Ocean Currents » Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:26:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Recycling: Bali Style http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/06/recycling-bali-style/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/06/recycling-bali-style/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2015 14:10:24 +0000 Eric DesRoberts http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10818

We have a clear choice when it comes to plastic in our ocean. If we do nothing, plastic production will double in the next 10 years, and so will the amount that enters our ocean. If we act now, we can cut the amount of plastic entering our ocean by nearly half. The solution is clear: implementing waste management infrastructure in countries where the economic growth is outpacing the ability to manage waste.

As we researched our new report, Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic-free ocean, we stopped in Indonesia and met with Olivier Pouillon, Founder of The Bali Recycling Company to talk about his insights about waste management and recycling in the region.

Below is a Q&A between Emily Woglom, Vice President, Conservation Policy and Programs and Olivier Pouillon, Founder of The Bali Recycling Company.

Q: What inspired your passion for recycling and waste issues?

A: I first got into this work back in 1991 when I was in school in Indonesia. I had to do an independent report and I was trying to figure out what topic to focus on. Waste was becoming a big issue here because plastic bottles were just starting to come into Bali and there was pretty much zero waste service.

“Since there wasn’t a lot of plastic at first, everyone just threw it over their wall or into the river as they would with organic waste. Before plastic, everything was wrapped in a banana leaf or some other biodegradable thing. It didn’t matter where you threw it when you were done.”

My second major push was back when they had the climate conference here at the end of 2007. I spoke with a lot of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who were visiting for the conference, telling them about the waste problem and asking them to use their presence to catalyze awareness and possibly influence the hotels they were staying at. It was really frustrating because no one wanted to bring up the issue. They were worried about getting into trouble. That really showed an incongruity, where you had these folks and they didn’t understand that the waste issue was really connected to the climate change issue, especially in Indonesia.

“Waste is a pervasive, ubiquitous problem in our own backyards. Everyone deals with it, from the richest person to the poorest person.”

If your point is to get people to understand environmental issues and the bigger climate issue, you have to start with basics. If you can’t solve the waste problem, which, if compared to the climate issue is a piece of cake, we’re in trouble.

Q: What are your main goals for the Bali Recycling Company?

A: The first objective was to prove that you could actually set up a waste management and recycling company and operate in a green way. We created a viable business that cleans up the island and deals with the waste. The next phase is about how to scale it. Indonesia is growing fast and adopting new technologies like mobile phones. The mobile phone, especially the smart phone, has become a basic tool in doing just about everything here. It’s become a really good platform to tell people about recycling and trash management.

“There are many countries around the world that don’t have an adequate waste system. How do we make a platform where people can plug in and solve their trash problem?”

So we’re hoping to take our app, “CashforTrash [1],” and have people use it in Indonesia and beyond. The app’s goal is to streamline material interactions from use through disposal, and has two main functions. One is to serve as a platform to get people information on what they can sell for recycling and what the current market price is for these materials, since prices often change. The second part of the app helps connect the user with the people and places that will either buy the waste or help properly dispose of it.

“We offer collection services. Cities and towns don’t force residents to pay for waste services; it’s more voluntary here. There’s no system that we can draw from when asking for an increased waste management budget.”

Many people are still paying around 50 cents/month for waste collection and that hasn’t changed in 10 years. CashforTrash was designed to lead to a “fair trash” system, much like the fair trade moniker. We know how to recycle some low value materials, but it can be hard to get to people to collect these items. We can encourage people to donate for example $1 for collection of 1 kilogram of waste, and then we can add “fair trash” labels to upcycled bottles. We would then create a market for these bottles and can recover the investments back through the marketable upcycled products.

Q: What are some of the Bali Recycling Company’s major accomplishments?

A: Our major accomplishment has been turning this idea into a profitable business in a very difficult environment. I got some inspiration from Silicon Valley’s Steve Blank, and adopted tech startup concepts to the waste problem. With internet-based businesses, you can tweak things daily to respond to new ideas and issues. With waste in Indonesia, it can take weeks if not months, but the startup concepts can be applied.

The hotels that we’ve worked with that have changed their practices and incorporated it into their budget realize quickly that this system is better. Hotels know how much they spend on employees, electricity, water, food and how much revenue they collect from guests, but when it came to waste, they have no idea what their actual losses looked like. Though the hotels saw an initial jump in their monthly costs, they realized they were actually saving money once they took into consideration all of the secondary costs that they hadn’t been considering before, like lost cutlery and other value materials that ended up in the waste stream.

Q: What hurdles have you encountered in your work?

A: There are so many hurdles. Just dealing with logistics can be very complicated. But one of the biggest hurdles remains how the waste problem is perceived. Often people think it’s all about education. The reality is that without an infrastructure system to backup what you’re telling people, you’re wasting your time. You can tell people to sort and recycle, and they can listen to you, but if there’s no system to plug into it’s of no use.

Q: Do you have any thoughts or recommendations for lifting the profile and importance of recycling and waste management in Indonesia and other rapidly developing economies?

A: Waste management work, especially in the informal waste sector, generally has a negative perception. But CashforTrash adds technology―which is trendy―to the job which can help raise its profile.

Waste isn’t really a priority among citizens or the governments in many emerging economies. Among the general public, people don’t really want to think about it. As you move up in economic level, you can pay someone else to deal with it so you don’t have to. Even if you see it outside your walls while driving, as long as it’s off your property it’s not your problem.

It’s really just about changing the collective mindset to view waste as a resource that has to be reallocated. Waste is a completely man -ade concept. We’re the only thing on the planet that creates trash. Every other organism’s “waste” is food for something else, or the start of another process. And that’s how we have to think.

Q: Do you see a connection between work and ocean health?

A: Absolutely. There is a lot of focus on cleaning up the beaches and oceans, but that’s more about dealing with the symptoms than the cause. The waste doesn’t magically appear in the ocean; it’s land-based. The reason it’s ending up in the ocean is because there isn’t a land-based system to handle it. People will clean up one day, but it will accumulate on the beach again by the next morning. In the U.S., a beach cleanup may keep the beach clean for a good amount of time. But here, by the next morning it can look like nothing was done the day before.

Q: Anything else you want people to know?

A: Through this work, we’ve discovered that to make anything environmentally sustainable, it also has to be economically sustainable. It’s necessary to create solutions that produce jobs as well as clean up the environment. Solving a problem is all about utilizing different perspectives to find the best solutions for the problem.

It’s important to know what your “customer” wants. You have to get out of the building and talk to the people living this life. Understanding what hurdles they are facing and what they see as answers can be very informative.

[1] The app will soon be renamed “Gringgo”

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How One City in the Philippines is Setting an Example for the World http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/05/how-one-city-in-the-philippines-is-setting-an-example-for-the-world/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/10/05/how-one-city-in-the-philippines-is-setting-an-example-for-the-world/#comments Mon, 05 Oct 2015 14:34:30 +0000 Eric DesRoberts http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10808

As much as eight million metric tonnes of plastic leak into the world’s ocean every year and the amounts continue to grow. Without concerted global action, there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025, leading to massive environmental, economic and health issues. One city in the Philippines isn’t standing by and waiting for help. They’re taking action.

Below is a Q&A between Emily Woglom, Ocean Conservancy’s Vice President of Conservation Policy and Programs and Belen Fernandez, Mayor of the city of Dagupan, a coastal community in the Philippines.

Emily: To start off, for those who aren’t familiar with Dagupan, what would you tell people about the city and its people?

Belen: We’re a happy city and a happy people. More importantly, we’re resilient. We’re doing what we can to get wi-fi into our schools to help our students and also working to improve health care. As a city, we’re always looking to improve the quality of life in our city and our families. One of the biggest challenges I’ve had as mayor – as it relates to improving the quality of life for our people – is our waste problem.

Emily: Please tell us more about the problem you’re facing with waste in your city.

Belen: Well, the ocean and our waterways are very important to us. Fishing is a huge aspect of our livelihood and is how many people put food onto the tables for their families. I’ll always remember the stories from our fishermen, spanning the past couple years as mayor. They talked to me with such sadness about how their incomes were decreasing due to waste in our waterways, and how it’s impacting their ability to feed their families. It was one of the first times I realized I needed to make waste management a priority in Dagupan.

Emily: You’re doing a lot of work to improve waste management. Tell us a little bit about what the problem really looks like in Dagupan.

Belen: Dagupan has a 50 year-old garbage problem. For more than 50 years, people have been using our beach as a dump site. It’s been impacting the health of our citizens, and we know that needs to stop. We’ve established strong partnerships with industry that have allowed us to secure the resources we need to help tackle these issues. We know we can’t do it alone, and it’s probably the same around the world. It’s so important that you have a dedicated group of passionate people and organizations to help tackle the issue

Emily: You’ve made fixing the waste problem a priority. Why is this your #1 priority?

Belen: As far as waste is concerned, it’s one of the hardest issues to solve. When you think about it with respect to healthcare, you have a system – the doctors, the facilities and the tools. In education, you have the teachers, the schools and the supplies. Without the technical solutions to help fix a 50-year problem, it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve been working hard with government officials to start identifying the right approaches and implement solutions.

Emily: Do you have any advice or recommendations for other mayors who may be having a similar problem with waste?

Belen: I’ve met with mayors across our country – many that have waste issues just don’t have a solution. Much like our situation a few years back, they don’t have the resources needed to help fix the problem. Hopefully, once we have worked out a system here in Dagupan, others can use what we have been doing as a model for their own success. The tough part about combating waste is that even if we can do our job and clean up our rivers, unless those upstream are also tackling the issue, our rivers won’t remain clean for long. This needs to be an ongoing effort.

Emily: Do you find it helpful that officials such as Secretary John Kerry and those in the U.S. State Department are making ocean pollution such a priority?

Belen: I’m very happy that Secretary Kerry and the State Department have made this such a global priority. There are a lot of people around the world who don’t know how big of an issue this is, but hopefully the attention they’re giving to this issue will help people  realize that this is something we need to take action with. Without everyone becoming aware of how significant this issue is, the problem will only continue to grow and have severe environmental and economic impacts across the world.

For more information about ocean plastic, please see Ocean Conservancy’s global report, Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic-free ocean. This new report outlines a path forward to reducing ocean plastic waste by 45 percent by 2025.

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Divers and Ocean Advocates Across the Country Speak Out for NEO, NOP http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/27/divers-and-ocean-advocates-across-the-country-speak-out-for-neo-nop/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/11/27/divers-and-ocean-advocates-across-the-country-speak-out-for-neo-nop/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 14:57:09 +0000 Emily Woglom http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7011

Photo credit: Heal The Bay flickr page

Recently, I told you about the opportunity that Congress now has to create a National Endowment for the Oceans (NEO) and safeguard the existing National Ocean Policy (NOP). The heat is on, as the members of Congress that will decide the fate of these provisions in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) convened last week. Since then, the chorus of voices calling for Congress to take these vital steps to protect our ocean has grown exponentially.

More than 74 diving groups, dive shops and individual divers – including prominent figures such as Sylvia Earle and Ocean Conservancy Board Member Philippe Cousteau – sent a letter to the WRDA conferees today. Here’s an excerpt:

“As divers, we see firsthand the incredible beauty and, too often, the increasing burden our oceans face.… The WRDA conference will consider two provisions that significantly impact our nation’s oceans and coasts and the economies that rely on them. We support the Senate-passed National Endowment for the Oceans, which would help improve ocean health and maximize the economic benefits these resources provide our nation. We oppose the House-passed Flores rider, which would place damaging restrictions on the use of common-sense ocean management tools like ocean planning and ecosystem-based management found in our National Ocean Policy. To maximize the benefits of a healthy ocean and its vibrant economy, we urge you to include the NEO provision and strike the Flores rider from WRDA.”

These divers share a common belief that everyone benefits from a healthy and productive ocean. Few people witness the threats that our ocean faces more intimately than divers do every time they go below the surface. From ocean acidification’s effect on corals and shellfish to the staggering scope of the marine debris problem to the shifting of marine life due to rising ocean temperatures, divers see these impacts firsthand. They know that we badly need the smart ocean-use planning that the NOP facilitates and the funding for critical ocean research and restoration that the NEO would provide.

The diving community’s letter joins another letter sent to the WRDA conferees last week from Ocean Conservancy and more than 200 organizations and individuals from around the nation stressing the need for the conference committee to get this bill right.

We’ll continue to monitor the progress of WRDA as the conference committee meets in the coming days and weeks, but it’ll take a concerted effort from ocean advocates across the country to ensure that Congress establishes NEO and stands strong in supporting the NOP. You can add your voice to the hundreds who have already weighed in here.

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When Did Ocean Education Get Political? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/28/when-did-ocean-education-get-political/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/28/when-did-ocean-education-get-political/#comments Thu, 28 Jun 2012 13:57:43 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1335 Credit: milagro.cabq.gov

Credit: milagro.cabq.gov

Partnering with zoos, aquariums and museums on ocean education is not exactly what you would call a job-killing initiative or international plot to take over the ocean. And yet, this is how critics have billed the National Ocean Policy.

Under the Policy, government agencies are encouraged to “increase ocean and coastal literacy by expanding the accessibility and use of ocean content in formal and informal educational programming for students.” By teaming up with kid-friendly institutions like aquariums, zoos and museums, agencies like NOAA can provide the latest, cutting-edge ocean science for teachers, students and the general public. But Congressional attacks against the National Ocean Policy might threaten these kinds of non-controversial services – even though most of these services long pre-date the National Ocean Policy itself.

The House Appropriations Committee is currently considering a bill that blocks implementation of the National Ocean Policy. Check out our post from last week when the bill was first put forward.  As we’ve written before, this could affect services that people and businesses have come to rely on.

As our Government Relations Director Emily Woglom said:

“It is unfortunate that critics are playing knee-jerk politics with an ocean policy that’s about saving time, money and the source of livelihood for millions of Americans.  This is about ensuring that our natural resources are used efficiently and effectively so our coastal economies, now and in the future, flourish.

“Attacks on ocean protections are hyperbolic at best, hysterical at worst.  Blocking funding now will jeopardize existing jobs and important services.”

The National Ocean Policy’s approach to protecting our ocean, where coordination and collaboration are key, is simply common sense.


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Supporting the Ocean Means Supporting the National Ocean Policy http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/20/supporting-the-ocean-means-supporting-the-national-ocean-policy/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/06/20/supporting-the-ocean-means-supporting-the-national-ocean-policy/#comments Wed, 20 Jun 2012 19:37:44 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1143

How are you spending your first day of summer? We prefer celebrating our ocean--not fighting against it. Credit: Heal the Bay Flickr stream

How are you celebrating the first official day of summer?  Some lawmakers in Washington are doing so by actually fighting against vital protections for our ocean, including the National Ocean Policy.

The National Ocean Policy coordinates the activities of more than 20 federal agencies. Most of these vital services already exist, like preventing and cleaning up ocean trash. Particularly now, with West Coast states’ concerns with tsunami debris, coordination is as important as ever.  This ocean policy is a way to untangle and streamline the web of existing ocean regulations – more than 140 laws – in order to protect coastal communities and the economy.

But some lawmakers continue attempts to block implementation of the National Ocean Policy. Their latest move is to include language barring funds for the National Ocean Policy in the House Interior and Environment Appropriations bill – among other hits to our nation’s environmental protections. This is an extreme move considering the possible implications. Prohibiting the Policy could hinder much of the day-to-day information and services that your states and local communities have come to rely on.

On these latest efforts to block the National Ocean Policy, Ocean Conservancy’s Emily Woglom, director of government relations, said:

“It is unfortunate that critics are playing knee-jerk politics with an ocean policy that’s about saving time, money and the source of livelihood for millions of Americans.  This is about ensuring that our natural resources are used efficiently and effectively so our coastal economies, now and in the future, flourish.

“Attacks on ocean protections are hyperbolic at best, hysterical at worst.  Blocking funding now will jeopardize existing jobs and important services.”

Emily has been spreading the word on how the National Ocean Policy helps both the economy and your local community.  She’s not alone – even the New York Times editorial board weighed in. But if this is the first you’re hearing of the Policy, you’re not alone.

If you support the ocean, you should support the National Ocean Policy. It’s a common sense plan that’s good for the American economy, jobs and communities.

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