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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Trashing Paradise: The Case of the Philippines

Posted On February 16, 2015 by

A guest blog by Andrew Wynne

An island archipelago nation laying in the western Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is commonly known for its idyllic beaches, rugged volcanic interior, routine natural disasters, and amicable people. But perhaps less known is the battle against solid waste that is currently enveloping the country. I spent two and a half years on the front lines of this battle as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer and can attest to what a study published just last week in the respected journal Science found; the Philippines, along with a small number of other developing countries, is a major vector for plastics and other debris flowing into the global ocean.

With the vast majority of the population and economy tied to the coastline, managing solid waste is exasperating already stressed resources and forcing individuals into economically inefficient ways of making a living that strain the coastal environment. In addition, the Philippines’ location in the western Pacific Ocean likely leads to the transportation of waste around the globe, thereby affecting everyone from local barangays to American coastal cities.

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Interview: Building an Ocean Cleanup Brigade in Bangladesh

Posted On February 11, 2015 by

Ocean trash.  Marine debris. You’ve heard it’s a problem. An ever-increasing amount of plastic pollution is entering our ocean every day. Surprisingly, many countries around the world lack the most basic trash collection services. As incomes rise, people are able to afford more and more plastic goods. But in many countries, the ability to collect and manage waste isn’t growing at nearly the same rate. As a result more plastic is ending up on beaches, in rivers and eventually the ocean.

We’re lucky at Ocean Conservancy to have an incredible network of passionate and devoted coordinators and volunteers through our International Coastal Cleanup who work tirelessly to keep their local beaches and waterways free of harmful plastic debris. Just last week, I had the honor of interviewing our Bangladesh Country Coordinator, Muntasir Mamun, about the problems with marine debris and how the Cleanups in his country have been successfully recruiting more and more volunteers.

OC: Why are you so invested in our ocean’s health?

Muntasir: Bangladesh is the biggest delta on Earth and has one of the largest natural sandy sea beaches. Due to over population, Bangladesh is heavily threatened by the impact of trash. Moreover, thousands of rivers are going across my country and ending up being at the ocean. So, the trash being in the rivers (intentionally or unintentionally) are going to be in the ocean. Not only that, geographically Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries from the impact of climate change.

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(E)PS, We Don’t Love You

Posted On January 12, 2015 by

New York City officially became the largest U.S. city to ban expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam last week! The momentum for EPS bans has been steadily increasing, and more than 70 cities have made the cut!

Frequently used for take-out containers, disposable drink cups and other single-use products, EPS is a hazard to our environment—not only because of its brittle nature and propensity to fragment into small pieces—but also because it can’t be recycled, economically. This is compounded by the fact that we use so much of it! Last year, the city of New York collected about 28,500 tons of polystyrene! (That’s a lot of take-out!)

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Kids Show How to Fight (and Win!) Against Ocean Trash

Posted On November 13, 2014 by

November 1 was a cold, dreary morning in Boston and when I arrived at Wollaston Beach to take part in a beach cleanup, the rain and wind grew more intense. I questioned whether we could even have a cleanup, but all doubt was swiftly wiped away when I met the staff and students from Park School.

I should have known that these fourth, fifth and now sixth graders, who successfully campaigned for Dunkin’ Donuts to stop using Styrofoam cups, weren’t going to let the weather get them down.  As part of their school’s Green Club, these kids are seriously passionate about the environment. When they learned that expanded polystyrene (EPS)—the material used in foam-style cups—virtually never breaks down in the environment and often winds up in our oceans, they decided to act.

Their petition on change.org landed them a meeting at Dunkin’ Donuts’ Corporate Headquarters where they expressed their concerns about the 1.7 billion coffees served a year in disposable EPS cups, which could have major consequences for the ocean. As a result of this and the 280,000-plus signatures the campaign has garnered, Dunkin’ agreed to switch to more environmentally-friendly alternatives to serve their tasty beverages.

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What’s Haunting Our Ocean?

Posted On October 27, 2014 by

Photo: Ocean Conservancy

What’s haunting our ocean? Ghost crabs or witch flounder? What about devil rays or goblin sharks? Sure, there are tons of monsters and ghouls hidden beneath the waves, but like in any scary movie, the most dangerous villains may be the least obvious.

Let’s take cigarette butts for example. When you think of the ocean, they’re probably not the first thing or even among the top ten things you think of. Yet, they’re the most common specter we find on our beaches year after year. In 2013, volunteers collected over 2 million cigarette butts.

Food wrappers are other trolls lurking around our beaches. International Coastal Cleanup volunteers removed more than 1.6 million of them last year alone.

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Trash-Talking On Our 42nd Birthday

Posted On September 7, 2014 by

 

Photo: Kanyarat Kosavisutte

Ocean Conservancy is turning 42 today – that makes us one of the oldest conservation organizations in the US.  But 42 is the new 17, and we’re feeling anything but settled these days.  Sure, we are delighted at our successes (none more so than the complete turnaround of US fisheries).  There are definitely a few things that really frost our cookies – and none more so than that disgusting and dangerous mess that is clinically known as “marine debris.”

Let’s call it what it is:  trash in the ocean. The ocean contains a staggering amount of it.  There’s enough to fill more than 200 professional football stadiums. In ten years or so, there will be one ton of trash for every 2-3 tons of fish.  If you love the ocean, that’s just completely unacceptable.

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25,000 Ocean Lovers Accepted the Last Straw Challenge

Posted On September 6, 2014 by

Photo: Samantha Reinders

We did it! We were able to get 25,000 ocean lovers to accept the Last Straw Challenge before the International Coastal Cleanup on September 20. This means we’re preventing 5 million plastic straws from ever ending up in our ocean or landfills.

That’s right — 5 million plastic straws. A small gesture like asking your waiter to hold the straw every time you’re at a sit down restaurant is a big help for marine wildlife. Endangered animals like sea turtles, albatross and seals are at especially high risk of the dangers of plastic pollution. They mistakenly consume pieces of plastic and are at risk of choking on them or damaging their digestive systems.

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