Ocean Currents » 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 Plastic Pollution is Threatening the Arctic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/26/plastic-pollution-is-threatening-the-arctic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/26/plastic-pollution-is-threatening-the-arctic/#comments Wed, 26 Apr 2017 17:49:52 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14257

Scientists are learning more about the threats microplastics pose to our ocean. Photo credit: NOAA

Last week, a new study published in in the journal Science Advances found that the Arctic Ocean is accumulating high concentrations of plastics―specifically in the Greenland and Barents seas. I wanted to share with you why this study is so alarming, what it means for the health of the ocean and how you can help. Here are five things you need to know from the new study. 

The trash traveled a long way

The accumulation of plastic in the Arctic region is almost certainly not caused by local populations. Instead, it’s carried in from distant regions by currents in the Atlantic Ocean—a sort of “plastic conveyor belt,” as the researchers put it—which culminates in Arctic waters.  Researchers found that the Arctic plastic was tiny, weathered and aged, indicating that it had been traveling the seas for decades, fragmenting into smaller and smaller pieces along the way. The study didn’t document much plastic in the Arctic Ocean beyond the Greenland and Barents seas, again suggesting that currents—or the ‘conveyer belt’—carried the debris to Arctic waters.

The Arctic is worth protecting

The Arctic is home to animals found nowhere else on Earth. Where else can you find the longest living vertebrate on the planet (the 400-year old Greenland shark), the unicorn of the sea (the narwhal), and the colorful Spectacled Eider? Polar bears prowl the ice looking for ringed seals. Pacific walruses, too, call the Arctic home. They dive from ice floes and use their sensitive whiskers to locate mollusks on the ocean floor.

Trash in the Arctic is unique

Plastic pollution is not the only threat to imperil the Arctic. Today the Arctic faces unparalleled challenges from oil and gas development, increasing vessel traffic and other industrial activity— not to mention increasing water temperatures, decreasing sea ice and other climate change effects. All these impacts jeopardize the integrity of the Arctic marine ecosystem. Adding ocean plastics to this list of pressures is simply not acceptable.

Arctic summer sea ice is shrinking to ever-lower levels, and more and more vessels are venturing into the open water. As vessel traffic in the region grows, so too does the threat posed by both intentional and incidental discharge of trash and other waste into Arctic waters. Therefore, it’s critical that we put in place strong environmental protection measures for the Arctic now. 

Ocean pollution is a BIG problem

Scientists have recorded nearly 700 species of marine wildlife that have been affected by marine debris. With an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste entering the ocean every year from land, marine species will be living in an ocean that could contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025!

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. These tiny fragments are harming marine life—that  not only ingest microplastics, but also take them in through their gills.

There may be no practical way to clean up ocean plastic on a large scale, especially microplastics in remote, turbulent places like the Arctic. But thanks to research like that published by Cozar et al. (2017), we’re continuing to understand the transport and fate of ocean plastics The next step is translating that into better waste reduction and management practices on land.

People are a BIG part of the solution

The Arctic research points to people as the source of the problem. Fortunately, people are also the solution.

Over the course of the 32-year history of the International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers have removed more than 220 million items from beaches and waterways around the world. One memorable story comes from Colleen Rankin—a marine debris cleanup veteran. She lives in Blue Fox Bay, Alaska. Colleen regularly hauls debris off remote beaches miles away back to her home, where she re-uses whatever she can and stores the rest for eventual disposal. Colleen says, “even here on the coast of Alaska, I’m surrounded every day by reminders of people from faraway places. That’s because the beaches near my home are literally covered in plastic, trash and netting.”

Currently, there is a bi-partisan bill in Congress that will further support the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research to better understand the impacts of this marine pollution and identify solutions to stop the flow of plastic waste into our ocean and onto remote shores like Blue Fox Bay.

You can join in by taking action and telling your Senators to support this important piece of legislation.

And whether you’re on the shores of Blue Fox Bay or the river in Brooklyn, you can join in local cleanup efforts—joining the thousands of International Coastal Cleanup® volunteers who are working for a cleaner ocean by picking up the millions of pounds of trash that wash onto beaches and into waterways around the world.

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Ocean Trash: It’s Not OK http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/21/ocean-trash-its-not-ok/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/21/ocean-trash-its-not-ok/#comments Tue, 21 Feb 2017 16:25:02 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13761

“It’s not ok to destroy our ocean. It’s not one person’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem.” — Kelly Slater, world champion surfer and Outerknown founder

Kelly Slater knows something about a healthy ocean. As an 11-time World Surf League Champion, Slater has spent countless hours in marine environments all over the world and seen how beautiful—and damaged—the ocean can be. He has seen first-hand the massive amounts of marine debris and plastic that end up in our ocean, threatening wildlife from whales to plankton. And that, says Slater, is not OK.

When Slater joined menswear designer John Moore to found the Outerknown clothing brand, their mission was simple, yet monumental: to view every aspect of the business through the lens of responsibility. By developing stylish yet sustainable products, their goal was to help protect our natural resources, empower the people crafting the clothes and inspire positive change within the industry.

Now, Outerknown is joining forces with Ocean Conservancy to launch the #ITSNOTOK program to raise awareness about the massive environmental problem of marine trash and inspire people to take action and clean up our ocean.

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.

Here at Ocean Conservancy, we’ve been fighting back against ocean pollution for over 30 years. Our annual International Coastal Cleanup has mobilized nearly 12 million volunteers all around the world and has prevented 220 million pounds of trash from flowing into the ocean. But it’s going to take a coordinated effort from all types of stakeholders, including industry, to truly tackle the massive problem of ocean trash.

Outerknown’s new #ITSNOTOK collection includes products developed from sustainable materials like organic cotton. 100% of the profits from the sale of these products will be donated to Ocean Conservancy to support our work to conserve our ocean.

“We’re thrilled to be the first recipients of Outerknown’s #ITSNOTOK campaign to tackle the crisis of marine debris,” said Andreas Merkl, CEO of Ocean Conservancy. “The ocean is part of all of us and every single person can help make a positive difference to our ocean and coastal communities.”

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Our Next Wave in Tackling Marine Debris http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/14/our-next-wave-in-tackling-marine-debris/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/14/our-next-wave-in-tackling-marine-debris/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2017 17:46:44 +0000 Susan Ruffo http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13744

Trash and plastic waste is unfortunately everywhere in our ocean. From our coasts to the Arctic, to the deepest part of the ocean, marine debris is a growing, global problem. Without concerted efforts to combat marine debris now, the volume of plastic waste entering our ocean will only grow.

Roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enter our ocean each year. Most of that is trash that is never collected, but instead is thrown into city streets or rural areas, or even directly into our rivers and seas. Clearly, the lack of effective waste management is one of the greatest challenges we face in tackling this global issue. Our research in 2015 revealed that if key countries in Asia Pacific improve their waste management, we could halve the flow of plastic into our ocean by 2025. Good waste management—including effectively picking up and sorting trash—is also essential for a future in which waste can be recovered and repurposed. Effective waste management can also deliver public health, economic development and climate benefits. But, what can we do to ensure this becomes reality?

Ocean Conservancy has been working with partners around the world to identify the barriers to effective waste management, including financing, and to provide a roadmap for how businesses, governments and nonprofits can come together around this issue as a key piece of solving the ocean plastic problem. When paired with efforts to reduce and reuse waste, these efforts will allow us to take a great leap forward in protecting the ocean, the climate and public health.

An initiative of the Trash Free Seas Alliance®, The Next Wave: Investment Strategies for Plastic Free Seas presents thoughtful, thorough analysis designed to lay out options to more easily attract investment to effective waste management in key regions. The report outlines the challenges associated with financing effective waste management and identifies options to attract new investments for it in developing Asia-Pacific economies. Building off the work in Stemming the Tide, our hope is that The Next Wave will help to change the way municipal waste systems can be designed to attract more public, entrepreneurial and private sector interest.

Connecting funds to waste management projects in areas where the need is greatest has proven to be a great challenge. With a multi-sector approach, enduring and innovative waste management systems can be realized, and these systems will help stem the tide of plastic waste into our ocean while also improving the health and prosperity of local communities.

No one organization or sector can solve this problem alone, but with combined efforts and renewed thinking, we can remove a key barrier to preventing marine debris.

Please join us on this next wave forward, and together we’ll move even closer to a future of trash free seas.

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Thanks for a Fantastic International Coastal Cleanup! http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/20/thanks-for-a-fantastic-international-coastal-cleanup/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/20/thanks-for-a-fantastic-international-coastal-cleanup/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 13:00:37 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12890

Thank YOU! This weekend, we wrapped up another spectacular International Coastal Cleanup. Thank you so much to all of our volunteers and supporters who came out to make a difference for our ocean.

Hundreds of thousands of people turned out all over the world to clean up their local beaches and waterways.

Thank you again to everyone who participated in the International Coastal Cleanup. I am so grateful to have allies like you joining me in the fight against marine debris. While beach cleanups alone can’t solve the ocean trash problem, they are an integral piece to the overall solution.

From all of us at Ocean Conservancy – Thank You! See photos from International Coastal Cleanups below:

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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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Fight Back Against Marine Debris http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/18/fight-back-against-marine-debris/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/08/18/fight-back-against-marine-debris/#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2016 13:00:44 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12635

Written by Senator Cory Booker

Every 60 seconds, what amounts to roughly a garbage truck full of plastic makes its way into the ocean.  That means that over the next year about 8 million tons of plastic will enter the ocean, creating a massive amount of marine pollution.

It’s estimated that if we don’t do anything to address this source of pollution, there will be one pound of plastic for every three pounds of fish in the ocean by 2025.

Preventing further damage to our oceans will require a coordinated global effort, and the United States has a vital role to play in leading this charge.

Here at home, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is responsible for the Marine Debris Program, which leads the government effort to address, research and prevent waste pollution in our oceans. But the congressional authorization for this program expired back in 2015, and it now faces uncertain prospects. What’s more, while marine debris is a global issue, current law doesn’t recognize the authority of the Marine Debris Program to work collaboratively with international partners. Empowering program staff to engage in international collaboration will allow the Marine Debris Program to share its expertise and further its impact here in the U.S. and around the world.

Recognizing the need for an updated law, I recently introduced the Marine Debris Act of 2016, a bill that if passed will extend the authorization of the Marine Debris Program until 2021. The bill also recognizes the authority of the program’s staff to work with a coalition of international partners, making it easier for the United States to help develop and lead a coordinated response to the global problem of marine debris.

Passing this bill won’t solve our global marine debris problem, but it will mark a renewed commitment by the United States to leading the effort to clean up our oceans.

When it comes to making our oceans cleaner and healthier, we don’t have a minute to waste.

Take Action: Join Senator Booker and show your support for the Marine Debris Act of 2016 today!

Cory Booker was elected to represent New Jersey in the United States Senate in 2013. 

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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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