Ocean Currents » microplastic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 25 Apr 2017 13:47:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 A Fashionable Way to Combat Ocean Plastic Pollution http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/08/a-fashionable-way-to-combat-ocean-plastic-pollution/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/08/a-fashionable-way-to-combat-ocean-plastic-pollution/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 15:00:04 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12219

There’s no doubt about it: ocean plastic pollution is a big problem. An estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste flow from land into the ocean every year, meaning that by 2025 there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish! And there’s much more to the problem than floating bags, bottles and fishing nets—as many as 51 trillion pieces of microplastic (plastic pieces less than five mm) now circulate in the ocean.

Big problems call for creative solutions. To truly make an impact in the problem of ocean plastic pollution, we have to attack it from multiple directions. This includes minimizing the amount of plastic waste we create, managing our waste to prevent plastic pollution from leaking into the ocean and mitigating the existing marine debris through active cleanup and restoration efforts.

Ocean Conservancy has been fighting back against ocean plastic pollution for the past 30 years. Last year alone, more than 18 million pounds of trash—equivalent to the weight of over 100 Boeing 737s—was collected by nearly 800,000 volunteers during our 2015 International Coastal Cleanup.

Fortunately, we’re not the only ones worried about ocean plastic pollution. Socially conscious enterprises are developing innovative solutions to bring attention to this immense problem and create financial incentives for keeping plastic debris out of the ocean.

One standout is eyewear company Norton Point, which is launching a new line of sunglasses that will be made from ocean-bound plastics collected, in partnership with The Plastic Bank, from communities and beaches where plastic waste is overrunning local capacity to manage it. Creative efforts like this help bring attention to the growing problem of plastic debris while expanding the market for recycled plastics. With their new line, Norton Point is creating greater economic incentives to clean our beaches.

We’re happy to be Norton Point’s charitable partner for their Ocean Plastic Collection. Norton Point will reinvest 5% of net profits from this line back into improving global clean-up efforts and toward stemming the tide against ocean plastic.

Business models like this just go to show that there are many ways to join in the fight against ocean plastic pollution. Whether it’s skipping the straw, joining a local cleanup or buying a pair of recycled, ocean-plastic sunglasses; every sustainable choice helps move us towards a healthier, happier ocean.

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One Third of Fish in New Study Contain Traces of Plastic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/23/one-third-of-fish-in-new-study-contain-traces-of-plastic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/23/one-third-of-fish-in-new-study-contain-traces-of-plastic/#comments Wed, 23 Jan 2013 19:59:21 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4364

An artist’s rendering of poor cod (Trisopterus minutus), one of the fish species studied.

Here’s some sad news from an article to be published in Marine Pollution Bulletin about fish and microplastics in the English Channel. Of the 504 fish collected, 36.5% had plastics in their gastrointestinal tracts. Inhabitat explains,

Not only is this a problem for those that eat the fish, such as humans, but the research team believe that the accumulation of plastic in fish could block the animals’ digestive systems and even cause fish to stop eating.

In a statement, Richard Thompson from Plymouth University said: “We don’t need to have plastic debris in the sea. These materials are inherently very recyclable, but regrettably they’ve been at the heart of our throw-away culture for the last few decades. We need to recognise the value of plastics at the end of their lives and need help from industry and manufacturers to widen the potential for every day products to be reusable and recyclable.”

Read more from Inhabitat or view the report in full.

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Unfortunately, “Junk Beach” Lives Up To Its Name http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/22/unfortunately-junk-beach-lives-up-to-its-name/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/22/unfortunately-junk-beach-lives-up-to-its-name/#comments Tue, 22 Jan 2013 18:40:57 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4355

Sand or plastic? At “Junk Beach” on Kamilo Point in Hawaii, it can be hard to tell. Credit: Nicholas Mallos

I’m not a morning person; so 4:30 am wakeups are not my idea of a good time. But increasingly my alarm seems to be going off around this time because tides don’t care about my sleep schedule. Plus, the most severely littered beaches are almost always found on remote coastlines where cleanups cannot easily occur. Kamilo Point, known to many as “Junk Beach,” is perhaps the best example of this in the world.

After a 2 hour drive through the heart of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, we arrived in Naalehu where we were greeted by members of Hawaii Wildlife Fund (HWF). No organization knows about marine debris on the Big Island better than HWF. Funded by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, HWF has spent countless hours removing debris from Hawai’i’s South Point coastline—more than 240,000 pounds since 2003.

From Naalehu, it’s about four miles to Kamilo Point. No problem, right? Not so much…this four mile trip takes about an hour, most of which is spent driving—cautious not to blow a tire or axle—on what is the bumpiest, ruttiest, rockiest road in the world and I challenge anyone to prove me otherwise. A pair of humpback whales spouting off the coast and a green sea turtle spotting made the bumpfest a bit more bearable, but I was delighted to finally arrive at our sandy destination.

Due to recent high tides, most of the large debris (i.e. fishing gear, plastic bottles, etc.) that had littered the beach weeks prior was now washed up into the dunes, where it heavily entangled the native Naupaka. When HWF first visited Kamilo in 2003 debris was piled 5 feet high; largely consisting of fishing nets and buoys. However, As a result of HWF’s persistence, with each passing cleanup volunteers can focus on tackling smaller and smaller pieces of plastics. The Japan delegation and I followed our procedure at Ki’I Dunes and completely removed all debris from a 25 m2 quadrat, cataloguing every item within its boundary. In this small area of beach alone, we collected more 6.5 kilograms of plastic (> 1 cm width), comprised of more than 4,000 individual pieces. Several potential tsunami debris items were also found, including a fishing buoy positively linked to South Hokkaido, Japan; an area hit hard by the earthquake.

It’s difficult to properly convey the severity of Kamilo’s debris problem. Without careful inspection, one can easily overlook the fact that in many places the quantity of mircoplastics on the beach surface rivals that of the natural black and tan sand. In fact, it took only minutes to fill a 5-gallon bucket to the rim with mircoplastics from the beach surface without yielding a visible difference. Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Hilo suspect plastics have penetrated at least the top three feet of beach. Now that I’ve been to Kamilo, their hypothesis seems realistic. One technique fashioned by HWF to remove mircoplastics from sand is to float the tiny plastics in large bins of water, separating the low density plastics (which floats) from the higher density sand (which sinks). This approach has been successful for very small areas of surface beach with dense concentrations of plastics; however, a feasible solution that effectively scrubs entire beachscapes clean of mircoplastics remains undiscovered.

I have been to Midway, Japan, Mexico, the Caribbean, and all over the United States; but never have been to a beach so spoiled by plastics like Kamilo.  I am optimistic though, because despite all odds HWF and its devoted volunteers have been victorious in many battles against debris.

No, the war is not over and a colossal plastics problem still plagues Kamilo; but I’m hopeful that 10 years from now the biggest challenge plaguing Kamilo will be renaming it something other than Junk Beach.

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