Ocean Currents » ocean trash 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 Preventing Marine Debris, One Straw at a Time http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/28/preventing-marine-debris-one-straw-at-a-time/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/28/preventing-marine-debris-one-straw-at-a-time/#comments Mon, 28 Nov 2016 14:00:58 +0000 Sarah Kollar http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13366

Over the past several weeks, Ocean Conservancy has received a wave of 2016 International Coastal Cleanup data. Thanks to volunteers from Idaho to Indonesia, data from the 2016 ICC and the Clean Swell app are pouring into our new ocean trash database. The trash by the numbers provides us with a year-by-year snapshot of the top items that plague our waterways and coastlines.

Lately, there’s been some buzz around one top ocean trash item in particular: plastic straws (over 211,000 already logged!). With a debris item that is so easily preventable, and a host of alternatives out there, individuals, organizations and whole communities are now taking action. The most recent success story: Chiles Restaurant Group of Anna Maria, Florida.

This group of three waterfront restaurants—Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant in Longboat Key, Beach House Restaurant in Bradenton Beach and Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria—is concerned about plastic pollution and has turned its attention to reducing their own impact in a number of ways.

The Chiles Restaurant Group is making significant strides in its efforts to be “plastic-free” and have implemented Single Stream Recycling in all three locations. This includes the introduction of a plastic cup alternative made exclusively of a commercial food grade cornstarch product which is completely biodegradable, unlike many other industry options. Other eco-initiatives include the elimination of all foam containers, saltine cracker wrappers and other non-biodegradable products normally associated with Food Service operations. Next steps include the introduction of a complete line of eco-friendly “to-go” containers and reusable packing crates for produce and seafood.

Chiles’ restaurants will communicate its environmentally-responsible actions through local restaurant marketing in the form of green messages designed to engage, educate and encourage its customers to join in their sustainable efforts to “Skip the Straw.” Equipped with ICC data and an understanding of the issue, the restaurants are spreading the word about what individuals can do to prevent marine debris, one straw at a time.

“As we ramp up our efforts to reduce our plastic footprint, we hope we can encourage others to do the same,” said Restaurant Group owner Ed Chiles.

YOU can take action, too. Sign the pledge to Skip the Straw and consider other ways to reduce single-use plastic in your life.

We are thrilled to work with environmentally-conscious businesses like the Chiles Restaurant Group. For more information on their “Skip the Straw” movement and other eco-initiatives, check out: http://www.islanddining.com.

Don’t forget to download Clean Swell and keep the data coming!

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Join the International Coastal Cleanup http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/14/join-the-international-coastal-cleanup/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/14/join-the-international-coastal-cleanup/#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2016 13:30:42 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12690

Written by Tori Glascock

Does all of this trash talk have you feeling down in the dumps? For 30 years, Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), has helped keep trash off our beaches and out of the ocean!

Volunteers from states and territories throughout the U.S. and more than 100 countries come together each year and participate in an ICC event near them. You can sign up to clean up or propose a new cleanup site! Three decades of Cleanups have yielded more than 210 million pounds of trash being collected and saved from polluting our ocean. Over 11.5 million volunteers have covered more than 360,000 miles of coastlines across the world.

In 2015 alone, beach, underwater and watercraft volunteers covered 25,188 miles and picked up 18,062,939 million pounds of trash. A plethora of plastic items was found including beverage bottles, bottle caps, straws, bags and utensils. Changes to daily habits such as Skipping the Straw when you go out to restaurants, using reusable water bottles instead of disposable plastic ones and using reusable grocery bags will make a huge impact on helping to decrease the amount of trash that is reaching our ocean.

This year the 31st International Coastal Cleanup will take place on September 17th, 2016. Join in for a day of sun, fun and conserving the ocean!

If you can’t make it to an ICC site, you can do your own cleanup! The International Coastal Cleanup may only be once a year but that is not the only time the coasts need cleaning up. Become a champion of your ocean and keep it trash free all year long. Every piece matters too! Through our mobile data collection app, Clean Swell, each item you pick up and log is one less piece of trash in the ocean and one more step towards trash free seas.

The best thing that you can do for the ocean is to pick up any trash you see, reduce-reuse-recycle and remember that all waterways lead to the ocean! Simple habit changes can have a huge positive impact on our mission to conserve the ocean.

See you at a Cleanup site on September 17th, 2016.

Check out this informative infographic to learn more about the impact of the International Coastal Cleanup.

Tori Glascock is a 2016 Ocean Conservancy Summer Intern. 

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The Impact of Ocean Trash http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/03/the-impact-of-ocean-trash/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/03/the-impact-of-ocean-trash/#comments Sat, 03 Sep 2016 13:30:54 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12686 Marine debris litters a beach on Laysan Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, where it washed ashore.

Photo: Susan White / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Written by Tori Glascock

Before there was a waste collection system in place on land, trash was left in the streets and disease was rampant. Similarly, the trash we are dumping into the ocean is having catastrophic effects on the animals that call the ocean home and the people who rely on oceanic ecosystems to sustain their livelihood.

Chief among the problems that ocean trash presents is the inability of ocean animals like sea turtles, seabirds and seals to distinguish what is food and what is trash. First and foremost, these animals should not have to make this distinction as there should not be such an abundance of our trash in the ocean—but we are passed that point and now must find ways to combat this issue.

Balloons and plastic bags appear as a favorite food to turtles and seabirds but prove to be hazardous once ingested. Not only does consuming a balloon cause internal damage, but the string attached to it also lends itself to be an entangling hazard were it to get stuck around an animal’s neck. Other plastic objects including bottle caps, straws and plastic utensils are equally as dangerous to marine life. Last year alone, Ocean Conservancy volunteers collected more than half a million straws and stirrers which are eaten by sea turtles and seabirds, and are even known to clog up the nostrils of turtles. Pledge to Skip the Straw and help limit the amount of straws that get into our ocean!

Seabirds, including gulls, are notoriously known to eat anything they come across, even your sandwich on the beach! These days it is a seemingly destructive characteristic to have because a portion of what they are eating is plastic. The plastic sits in their stomachs and can eventually lead to death. It is estimated that by 2050, 99% of all species of seabirds will be eating plastic and 95% of all individual seabirds will fall victim to the harmful effects of consuming plastic. The predicted percentage of species that will consume plastic is up from the 65% that eat plastic today which is a jump from the historical average of 26%. Also not safe from ocean plastics are juvenile sea turtles, as just .5 of a gram, one one-thousandth of a pound, of ingested plastic can kill them.

In addition to plastic consumer products and packaging, abandoned fishing gear poses  a severe danger to the animals that come in contact with it. Derelict fishing gear such as old nets, lines and pots are coined as ghost gear and lead to a practice known as ghost fishing; the entanglement and capture of marine animals by fishing gear that has been left in the ocean. Scientists recently found a sperm whale with over 440 pounds of fishing gear in its stomach. If you see fishing gear float by be sure to take it out of the water and dispose of it properly!

Stay tuned for our next blog post and  learn how you can help keep our oceans trash free.

Tori Glascock is a 2016 Ocean Conservancy Summer Intern. 

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The Problem of Ocean Trash http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/22/the-problem-of-ocean-trash/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/22/the-problem-of-ocean-trash/#comments Mon, 22 Aug 2016 14:04:36 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12665

Written by Tori Glascock

Each year an estimated 8 million metric tons, or 17 billion pounds, of plastic flows into the ocean. Enough is enough.

First and foremost, an endless flow of trash into the ocean will affect the health of humans and wildlife alike as well as compromise the livelihoods that depend on a healthy ocean. Trash and debris such as fishing gear, straws, and plastic bags pose a deadly threat to marine life. Fishing gear can trap helpless sea turtles and cut through flesh of whales, while plastic bags are easily mistaken as food and consumed by animals. Straws can be hazardous in that they can get stuck in a nostril, a blowhole, an eye, or even a throat.

80% of ocean trash is a product of land based sources (trash coming from activities on land) including the items listed above—plastic bags, straws, bottles—plastics that are used once and then discarded can end up in the ocean. Marine based pollution (trash reaching the ocean by activities done in the ocean) accounts for 20% of ocean trash, coming from marine vessels, cruise ships, and ocean-based industry such as oil rigs. Not surprisingly, 75% of land based ocean plastic is from uncollected waste that makes its way to waterways eventually reaching the ocean. The other 25% comes from waste that was collected but escaped the system, suggesting that there is work to be done on our waste management system. A complete overview of these statistics can be found in our Stemming the Tide report. If we don’t change our lifestyles soon, there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish in the ocean by 2025.

The idea of trash in the ocean is intrinsically associated with giant islands of trash floating in remote places, never reaching life-forms again. Contrary to popular belief this is entirely not the case. Not only does ocean plastic and debris span from the water’s surface all the way to the sea floor, but it fragments into small microplastics—plastic particles smaller than five mm in diameter. Think of microplastics like a posting to the web. Once you put something on the internet it is there forever, no matter how buried it may seem to get. Plastic that reaches the ocean is the same. Although it may seem to have disappeared, it has really only continued to breakdown into smaller and smaller pieces that will infiltrate the marine ecosystem for the foreseeable future.

Take a deep dive into the problem of ocean trash in the infographic below! It is interactive so click on something to learn more!

Tori Glascock is a 2016 Ocean Conservancy Summer Intern. 

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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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18 Million Fewer Pounds of Trash in Our Ocean: This Year’s Ocean Trash Index Has Arrived http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/26/18-million-fewer-pounds-of-trash-in-our-ocean-this-years-ocean-trash-index-has-arrived/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/26/18-million-fewer-pounds-of-trash-in-our-ocean-this-years-ocean-trash-index-has-arrived/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 14:11:22 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12157

Once again, the time has come to share the results of last year’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC)! This is an especially exciting year for the Ocean Trash Index because we’re celebrating the Cleanup’s 30th anniversary!

Each year, I’m amazed by the number of people who care about the health of our ocean. During the 2015 ICC, 791,336 people removed 18,062,911 pounds of trash from 25,188 miles of coast around the world. These volunteers collected trash on their local beaches and waterways and provided Ocean Conservancy with a snapshot of the most persistent forms of trash found along the beaches and waterways that’s impacting our ocean.

Volunteers part of the 2015 International Coastal Cleanup joined  the ranks of more than 11.5 million people who’ve joined the Cleanup over the last 30 years. I’m so grateful for the hard work of our volunteers, cleanup coordinators and local partners who help make the Cleanup a reality. We couldn’t do our work without their tremendous support.

This year—as in years past—one of the most commonly found items of trash were plastic drinking straws. These straws pose a real danger to animals like sea turtles, albatross and fish, who can eat them. That’s why we’re asking large, national restaurant chains make a difference for our ocean! You can help us take action by signing our petition asking restaurants to skip the straw.

Keeping straws out of our ocean, one drink at a time, will have a huge impact on the health of our ocean and the animals who call it home. Looking for more great ways to help create Trash Free Seas®? Try our suggestions below:

  • Check out the 2015 Ocean Trash Index and our infographics from the report  to learn more about the most pervasive types of trash.
  • Download Clean Swell, our newest app, and let us know what types of trash you’re collecting from your local beach. The app is available for both iPhone and Android.
  • Reduce your purchases of single-use disposable goods. Going reusable ensures throwaway plastics never have the chance to make it to beaches, waterways, or the ocean.
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Taking on Plastic at the Met Gala http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/03/taking-on-plastic-at-the-met-gala/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/03/taking-on-plastic-at-the-met-gala/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 19:54:46 +0000 Jackie Yeary http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12018

Photo: Emma Watson/Facebook

True confessions: I’m secretly a total Harry Potter nerd. Okay, maybe it’s not so secret… (#TeamHufflepuff anyone?) Which is why I did a literal happy dance in my living room when I saw Emma Watson’s gown for last night’s Met Gala.

Her look, designed by Calvin Klein with help from Eco-Age, incorporated recycled plastics into the body of the gown.  “Plastic is one of the biggest pollutants on the planet,” said Watson on Facebook. “Being able to repurpose this waste and incorporate it into my gown for the #MetGala proves the power that creativity, technology and fashion can have by working together.”

Emma’s point about the power of creativity is an important reminder. There are a lot of problems—big problems—facing our planet, and it’s going to require ingenuity and innovation to solve them. And if finding a sustainable way to create red carpet fashion brings more people to the table, then I say, “The more the merrier!”

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