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the air and water, it upsets the balance.

Even though our oceans and atmosphere are vital to all life, we often treat them as waste-disposal sites. We are putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the plants on land and in the oceans can reabsorb and process, and so it builds up, trapping more heat and causing the planet’s long-term temperature to rise.

Many of consequences have been widely reported, but global warming’s effect on the oceans hasn’t garnered the attention it deserves.

Read more HERE

Ocean Waves, Plastic Graves

For whatever reasons: shipwreck, storm, or accident, strange things that have been dropped in the ocean. And when those strange things get dropped in, they usually then go on an epic tour around the world.

Often, the things in question are amusing. Some examples: HERE

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chicago becomes first city to ban BPA bottles, cups

May 13, 2009

Chicago on Wednesday became the first city in the nation to ban baby bottles and sippy cups containing the potentially-harmful chemical bisphenol A.

Tests of laboratory animals have linked the chemical, widely-known as BPA, to breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders.

Ald. Manny Flores (1st) said the City Council moved to fill a consumer protection void created when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded there is no harm from the low doses of BPA that come from eating foods from containers made with the chemical.

"The FDA has dropped the ball. They've been wishy-washy at best and, at worst, they're playing hanky-panky with the [plastics] industry," Flores said.


Read more HERE

Huffington Post: The Plastics Out There and In Here

There's a patch of ocean out there about as far as you can get from people on this small blue marble we call Earth, and it is slowly filling with tiny flecks of plastic.


Read more HERE

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Experimental project to clean Pacific Ocean garbage patch

Project Kaisei is a bold attempt to filter out and recycle plastic from the continent-sized patch of garbage in the Pacific Ocean.

Read more HERE

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reusable Bags Help Marks & Spencer Cut Plastic Bags by 80%

After introducing a surcharge on disposable plastic bags and encouraging the use of reusable bags, British retailer Marks & Spencer has cut its disposable plastic bag purchasing by 80 percent.

Another retailer, the National Trust, has similarly seen its plastic bag usage decline 85 percent, reports The Guardian UK.

Read more HERE

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Plastic Ocean

Plastic, one of the big challenges of our times, Are you ready for aDayWithoutPlastic.org?

'"Except for the small amount that's been incinerated — and it's a very small amount — every bit of plastic ever made still exists," Moore says, describing how the material's molecular structure resists biodegradation. Instead, plastic crumbles into ever-tinier fragments as it's exposed to sunlight and the elements. And none of these untold gazillions of fragments is disappearing anytime soon: Even when plastic is broken down to a single molecule, it remains too tough for biodegradation.'

Read More HERE

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Message in a Bottle: The Problem is Plastic

FEATURED COLUMN: Message in a Bottle: The Problem is Plastic

By Dr. Wallace J. Nichols
Monday, April 27, 2009 1:19 AM EDT
PostStar.com

"Walked out this morning, don’t believe what I saw, a hundred billion bottles, washed up on the shore." -Sting

Last month, the leaders of a global coastal cleanup network 400,000 strong, spanning 104 countries and 42 states, met in Washington, DC coinciding with the release of the expansive report, "A Rising Tide of Ocean Debris."

After almost a quarter-century of garbage and data collection from creeks, bays, lakes, reefs, beaches and oceans of the world, the results are crystal clear: The problem of debris in the ocean is not "debris," but plastic. Debris is what blows off trees onto the grass, or the driftwood and kelp that have naturally washed up on our beaches for millennia. The term "marine debris" is a euphemism—an Orwellian framing device promoted by plastics industry public relations pros.



The mess in our ocean is made almost exclusively of plastic—plastic ropes, fishing nets and traps, plastic bags and bottles, plastic food containers, bottle caps, rubber ducks, flip-flops, plastic syringes, toothbrushes, diapers, tampon applicators and condoms, plastic cigarette filters and lighters. Gazillions of nurdles—those little tiny pellets that are the raw industrial material for many molded plastic items—are mixed with seawater and sand wherever the currents can take them. Depending on where you are in the world, plastic makes up nearly 100% of what washes up on the beach both in terms of the number of items and their mass.



While the public involvement and growing attention on this issue so evident in "A Rising Tide" are hopeful signs of a solution, plastic in the ocean remains an expanding threat to both human and animal well-being. In his new book, "Flotsametrics," oceanographer Curt Ebbesmeyer writes that samples of just about everything ever made of plastic can be found washed up on the beaches of the world.



Plastic and water just don’t mix for two main reasons: plastic floats and it doesn’t go away for a very long time. By plastic, of course, I’m referring to the wide range of synthetic organic solid materials used to manufacture myriad consumer products. They are typically polymers of high molecular weight that often contain additives to improve things like flexibility and/or reduce costs.



Plastic comes in many shapes, sizes and uses; it originates from every corner of the globe; and, it is a ubiquitous product of most every industry. Since the 1950s, one billion tons of plastic has been discarded. In the past two decades, plastic use has simply exploded across the planet. It is a blight on coastal villages around the world, invading in thousands of new forms, without an exit strategy. Since the 1960s, the number of plastic items in the stomachs of leatherback sea turtles, minke whales and Laysan albatrosses has spiked.



Recently, on a research expedition to Indonesia, I witnessed a line of plastic on remote island beaches that are nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles. I saw walls of burning plastic sliding down cliffs into the sea. I found plastic fishing gear wrapped around reefs. Plastic bags clogged the intake of our outboard motor every fifteen minutes.



In the bluest heart of ocean biodiversity floats a sea of plastic.



Granted, plastic "falls from our hands, not the sky," but manufacturers who churn out more and cheaper plastic at an alarming, increasing pace are spreading the problem irresponsibly. Recycling has proven difficult. The biggest problem is the labor-intensive sorting of plastic waste into its various types for reprocessing; the costs far exceed the value of the recycled plastic. The plastic foam polystyrene, for example, is rarely recycled because it is just not cost effective.



We could just wait on Mother Nature for a solution. Two types of nylon eating bacteria were found in 1975, raising the hope that other bacteria will evolve the ability to consume other synthetic plastics. But Mother Nature is slow and plastic is piling up in the ocean by the day, particularly in the North Pacific Gyre, or the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" or the "Pacific Trash Vortex" as it is sometimes known.



So, what is the solution to plastic in the ocean? Simple answer: Don’t use petroleum-based plastic.



Human behavior is remarkably flexible when it comes to finding alternatives to plastic. Recently, new biodegradable plastic substitutes have come on the scene. Many of the items removed from the world’s beaches have reusable or non-plastic, biodegradable and compostable substitutes such as those made from plant-based bagasse, the fibrous residue remaining after sugarcane or sorghum stalks are crushed to extract their juice. Seek them out when you need a container, they go by the names of EcoTainer, NatureWorks and Worldcentric and can be easily found online. Encourage local leaders and businesspeople to follow China, India, Ireland and dozens of U.S. cities, by banning certain disposable plastic items and taxing others. Reusable bottles, utensils and shopping bags are a simple solution. Wax paper is a good choice for many household and lunchbox needs. Avoid plastic "to go" containers. See if you can make it through a single day without using any disposable plastic. It’s not as hard as you might think.



Who knows, if we succeed, maybe one day our beaches will be full of real, old-fashioned marine debris. The kind the original beachcombers used to collect: driftwood, kelp, seashells and the occasional message in a bottle—a glass bottle, of course.

-

Dr. Wallace J. Nichols is a Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oprah talks Plastic in the Ocean with Cousteau

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Water covers more than 70 percent of the planet's surface, making our rivers, lakes and oceans the lifeblood of our planet. Many of these bodies of water may be out of sight and out of mind, but our health may depend on their protection.

Currently, scientists believe the world's largest garbage dump isn't on land…it's in the Pacific Ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch stretches from the coast of California to Japan, and it's estimated to be twice the size of Texas. "This is the most shocking thing I have seen," Oprah says.

In some places, the floating debris—estimated to be about 90 percent plastic—goes 90 feet deep. Elsewhere, there are six times more pieces of plastic than plankton, the main food source for many sea animals.

Read More HERE

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

OpEd: Message in a Bottle: The Problem is Plastic

by Wallace J. Nichols

“Walked out this morning, don't believe what I saw, a hundred billion bottles, washed up on the shore.”  -Sting

This month, the leaders of a global coastal cleanup network 400,000 strong, spanning 104 countries and 42 states, meet in Washington, DC coinciding with the release of Ocean Conservancy’s expansive report, “A Rising Tide of Ocean Debris.”  After almost a quarter-century of garbage and data collection from creeks, bays, lakes, reefs, beaches and oceans of the world, the results are crystal clear:  The problem of debris in the ocean is not really “debris” at all, but plastic. Debris is something that blows off trees onto the grass, or the driftwood and kelp that have naturally washed up on our beaches for millennia.

The term “marine debris” is a euphemism—an Orwellian neologism crafted by public relations pros working for the plastics industry. While the growing public involvement and attention on this issue, so evident in the “Rising Tide” report, are hopeful signs of a solution, plastic in the ocean remains an burgeoning threat to both human and animal well-being.

Plastic and water just don’t mix for two reasons: plastic floats and it doesn’t go away for a very long time, if ever.  What results is a mess, especially in the ocean. Whether you weigh it or count it, plastic makes up nearly 100% of what washes up on the beach.  In his new book, "Flotsametrics," oceanographer Curt Ebbesmeyer writes that samples of just about everything ever made of plastic can be found on the beaches of the world—plastic ropes, fishing nets and traps, plastic bags and bottles, plastic food containers, bottle caps, rubber ducks, flip-flops, plastic syringes, toothbrushes, diapers, tampon applicators and condoms, plastic cigarette filters and lighters. Gazillions of nurdles—those little pellets of plastic that are the raw material for so many molded items—are mixed with seawater and sand wherever the currents take them.

Plastic comes in many shapes, sizes and uses; it originates from every corner of the globe; and, it is a ubiquitous product of most every industry.  Since the 1950s, one billion tons of plastic has been discarded, and in the past two decades plastic use has simply exploded across the planet.  It is a blight on coastal villages, invading in thousands of new forms, with no exit strategy.  Since the 1960s, the number of plastic items in the stomachs of leatherback sea turtles, minke whales and Laysan albatrosses has spiked.

Recently, while on a research expedition to Indonesia, I witnessed a line of plastic on remote island beaches that are nesting grounds for endangered sea turtles.  I saw walls of burning plastic sliding down cliffs into the sea.  I found plastic fishing gear wrapped around reefs. Plastic bags clogged the intake of our outboard motor every fifteen minutes.

Here, at the bluest heart of ocean biodiversity, floats a sea of plastic.

“The Rising Tide” points out that plastic “falls from our hands, not the sky,” but manufacturers who churn out more and cheaper plastic at an alarming, increasing pace are spreading the problem irresponsibly.  Recycling has proven difficult.  The biggest problem is the labor-intensive sorting of plastic waste into its various types for reprocessing; the costs far exceed the value of the recycled plastic.  The plastic foam polystyrene, for example, is rarely recycled because it is just not cost effective.

We could just wait on Mother Nature for a solution.  Two types of nylon-eating bacteria were found in 1975, raising the hope that new bacteria will evolve the ability to consume other synthetic plastics.  But Mother Nature is slow and plastic is piling up in the ocean by the day.

So, what is the solution to plastic in the ocean? Simple answer: Don’t use petroleum-based plastic.

Human behavior is remarkably flexible when it comes to finding alternatives to plastic. Recently, new biodegradable substitutes have come on the scene.  Many of the plastic items removed from the world’s beaches have non-plastic, biodegradable, and compostable substitutes like those made from plant-based bagasse, the fibrous remains of sugarcane and sorghum stalks crushed for their juices.  Seek out these alternative products when you have to use a disposable container. They go by the names of EcoTainer, NatureWorks and Worldcentric and can be easily found online.  Encourage your local leaders and businesspeople to follow China, India, Ireland, Mexico City and Capitola, California, by banning certain disposable plastic items and taxing others. Reusable bottles, utensils and shopping bags are a start.  Wax paper is a good choice for many household needs.  Avoid plastic “to go” containers.  See if you can make it through a single day without using any disposable plastic.  It’s not as hard as you might think.
 
Who knows, if we succeed, maybe one day our beaches will again be cluttered with real, old-fashioned marine debris.  The kind your grandfather used to talk about: driftwood, kelp, seashells and the occasional message in a bottle—glass, of course.

Mexico City legislators pass plastic bag ban

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Mexico City legislators have approved a bill that would hit store owners or operators with 1 1/2 days in jail and fines of about $77,400 for giving customers plastic bags for their purchases.

The bill would exempt biodegradable plastic bags. The bill still must be signed into law by the city's mayor.
The law would give businesses one year to adopt appropriate bags.

In a press statement Tuesday, the city legislature cited estimates that the average city resident uses 288 plastic bags per year.
The city's trash dumps are overflowing, and plastic bags add to street litter. However, many city residents covet plastic supermarket bags, because they reuse them as trash can liners.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Flotsametrics.com

FLOTSAMETRICS AND THE FLOATING WORLD:

How One Man’s Obsession with Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science

by Curtis Ebbesmeyer and Eric Scigliano

From Kirkus Reviews:

Lively as-told-to autobiography of a scientist who studied flotsam—floating trash—and revolutionized the study of the world’s oceans.

Ebbesmeyer graduated college as a mechanical engineer in the mid-1960s and went to work for Mobil/Standard Oil, which financed the doctorate studies that made him the company’s first oceanographer. Years of traveling the world gave him an intimate knowledge of how ocean movements affect oil rigs, but he grew increasingly fascinated by sea currents and eddies and began to focus on beaches, more specifically on debris deposited there. An epiphany came in May 1990 when a Pacific storm knocked five containers filled with thousands of athletic shoes off a cargo vessel. Nearly a year later, the shoes began washing up along the West coast of North America. With the help of a surprisingly large and cooperative fraternity of beachcombers, Ebbesmeyer tracked the progress of the shoes up and down the coast and as far as Hawaii, producing a groundbreaking study of ocean currents. With the help of maritime and environmental journalist Scigliano (Michelangelo’s Mountain: The Quest for Perfection in the Marble Quarries of Carrara, 2005, etc.), Ebbesmeyer spins a fascinating tale. Even readers with little interest in ocean science will be riveted by the author’s chronicle of the epic travels of oceanic trash; the entertaining explanations of how floating debris guided Christopher Columbus and the Vikings to safe harbors; the horrific stories of men adrift at sea; how flotsam may have triggered the origin of life; and frighteningly, the warnings of the threat that an increasing avalanche of plastic waste poses to the oceans.

A captivating account of the man who turned beachcombing into a science.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Grist.org: Awash in junk

Awash in junk: A volunteer army takes on oceans of trash

Posted by Jonathan Hiskes (Guest Contributor) at 8:08 AM on 11 Mar 2009

On a single day last September, some 390,000 volunteers collected 6.8 million pounds of garbage from coastal locations and waterways throughout the world, providing a stark and detailed snapshot of the trash polluting the world's oceans.

They picked up 3.2 million cigarette butts, the most common single item, according to the figures released Tuesday in the Ocean Conservancy's Marine Debris Index.

They retrieved 2.1 million food wrappers, plastic bags, and other items from shoreline recreation activities (like beach picnics), the most debris-causing activity, the report said.

In the Philippines volunteers collected 11,077 diapers. In the U.K. they pulled in 19,504 fishing nets.

The 23rd annual International Coastal Cleanup took place at 6,485 sites (many of them inland, because much debris reaches the ocean through other waterways) in 104 countries, 30 percent more countries than the previous year.

Before moving on to the bad news, can I offer a big freaking kudos to the 390,881 international volunteers who devoted a Saturday last September to picking up other people's messes? That's a truly awesome turnout. (But no props to my home state, Washington, which didn't make the top ten states for participation, despite its supposedly eco-enlightened population. Letting Alabama show us up? Lame.)

OK, so on to the bad news: the cleanup just scratched the surface; there's lots more debris in the oceans. The uncollected trash damages fishing and tourism industries, threatens human health, and kills wildlife. Last year's cleanup volunteers found 443 animals entangled or trapped by marine debris and released 268 alive.


"Our ocean is sick, and our actions have made it so," Ocean Conservancy President and CEO Vikki Spruill said in a news release. "We simply cannot continue to put our trash in the ocean. The evidence turns up every day in dead and injured marine life, littered beaches that discourage tourists, and choked ocean ecosystems."

By weakening ecosystems, ocean debris reduces animals' ability to adapt to other stresses, such as climate change. "Just as a person with emphysema or pneumonia would be less likely than a healthy person to survive working in a coal mine, an ocean compromised by many ills is less likely to survive the challenges of climate change," the report said.

The Ocean Conservancy has worked to sound the alarm about ocean acidification -- the changing of the oceans' pH balance as it continues to absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It's taken on the more visible problem of trash and debris, Spruill said, because it's a preventable problem.

"It's one of the easiest ways we can help to improve our oceans' resiliency as we deal with the overarching problem of climate change," she said. "We need to be giving the ocean and all the life in it a fighting chance. And again, we focus on this because it is a preventable problem. There's a lot we can do to prevent this from happening."

The report recommends various responses, including several that reach up the supply line of items that end up in the ocean. "Much of what winds up in the ocean wasn't truly necessary in the first place," the report said. "We can produce less packaging up front and cut back on debris through programs that encourage positive changes in behavior such as recycling and the routine use of cloth grocery bags."

A "pay-as-you-throw" garbage pick-up program that charged based on the amount of trash thrown away would reward consumers for buying products with less packaging. (Of course, it might also encourage them to litter more ... ) Plastic bag taxes -- the sort that fell into, then out of style in several U.S. cities -- could also help.

Also included are technological solutions, such as photodegradable six-pack rings that weaken when exposed to sunlight, allowing ensnared animals to break free. The report offers an argument for compostable plastics, which cost more than most conventional plastics: "Where new technologies seem too expensive on first glance, we must weigh aspects like price against hidden costs like waste management, dead and injured animals, and greenhouse gas emissions."

The Conservancy suggests a number of personal action items, including signing up for this year's cleanup, on September 19.

"We have to ultimately change our behavior," Spruill said. "We have to be more responsible with our trash."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

See a Bottle, Pick it Up

a short meditative video about one little plastic Coke bottle that didn't get to join the Pacific Garbage Patch : )

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Earthjustice Supports Plastic Bag Bill to Clean Anacostia River

Washington, DC — District of Columbia Councilmember Tommy Wells has proposed legislation in the district that would help to reduce the volume of paper and plastic grocery bags that enters the city’s Anacostia River. Earthjustice, an environmental law firm actively engaged in efforts to clean the Anacostia River, is pleased with Councilmember Wells’ proposal and supports initiatives by the council to help clean up the river.

“The Anacostia River is inundated with a stunning amount of trash pollution. Plastic bags — which disintegrate into small toxic bits that don’t biodegrade for 1,000 years — are a major culprit, and help to choke the life out of this river,” said Earthjustice attorney Jennifer Chavez. “District residents already pay for the consequences of plastic bags, through public dollars that fund trash removal and through the continued harm to their rivers. Other cities are moving to restrict or ban plastic bags, and it’s time the nation’s capital follows their lead.”

An estimated 20,000 tons of trash falls into the Anacostia River every year and plastic bags and other non-recyclable items comprise 85 percent of the trash, by some estimates. Plastic bags alone make up an estimated 40 percent of the entire volume of trash pulled out of the river.

Nearly two years ago, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to ban hard-to-recycle plastic bags. That move has reportedly translated to 5 million fewer bags used a month. Recently a 20-cent plastic bag fee went into effect in Seattle at grocery, drug and convenient stores and in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg introduced a fee on plastic bag usage. Elsewhere, Palo Alto, CA officials will be voting on a 25-cent fee on plastic bags next month and San Diego is working toward a plastic bag ban. Several other cities including Boston, Portland and Phoenix have considered banning plastic bags entirely or imposing a tax.

The District’s water quality standards require all D.C. rivers to free from floating trash, a mandate that is constantly violated due to the large volumes of plastic bags and other litter that typically litter the Anacostia’s surface. “By taking action to reduce the amount of plastic bags, the council could signal a stronger commitment to achieving real pollution reductions and helping to keeping our waters clean,” added Chavez. “Much more needs to be done to make the Anacostia and other D.C. waters fishable and swimmable, but adoption of this proposal would be an important step forward.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dalai Lama makes appeal not to use plastic

Dalai Lama stresses on environment protection
14 Jan 2009, 1925 hrs IST, TNN

VARANASI: Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama exhorted people to protect and conserve the environment for healthy life. He also suggested people to follow the spiritual ways for healthy living.

Addressing the gathering of devotees and Buddhist monks at the central institute of higher Tibetan studies (CIHTS), Sarnath, on Wednesday, the Dalai Lama expressed his concern over environment degeneration and said that the uncontrolled material development and exploitation of nature was causing tremendous harm to the environment, particularly the Himalayan environment. "If things remain the same, the ancients rivers will go dry in near future," he said and made an appeal not to use plastic.

Highlighting the importance of healthy living, the Dalai Lama said that people should give attention to their health. Despite the advances in medical sciences diseases like AIDS were posing threat to human life, he said adding that the self-awareness was essential for the protection of health and environment. Lord Buddha in Vinay Pittak had given special emphasis on protection of trees for environment conservation, he said.

Chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh Dorjee Khandu along with others prayed for the long life of the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama also released 14 new publications of CIHTS on the occasion.