Ocean Currents » plastic pollution http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 12 Jan 2017 17:11:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Happy Kids, Happy Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/30/happy-kids-happy-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/30/happy-kids-happy-ocean/#comments Wed, 30 Nov 2016 14:00:01 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13426

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.

Ocean Conservancy has been fighting back against ocean plastic pollution for the past 30 years. Fortunately, we’re not the only ones worried about ocean plastic pollution. Our corporate partners are helping to bring attention to this immense problem.

One such partner is toy company Once Kids. Started by an industrial designer and a marketing entrepreneur following the birth of their son, Once Kids is a design group that offers a range of environmentally-conscious toys.

Once Kids strives to design creative toys inspired by the classics that the founders, Brad and Emmy, played with as children. The resulting line of toys includes craft kits, building blocks, action figures, vehicles, and more. All toys are made from wood, a biodegradable and renewable resource that contrasts the plastics used in many children’s toys today.

We’re happy to have Once Kids as a partner in ocean conservation.  In addition to helping drive awareness of Ocean Conservancy’s work, Once Kids will invest 1% of total sales, with a guaranteed minimum of $25,000,  in our efforts to stem 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 purchasing products that support ocean conservation; every sustainable choice helps move us towards a healthier, happier ocean.

Want to see more ways you can shop to support our ocean? Check out our other partners here

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Turning Plastic Pollution into Art http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/21/turning-plastic-pollution-into-art/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/21/turning-plastic-pollution-into-art/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 21:07:56 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12324

It’s a bird! It’s a pile of trash! It’s…a bird made out of a pile of trash?

Plastic pollution is a growing threat to our ocean, with an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste flowing from land into the ocean every year. This means 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.

Every day, all over the world, concerned people take the problem into their own hands by cleaning up their local waterways. This summer, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. has developed a unique method of displaying the collected debris and raising awareness about the problem of ocean trash.

Washed Ashore: Art of Save the Sea is a massive exhibit featuring 17 sculptures of marine critters made of plastic pollution. From a polystyrene foam coral reef to a jellyfish made of plastic bottles, the pieces are eye-catching, beautifully intricate and entirely made of trash collected by volunteers from waterways around the world. Developed by the Washed Ashore Project, the main goals are to educate viewers about plastic pollution, challenge them to change their consumer habits and even inspire them to participate in a cleanup.

Ocean Conservancy is committed to keeping our beaches and ocean trash free. For 30 years we have sponsored the International Coastal Cleanup, where 11.5 million volunteers from 153 countries have collected 220 million pounds of trash. These efforts, combined with other creative approaches to tackling plastic pollution like the Washed Ashore exhibit, help us work towards a healthier, trash-free ocean.

If you’re in the Washington, DC area, you can see  the exhibit for yourself! The free exhibit is open every day from May 27 to September 5 during National Zoo hours. Hope to see you there!


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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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Go Behind the Scenes in the Philippines http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/29/go-behind-the-scenes-in-the-philippines/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/29/go-behind-the-scenes-in-the-philippines/#comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 16:49:53 +0000 Eric DesRoberts http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10787

ZSL staff and volunteers before this year’s International Coastal Cleanup Day.

A Look Back and a Sneak Peak Forward

We’ve been working behind the scenes for a more than a year, working on solutions to plastic pollution in the ocean. Tomorrow, we’ll reveal our new report, Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic free ocean. Before we reveal our next steps, we wanted to take a look back over the last 30 years of the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), and the partners who have made the work possible.

We recently traveled to the Philippines to attend a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and sat down with longtime ICC volunteer coordinator Amado Blanco, the Project Manager (Net-Works) at Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in the Philippines.

The Philippines are one of five countries we’re focusing on as a solution to plastic pollution, so we wanted to get a better idea of what is actually happening on the ground. Amado has worked with us for more than 15 years, and provides some great insights.

Q: Amado, tell us about the main goals and objectives of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) – Philippines, and some of your marine debris initiatives.

A: ZSL envisions a world where animals are valued, and their conservation is assured. Its mission is to promote the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL recently embraced its 2026 Mission Targets, which includes the following:

  • Define and monitor the status of the world’s protected areas and at least 20,000 species
  • Improve the status of at least 100 of the world’s most threatened and distinct species
  • Protect and restore at least 1 million km2 of coastal and marine habitat and ½ million km2 of terrestrial habitat
  • Ensure best practice for natural resource use in at least 1 million km2 of priority production landscapes

Over the years, ZSL has actively promoted and supported the annual International Coastal Cleanup.  While we have helped catalyze the annual participation of partner communities and local governments in the ICC, we have also developed our Net-Works banner initiative, directed at finding more sustainable, broad-based, and innovative solutions to addressing instances of dumping or abandoning fishing nets in our ocean. Abandoned nets are disastrous to both people and environment, and they result in a phenomenon known as ghost fishing. With fisheries declining globally, we cannot afford to set up ghost traps.

Q: You mentioned that ZSL has led International Coastal Cleanup events in the past. After your 15 years of clean ups, tell us how you think the ICC is connected to your work?

A: Over the years, our organization has actively promoted the ICC and trained a network of partner communities. I am proud to say many of these communities can now host ICC events independently.  This year, ZSL Philippines organized a cleanup in Guindacpan Island in Danajon Bank primarily to mobilize in-house divers and local fishers to collect discarded nets, test if we can tap our partner community bank as a buying station of other recyclable plastics, and generate funds internally to enhance management of existing marine protected area through a match funding scheme whereby Net-Works matches every peso that is generated from the sale of nets and other plastics collected on community cleanup day.

Q: Tell us about the hurdles to your work? If so, how were you able to overcome them?

A: The first major hurdle we had to grapple with was choosing the right community-level social infrastructures for Net-Works. Initially, we only had resources to implement the proof of concept phase for six months.  My UK based manager and I explored local and international community-banking experiences, which eventually led us to the works of Feed The Children Philippines and World Vision Philippines on community banking.

I think what allowed us to overcome our dilemma was the approach of scanning and tapping into what already existed on site and our willingness to embrace new approaches. Community banks are now primarily driving collections of nets for recycling.

We are still trying to figure out how to deal with waste  from plastics produced internally and exported by sea currents to island villages and isolated mainland coastal communities. Perhaps this is something that we could work with Ocean Conservancy on.

Q:  Since 2012, your work has focused on fishing gear that would otherwise clog our waterways – describe the changes and impacts that you’ve seen.

A: As of August 2015, Net-Works has shipped 51,934kg (114,495 lbs.) of net out to Aquafil in Slovenia – bringing communities into a mainstream supply chain for nylon yarn. Gross value of the volume of nets collected is US $63,653, of which $26,626 represents direct community income and the rest is infused into the local economy via baling labor, porterage, transport service fees, and export facilitation.

Net-Works now operates in 22 collection sites in two regions in central Philippines. It has set up 15 community banks that serve as on-site buying stations of used nets and platforms for village-level conservation education and actions. The community banks are self-generating their own social funds, which extend modest financial support to members in case a family member needs to be taken to a hospital or buy medications. It has now gone global with the establishment of the project in four villages in the Lake Ossa region of Cameroon, West Africa.

Q: We’re about to release a new report that focuses on the importance of implementing waste management infrastructures in rapidly industrializing countries – what would that mean to you in the Philippines?

A: I think the success of solutions rests heavily on communities, industry support, and an ecological governance platform supported by strong political will. In countries with population nearing or already past explosion levels, like the Philippines, households and communities are the biggest producers of plastic wastes. Hence, genuine and sustained participation of communities is very crucial.

Industry has the flexibility and resources to support both research and development of innovative approaches, and create market value and a strong supply chain for recyclable plastics. The income communities derived by tapping the industry-linked supply chain provides long-term motivation for waste recycling. For instance, Interface provided ZSL resources to undertake a short proof-of-concept project, which essentially involved assessing the viability of partnering with community organizations as social infrastructures for net recycling and developing and testing the Net-Works business model. And, through dialogue with another industry player (Aquafil), Interface set up a secure market for nets collected by community organizations ZSL Philippines helped catalyze.

Government should elevate ecological governance to a new height. This governance should go beyond mere passage of ecological waste management policies and programs, procurement and installation of stand-alone garbage bins and materials recovery facilities. Setting the standards for long-term compliance and eventually molding the societal norms on how wastes should be managed should drive the strict implementation of these policies and programs. Governments can also provide incentives to industries that invest on capital intensive waste recycling ventures (e.g. waste to power or waste to fuel).

Q: Tell us about the success of your partnership with Interface.

A: In 2011, Interface convened two workshops with ZSL, yarn supplier Aquafil, and experts from business and conservation. The workshops allowed attendees to share their goals and interests and the ultimate result was a pilot of Net-Works in the Danajon Bank in 2012.

For ZSL this was an opportunity to tackle the growing environmental problem of discarded fishing nets and work with communities to protect the ecosystem, improve their livelihoods and harness the benefits of partnering with a corporate. For, Interface, the company has a goal to source 100% recycled material for its carpet tiles by the year 2020, and the nets represented a perfect feedstock.

Q: What do you think about the importance of recycling and waste management in the Philippines and other rapidly developing economies?

A:  I think with the current educational level of our people, the majority or people understand why we should not throw wastes indiscriminately as flooding and inland water bodies, will eventually transport wastes to the sea. In populous countries like the Philippines, managing wastes at source points (i.e. households and communities) is vital to reducing the volume of waste that end up in the sea.

Translating understanding into sustained practice is about eliminating barriers and providing incentives. It is very important that household and community level waste management initiatives are linked to effective waste collection systems, which should be the primary responsibility of our state institutions, especially local government units. Nobody likes to live in a dirty environment and living in a healthy community is in itself an incentive. With Net-Works, we have demonstrated that waste management can be made more compelling when participation can also mean immediate economic and social incentives. In coastal villages where Net-Works operates, fishers are no longer throwing away used fishing nets because we have set up community associations (which act practically like garbage receptacles) that buy their discarded nets at compelling prices.

Q: What suggestions or tips would you give to people who want to reduce their waste footprint?

A: We should rethink and alter our consumption patterns. A person’s consumption pattern determines the potential volume of wastes. In populous countries like the Philippines, the family is the best place to inculcate and demonstrate positive consumer values and discipline.

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The 2014 International Coastal Cleanup Data Are In http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/19/the-2014-international-coastal-cleanup-data-are-in/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/19/the-2014-international-coastal-cleanup-data-are-in/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 12:18:20 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10198

Another year, another incredible volunteer effort—I’m excited to share with you today the findings from last year’s International Coastal Cleanup. In 2014, more than 560,000 people picked up more than 16 million pounds of trash along nearly 13,000 miles of coastlines. Thank you to all the volunteers, Coordinators and partners who participated and devoted countless hours and resources!

Last year’s Cleanup had the largest weight of trash collected during any Ocean Conservancy Cleanup since its inception 29 years ago. Volunteers from 91 countries gathered detailed information from their Cleanups to provide a snapshot of the most persistent forms of trash found along the beaches and waterways that’s impacting our ocean.

This data represents what was found at the 29th Cleanup – each and every year hundreds of thousands of volunteers step up to meet the challenge and help clean up the beaches and waterways in their communities. There’s no doubt in my mind – as the Cleanup report will show you – the unparalleled effort of volunteers around the world results in cleaner beaches, rivers and lakes for all to enjoy.

In order to truly achieve a world with trash free seas though, Ocean Conservancy is expanding its work beyond just Cleanups. We’re working with corporations, scientists, government and other nonprofit organizations to stop the flow of trash at the source, before it has a chance to reach the ocean to entangle dolphins or endanger sea turtles, or ruin our beaches and depress local economies. Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance is one such example, working to identify ways to augment waste collection and management in countries where plastic inputs into the ocean are currently greatest. With improved waste collection comes improved health and sanitation that benefits everyone – and the ocean.

Trash jeopardizes the health of the ocean, coastline, economy and people. It’s in our ocean and waterways and on our beaches—but, it is entirely preventable.

A recent publication in the journal Science shows that approximately eight million metric tons of plastic are entering our ocean annually. We know this input of unnatural material into the ocean is detrimental to wildlife and habitats – animals ingest it and can get entangled in it; it litters our beaches and waterways; and costs communities hundreds of millions of dollars.

If we take action now though, we can stem this tide of plastic pollution for future generations. There is no silver bullet. Everyone is part of the solution:  industry, governments, and other NGOs. And the first step is bringing the most influential players to the table, which is exactly what Ocean Conservancy is doing.

The American Chemistry Council represents some of the world’s largest producers of plastic. We’d like them to acknowledge that plastic in the ocean is a BIG problem AND agree to come to the table with Ocean Conservancy and other industry leaders to engage in an open dialog to pursue real solutions for preventing plastics from reaching the ocean.

Take Action Now: Tell the American Chemistry Council to be part of the solution.

I’m hopeful that together, we can make a difference!

And, don’t forget about this year’s Cleanup! Please mark you calendars and save the date. We’d love it if you could join us for the 2015 Cleanup on September 19. We need more volunteers than ever to join our movement and make a bigger difference.

Here are five things you can do:

    • Be a part of the next International Coastal Cleanup, scheduled for September 19. www.signuptocleanup.org
    • 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.
    • Take action and tell the American Chemistry Council to be part of the solution.
    • Check out our Cleanup report!
    • And, really check out the infographics from our Cleanup report and share them with your friends on social media.
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Trashing Paradise: The Case of the Philippines http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/16/trashing-paradise-the-case-of-the-philippines/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/16/trashing-paradise-the-case-of-the-philippines/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 13:00:42 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9864

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.

The fundamental issue is how to solve this large and growing problem on land, and in doing so, protect the ocean from the harm that debris causes. The Philippine government has adopted a number of laws needed to help mitigate solid waste.  The problem is these laws and product bans don’t work well if community members don’t understand the consequences of their actions or know why these policies were designed. This lack of awareness about solid waste and its effects on local waterways and the ocean is ultimately crippling the Philippines’ national process to confront the problem. To stem it nationwide, a concerted effort is needed from the ground-up, one that actively involves community members in the discussion.

I recently returned from Tabaco City, Albay, a port city in Southern Luzon facing the Pacific, where I was a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer working on coastal resource management. After seeking input from local leaders and experts, I worked with Bicol University Tabaco Campus (BUTC) and Dean Plutomeo Nieves to develop and launch the Save the Rivers, Save the Sea Program.

Begun in January 2014, this three-year program has been using a participatory, community-based approach to address solid waste management, improve river water and habitat sustainability, and thereby protect our ocean. Local students and youth representatives are both the facilitators and target audience; the program seeks to empower them to initiate action, repair existing degradation, and be leaders in sustaining their local ecosystems for future generations.

Thus far, 36 BUTC students have facilitated a community needs assessment amongst almost 300 local households. The students interviewed residents and sought information related to solid waste management practices, community involvement, and river usage. River water quality testing and cleanup events are ongoing, and future program activities will include educational campaigns to inform and educate the community and the establishment of a Bantay Ilog, or “river watch team.”  With this groundwork in place, the Save the Rivers, Save the Sea Program hopes to facilitate the co-management efforts needed for future urban river sustainability and solid waste management in Tabaco City.

With proactive national and provincial policies, local awareness and activism, and financial resources to build a foundation of leadership, we can take the next step in stemming the flow of debris in the rivers and coastal environment of the Philippines.  This will be one small step in solving the global problem of plastics pollution in the ocean identified last week in Science. While it is troubling that the scientists found that the Philippines is a major source of ocean trash, efforts such as the Save the Rivers, Save the Sea Program can be a model for how other local communities can contribute to a global effort to protect the oceans from the threat of land-based debris.

About Andrew Wynne

Andrew Wynne is a graduate student in Environmental Studies at the University of Charleston, South Carolina and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. He served in the Philippines (2012-2014) as a Coastal Resource Management Advisor, and hopes to continue to educate and inspire others to create healthy coastal environments. A SCUBA diver and former college athlete, Andrew lives an active lifestyle fueled by travel and exploration, but never strays too far from the water.

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Trash-Talking On Our 42nd Birthday http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/07/trash-talking-on-our-42nd-birthday/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/07/trash-talking-on-our-42nd-birthday/#comments Sun, 07 Sep 2014 12:00:43 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9177  

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.

And it’s not like that trash just bobs around on the surface (about 70 percent of plastics produced float), looking ugly but doing little harm.  Quite the opposite – we have report after report coming in that most of the plastic degrades into tiny pieces, which, if you’re an anchovy or a sardine or a turtle, look a lot like food.  Much of it is eaten and is inside the animals.  And to makes things worse, these tiny plastic pellets have the nasty property of adsorbing and concentrating the low-level industrial pollution that is ubiquitous in seawater, effectively turning plastic fragments into toxic pellets.  So what we get is a slow contamination of the entire ocean biota.

The majority of ocean trash hails from rapidly industrializing countries where plastics consumption is exploding and waste management infrastructure lags far behind.  Eventually, these countries will implement waste systems, but by then it will be too late – plastics stick around the ocean for hundreds of years.  Unfortunately, there are no silver bullet solutions – plastics are unlikely to be banned or replaced in time to avoid the avalanche over the next ten years. To address the systemic problem, what is needed is for plastic and consumer product industries to step to the forefront and put their enormous resources to work.  We can’t do it without them.  Nobody knows logistics better.  Nobody is more skilled at social marketing.  And certainly, nobody has more financial resources.

We are starting a major campaign on ocean trash that goes far beyond the scope of our traditional International Coastal Cleanup.  In the years to come, we will lead the development of an entirely new approach to financing and establishing critically needed infrastructure in those places which spew the most plastic into the ocean.  Stay close, stay tuned in, and become involved.  We can do this.

Forty-two has never looked better. And our biggest birthday wish is to stop the flow of plastics into the ocean.  But before we can achieve that reality, the best gift you can give us for our birthday is to join us on September 20 for the International Coastal Cleanup.

We thank you. And the ocean thanks you.

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