The Blog Aquatic » ICC http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Sun, 17 Aug 2014 13:00:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 What Does 10 Million Pounds of Trash Look Like? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/14/what-does-10-million-pounds-of-trash-look-like/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/14/what-does-10-million-pounds-of-trash-look-like/#comments Tue, 14 May 2013 13:00:33 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5786

Volunteers mark the data card while throwing away trash at the International Coastal Cleanup at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge in Kahuku, Hawaii. credit — Elyse Butler

Take your pick: 41 blue whales, 10 Boeing 747 jumbo jets, 5,000 tons or 10 million pounds. Whichever one you prefer, that’s roughly the weight of trash that was collected by volunteers during Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 International Coastal Cleanup (Cleanup). More than 10 million pounds of trash – that’s an astounding amount.

Each year in September, citizen scientists around the world mobilize during the Cleanup to remove plastic trash and other debris from the world’s shorelines, waterways and underwater habitats. Tallies of trash recorded by the more than 550,000 volunteers who participated in the 2012 Cleanup are a snapshot of the persistent and proliferating problem of trash on our beaches and in our ocean.

The most commonly found items of trash plaguing our coastlines are the same products we use in our everyday lives and households: food wrappers, plastic utensils, beverage containers and, as always, the most incessant item were cigarettes with more than two million butts collected. Much like cigarettes, plastics bags have always been atop the list of trash items, and in 2012 they were still unable to elude volunteers. The one million plus (1,019,902) plastic bags picked up were the fourth most abundant item of trash found, bringing the 27 year total to just under 10 million bags. The amount of oil required to manufacture this quantity of bags is in excess of 1,175 barrels, or enough gasoline to drive a car around the Earth three times (approx. 75,000 miles).

The items volunteers find on the beach are not only unnatural to the ocean, but are dangerous to marine organisms that depend on healthy ecosystems. And whether it’s the smallest bottle cap or the weirdest finds, like the 117 mattresses collected, every piece of trash affects the health of our ocean, and subsequently our economy, environment and health.

Every piece of trash that is picked up during the Cleanup should be a challenge for change. Trash simply shouldn’t be in the ocean or on a beach. The items we use – or don’t use – have a lasting impact. Trash doesn’t start and stop at the trash can, and out of sight doesn’t mean out of our ocean. For too long we’ve focused our attention on plastics and other debris by looking at the beach and seaward, when in reality, emphasis should’ve been concentrated between the beach, trash can and beyond.

We have a responsibility all year long to reduce, remove and reinvent – we all have a role to play. The good news is that everyone can be a part of the solution for trash free seas. Here are three things you can do right now to help tackle trash:

  1. Pledge to fight trash: What would happen if 10,000 people decided not to make as much trash for one month? We could reduce the trash on Earth by over 1 million pounds. Take the pledge to help turn the tide on trash.
  2. Download Rippl Ocean Conservancy’s free mobile application that helps you make simple, sustainable lifestyle choices.
  3. Mark your calendar for September 21 so that you can be part of the next International Coastal Cleanup.

Solutions are built on individual actions of people, organizations and companies, but it will take a collective movement to make a lasting difference. Whether it’s by changing our habits to create less trash, pushing industries and governments to find alternative uses or funding innovative scientific research, the time is now for everyone to work together to find a solution to make our beaches and seas trash free.

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Ocean Conservancy’s Kara Lankford Receives Alabama Coastal Cleanup Award http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/18/ocean-conservancys-kara-lankford-receives-alabama-coastal-cleanup-award/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/12/18/ocean-conservancys-kara-lankford-receives-alabama-coastal-cleanup-award/#comments Tue, 18 Dec 2012 17:30:30 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3906

We are very excited to announce that our own Kara Lankford received the Alabama PALS (People Against a Littered State) Governor’s award for her long-time work with the Alabama Coastal Cleanup. She was recently honored at an awards ceremony in Montgomery.

We are not surprised others have taken notice of Kara’s commitment and enthusiasm to keeping our ocean clean and healthy. “Not everyone has a job they like, much less one they can say they love,” she said of the award. “In that respect I feel honored. I love my job. Since graduating from college I have had the opportunity to work in my field of environmental sciences and have always loved my work. Winning an award for doing something that brings joy and gratification isn’t something I expected. However, it is always nice to be recognized for something you are passionate about.”

The Alabama Coastal Cleanup first appeared on Kara’s radar when she was an intern with the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program. One of her supervisors asked if she’d like to help out because of her success as zone captain for the Mobile Bay causeway site. This sounded like a great experience and a fun day so she was eager to help out. Little did she know this site was the largest in the state of Alabama and saw between 200-300 volunteers!

The team worked tirelessly that morning to get volunteers signed in, hand out trash bags, weigh the trash individually with a bathroom scale and reward participants with t-shirts. It was a long, exhausting day and she was completely inspired by the idea of everyone around the world cleaning our waterways of trash on the same day. She felt that seeing the amazement on the Boy Scout troops’ and families’ faces as they filled the dumpsters to capacity was the best kind of marine debris education anyone could offer. As she says, “It was a hands-on, real life example of how marine debris can impact our ocean and I was hooked.”

Kara has been the zone captain for the Mobile Bay causeway site for about 8 years now. This past year, 2012, the team had a record of over 300 volunteers. Congratulations to Kara, and here’s to many more years as the zone captain for the causeway.

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Species Spotlight: Leatherback Sea Turtles http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/30/species-spotlight-leatherback-sea-turtles/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/30/species-spotlight-leatherback-sea-turtles/#comments Fri, 30 Nov 2012 15:00:19 +0000 Carmen Yeung http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3632

The leatherback sea turtle has spent over 100 million years living beneath the ocean’s waves. It is the longest surviving and one of the largest reptiles on earth. With a heritage that goes back to the dinosaur era, the leatherback sea turtle’s impressive list of accomplishments is virtually unmatched.

Leatherback sea turtles:

  • Weigh in between 500 and 2,000 pounds
  • Can reach lengths from 4 to 8 feet long
  • Live up to 100 years
  • Dive to extreme depths, often deeper than 4,000 feet
  • Swim great distances, such as traveling over 7,000 miles

Leatherbacks are noticeably distinct from their sea turtle brethren: their heads are not retractable; their flippers do not have claws; and a specialized, rubbery and flexible carapace exists in place of a hard shell. A warming layer of fat as well as a relatively low metabolic rate and  ability to alter blood flow keeps the leatherback cozy in frigid water.

It should be no surprise, then, that the leatherback also has the distinction of being the most widely distributed sea turtle species in the world. Gliding through the vast waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea, leatherbacks go on an often-perilous journey to reproduce and obtain food.

Cruising for squid, sea squirts and jellyfish (whose tentacles they find a particular delicacy), the leatherback sea turtle utilizes its top secret weapon – backward-pointing spines that cover its mouth and throat. This prevents jellyfish from escaping before being swallowed as dinner.

The female leatherback deposits 60 to 120 eggs during each of the four to five trips she makes to shore per nesting season, often at the same location she was born; this is the only point in her life that she will leave the water. Male leatherbacks never return to shore after making that first momentous and hazardous journey from the nest across the beach and into the water after birth.

On the endangered species list since 1970, most leatherback nesting populations have plummeted more than 80 percent in the Pacific. Scientists estimate that only one in 1,000 hatchlings lives to see adulthood.

This frightening decline stems from habitat loss, boat strikes, the poaching of young turtles and eggs from nesting beaches for human consumption, environmental contamination from oil and gas exploration and extraction, death by injury or accidental drowning in fisheries, and death by ingestion of plastic bags, which resemble jellyfish.

Together, we can work to ensure that this 100-million-year-old marvel does not disappear forever. Ocean Conservancy is helping introduce shrimp fishing gear that helps prevent leatherback sea turtles and other wildlife from being caught and killed incidentally. And our International Coastal Cleanup helps remove millions of pounds of trash from beaches and waterways each year, preventing leatherbacks and other wildlife from accidentally ingesting it.

With your support, Ocean Conservancy can make an enormous impact on the lives of these truly remarkable sea turtles.

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It’s Not My Fault I’m a Butt Guy http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/19/its-not-my-fault-im-a-butt-guy/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/11/19/its-not-my-fault-im-a-butt-guy/#comments Mon, 19 Nov 2012 19:56:36 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3582 It’s impossible not to be if you work in the ocean trash world. Every year International Coastal Cleanup volunteers pickup more cigarette butts off our beaches than any other item by an order of magnitude. Since the Cleanup’s inception in 1986, cigarette butts have been the number one item on Ocean Conservancy’s annual Top Ten list, which highlights the most persistent items of ocean trash found globally. And while 2012 Cleanup data are still being compiled, I suspect cigarette butts will retain their title for another year.

What’s the big deal you might ask? Well inside each of those butts is a filter—unfiltered cigarettes excluded—made of cellulose acetate, a slow-degrading plastic. These plastic fibers are packed tightly together to create a filter, which often resembles cotton in appearance. So even though Cleanup volunteers have kept more than 55 million cigarette butts off beaches and out of the ocean over the years, the ultimate fate of these tiny plastics is still the landfill because there’s simply no value in a butt…or is there?

This week TerraCycle and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., the maker of Natural American Spirit cigarettes and a subsidiary of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, announced a partnership that gives a second life to butts. The partnership creates a take back system through TerraCycle’s Cigarette Waste Brigade program, where butts are recycled into resin pellets that will then be used to manufacture a verity of industrial products, such as plastic shipping pallets and park benches. Any tobacco or organic material remaining from the cigarette butt will be re-worked into tobacco composting.

The Cigarette Waste Brigade initiative underscores the notion that trash is simply too valuable to toss. It also emphasizes the fact that everyone has a role to play in stopping ocean trash. An issue as pervasive as ocean trash requires cooperation from corporations, organizations and consumers at large. For consumers, reducing consumption and choosing reusable and alternative products is the best option, but in circumstances where no alternatives exist—like cigarette butts—ingenuity and commitment from industry are necessary. Just as consumers have a responsibility to properly and responsibly dispose of items, industry has an obligation to ensure a product does not simply become trash at the end of its life.

Our landfills have had enough. The time has come to commit ourselves to diverting waste from the ultimate burial ground, and make certain we renew a products life whenever possible.

And in the case of cigarette butts, it seems only fitting that the park bench you or I might park our rears in the near future is really just a bunch of old butts.

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What’s on your beach? Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 Trash Index http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/03/27/the-news-aquatic-its-all-about-removing-the-trash/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/03/27/the-news-aquatic-its-all-about-removing-the-trash/#comments Tue, 27 Mar 2012 16:59:19 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=95

Today we release our latest data from our International Coastal Cleanup, a tsunami ghost ship appears and BP is still responsible for damage to the Gulf of Mexico.

Volunteers from the 2011 International Coastal Cleanup picked up enough food packaging for a person to get takeout for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the next 858 years. At the same time, if all the butts that have been picked up by volunteers over the last 26 years were stacked up, they would be as tall as 3,613 Empire State Buildings. That’s a lot of trash.

 

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