Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 190 - January 27, 2011


life guard tower 26 - Ocean Park, Santa Monica CA
trash collected for 20 min.
1.7 pounds collected 
718.7 pounds total


looks like a boogie board leash to me if you can't tell

This week there was a lot of stirring the pot around reusable bags. BEWARE OF REUSABLE BAGS SCARE it could be called. A study was covered by the San Fransisco Chronicle that some reusable bags that had been tested had high levels of lead and other toxins in them. 
Well SAVE THE BAY - a San Fransisco based non-profit - came out with a statement in response that I will copy in part for you here.

"The State of California has laws in place to protect consumers from dangerous levels of lead in products and these laws must be enforced. Even so, very few reusable bags on the market actually contain lead, with the best choice being reusable bags made of canvas or cloth. Meanwhile, plastic bags – with their average use time of 12 minutes – litter our neighborhoods, clog our storm drains, and end up in San Francisco Bay where they degrade water quality and entangle and poison Bay fish and birds. Now THAT is something that should worry consumers." 

Go check out Project Green Bag. Bags made from organic cotton with very cool graphics by a man who really, truly cares about the environment. I think they are even made in San Fransisco....



I really love Chico Bags too. Andy Keller - the company's founder - had this to say about his bags.
I might also add that this man is someone who really, truly cares about the environment too. 

"ChicoBag is a leader in upholding rigorous lead testing standards, exceeding government regulations, to ensure consumer safety. ChicoBag™ utilizes third party testing on every single order. In fact, our products are lead tested three different times before they ever enter your home or business. We adhere to testing standards even more stringent than those set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) for children's toys. In addition to the CPSIA standards, we go one step further to ensure our products also adhere to the more stringent lead standards for children's toys set forth in ASTM F963-07"

In short - know the company that you are buying the reusable bag from. We'd say that about any product, wouldn't we? Get a bag from either of these guys and you are good to go!

But to be extra clear on this issue Andy also clarifies one more thing for us regarding the article on lead in the bags.

"The current CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) standard is 300 PPM (Parts Per Million of lead).  This number will drop to 100 PPM on August 14th, 2011 if technically feasible.  So, most of the bags mentioned in the article are below 300, but above 100 (Within the legal limit).  The few that are above 300 are not compliant and should be recalled.  These bags are made by companies with insufficient or nonexistent testing procedures."

With two bag bans passing in CA cities this week, does any one else think the release of this study is rather timely??  



I had the privilege of watching a pod of dolphins playing, and fishing at sunset tonight very close to shore. This is the only photograph that I captured one of their fins in primarily because I wanted to watch them with my eyes, and not through the lens. 
The sky really was this color.



This is a shot of where I was standing to watch the pod. It reinforced my desire to get the trash off the beach so that these local dolphins weren't gulping it down with their meal. I want to make sure that no marine animal has to eat the plastic detritus from our throw away culture ever again. It's a big goal, but a girl can dream big can't she?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 189 - Jan. 26, 2010


life guard tower 26 - Ocean Park, Santa Monica CA
trash collected for 20 minutes
.6 pounds collected
717.6 pounds total

COMMUNITY COLLECTION DAY - 108 
JON AND MARK
1.4 pounds collected
663.2 pounds total

DAILY OCEAN COMBINED TOTAL = 1,380.8 POUNDS



I met up with John and Mark on the beach for a cleanup before we all went over to Santa Monica City Hall to support the city council in adopting their Single-Use Plastic Bag Ordinance. 

LAST NIGHT WE BANNED THE PLASTIC BAG IN SANTA MONICA!

It was a great feeling to see our community come together. There were folks there from Heal the Bay, like Kirsten James, and Director Mark Gold who gave a passionate 2 min. presentation to the council. Surfrider was well represented by Kat Nyugen and Julie Shultz, who won the Wavemaker Award this year for their dedication to Surfrider and the environment. Anna Cummins was there out front with Ban the Bag signs. She passed over some gyre samples from their research expeditions to Julie who was able to represent The 5 Gyres Institute as well by sharing these samples with the council members.

Team Marine from SAMOHI was there in force. They have exams coming up, but they still found the time to write great 2 min. talks and show up for their city, and the ocean. I sat next to my friend Heather Lounsbury who has a kick ass acupuncture practice here in Santa Monica, and a very compelling Blog Talk Radio show as well! Mark Armen was there who has his Bait Tanks up on the Santa Monica Pier attracting cigarette butt liter, and keeping those toxins out of the bay. Jon Wouters was with us. He's been a big supporter of The Daily Ocean, so thank you Jon!

All of this is to say THANK YOU to all of the people who were with this issue back when the City Council first took it up in 2008. THANK YOU for those of who have shown up every time that there has been a hearing that would allow public comment. THANK YOU to our collective community of people who really give a shit about the ocean, the larger environment, their own health, the health of those to come, and who continue to give their time and energy to it all. I felt pretty proud to be a small part of it all last night. 


Mark suggested that we call out some of the brands/companies who should be responsible for their products. I agree. I think that Extended Producer Responsibility is a great idea. Broken down into very simple terms, it states that if you make a product that you are then resposible for the end of that product's life. Miriam Gordon who is the head of Clean Water Action in San Fransisco works on this a lot. CWA is a great group. If you don't know about them, check them out!


I don't think that someone took the time to cut out this fish shape from their chips bag. Jon found it, and pointed it out to me. Odd, isn't it? Not the kind of fish we want at the beach. 


I like the sun in the background illuminating Jon like some kind of beach angel. 



Santa Monica is a beautiful place to live. I am really looking forward to finding fewer plastic bags on the beach. Hopefully that will be a result once the Bag Ban is put into full effect by Sept., 2011.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

TRASHED IN THE BAHAMAS






My neighbor down the street was in the Bahamas recently and here is what she found on the beach.
I didn't know that she was going to collect some trash off of the sand on her vacation until she sent me an email yesterday with this picture attached, which says it all. Every day, all over the world, this is what is washing up on our beaches. 

Solution? I try to phase out plastic packaging on my food. For example - I love Trader Joe's, but have you ever gone there and tried to avoid buying your food packaged in plastic? It is a difficult challenge! We go to the farmers market for our produce when we can. It is grown locally, it's healthy, and we bring our own bags to carry it home in.

Mary is an excellent photographer and print maker who shares a studio with her husband on Ocean Park Blvd. in my neighborhood. You can stop by there, or find her online. 

1616 Ocean Park Blvd. 
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Sunday, January 23, 2011

WINNING SHORT FILM FROM SUNDANCE

"IT STARTS WITH ME" - a short film by Destin Cretton

My friend Danielle of the blog, "It Starts With Me," was featured at the Sundance Film Festival as a winner of the Brita Filter For Good Contest. I am so inspired by watching her in this brief film. 

She came out onto the beach in Santa Monica with me over the summer. This film is about the cigarette butt cleanups that she started when she got home. So far she has collected way over 13,000 cigarette butts off of Wrightsville Beach, in NC. 

What strikes me most about the film, is that you never know who you are going to meet, connect with, what inspiration sparks from that chemistry, and then all of the wondrous outcomes that develop because of these chance encounters. 

I am so grateful that they included a brief bit in the film on The Daily Ocean. A special thank you to the film's director Destin Cretton for including me in his project. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did. Here is how to find Danielle, and how to find Mark. Enjoy.

Friday, January 21, 2011

PROJECT GREEN BAG FOR DONATIONS!!


HOLA! WE ARE IN CHILE PREPARING TO SET SAIL IN A WEEK OR SO. 


WE HAVE NOT RAISED ENOUGH TO MEET EXPENSES SO A $10 DONATION TO OUR RESEARCH WITH 5 GYRES GETS YOU ONE OF THESE SUPER COOL BAGS!
 2 left 
ACT FAST!

PROJECT GREEN BAG


PROJECT GREEN BAG HAS KINDLY DONATED 4 BAGS AS GIVEAWAYS FOR YOUR DONATIONS TO OUR 5 GYRES INSTITUTE RESEARCH EXPEDITION
FOR A $10 DONATION, YOU GET YOUR CHOICE OF PGB BAG 

                                                                         2 BROWN


EMAIL ME TO RECEIVE ONE: thedailyocean@yahoo.com


Superior Quality & Standards

x Certified 100% Organic Cotton
x Printed with Eco Friendly Inks
x Made in San Francisco, CA. USA
x Reusable + Recyclable
x 100% Biodegradable
x Sweatshop Free
x Multifunctional
x Super Strong & Durable
x Machine Washable - (courtesy of the PGB website)

I FOUND A LINK TO THIS VIDEO ON PGB WEBSITE. UNDER 2 MIN. IT CAPTURES WHY WE ALL NEED TO GO REUSABLE. START BY MAKING A DONATION FOR YOUR PGB BAG TODAY!



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 188- Jan 20, 2011


life guard tower 26 - Ocean Park, Santa Monica CA
trash collected for 20 minutes
2 pounds collected 
717 pounds total

Excuse my almost unbearably artsy photo thru the fence, but I like it. 

My friend Ronni sent me a link to today's post from, The Independent. "TRASH HOTEL OPENS IN MADRID." It is aptly named the Save the Beach hotel. This trashy hotel is constructed out of twelve tons of items found littered on Europe's beaches and is designed to "raise awareness of the plight of coastlines and seas around the world."

It was designed by a German artist - HA Schult. You've got to see this place!
Would you like to spend a night in the hotel? Well, you can! Book your stay here.


Garen and I were interviewed by a KTLA reporter on Tues. Our segment aired last night. I was pretty happy with it. It was the first time that either one of us had been interviewed for a TV station. If you would like to check it out, here is the link.



Harry, of the Flotsam Diaries in Northern Maine found a Toy Story Balloon. I found one recently on Day 181, which was on Dec. 27th. He has his posted for Jan. 19th, just less than a month after my west coast find. 

He makes a very good point in his most recent post. 


I knew this, in fact I think about it a lot. I talked about it in our interview with KTLA that we can't go clean it up because these bits are too small to drag out. You'd take everything with it. 

SO then I realized that the popular myth that there is a "floating island of trash" out there somewhere was what I would rather have. We could search for it, find it, break it apart, and haul it in. Afterwards, we'd wipe our hands from a hard job done well. The truth is far more insidious, and deadly. 

The solution? We try to phase out as much single-use plastic products, and packaging as possible. It's a process, but one we are committed to. I have to. I see the detritus of our convenience culture underneath every beautiful pacific sunset on my beach. You may be thinking that these efforts are futile because the whole world isn't going to do this. Well, what if no one tried at all? What would the world look like then? And what if eventually, we all did? What would the world look like then?


My friend Siel, aka green LA girl, posted an interesting link to Freakonomics Radio: The Economics of Trash on her blog. The leading photograph in the article is of approx. 25 bags of bulging, black hefty plastic bags lining a NYC sidewalk on presumably, collection day. Underneath this image it says, "Trash: we rarely think about it - until we have to." In the post, you can find a podcast titled Trashed: How economics - and emotion - have turned garbage into such a mess." I haven't listened to it since we have a small-ish place and Garen, who got only 3 hours of sleep last night, is trying to get some shut eye as I type. But you can bet that this podcast is getting listened to tomorrow. 



Garen took his Winter Session Marine Bio Class from SMC to Palos Verdes for a field trip yesterday. It is the dirtiest beach I have seen around Southern California. It also has the best tide pooling. Those little creatures must be tough! Most of the trash is pushed up onto the rocks and dumped there as the water recedes from high tide. The students couldn't believe how many straws there were! I'm not a fan of straws myself. I try to remember to say, "hold the straw." I often add something to the effect of, "I know it sounds funny, but please, no straw." The thing that really gets to me about finding them on the beach, is that they wash back up basically in pristine condition. 

On Tues., Jan. 25th the Santa Monica City Council Members will pass, here's hoping, the Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance. You can see it happen live. Come to the City Hall on Main St. in Santa Monica at 5:30. I believe that there will be time for public comments. I should go back through all 188 days and count how many days I found a plastic bag on the same stretch of Santa Monica Beach in only 20 minutes of looking. Hmmm...I think I will. Stay tuned. 



I know that I take a hell of a lot of shots of the sunset on the same little section of sand. And often, these shots will include a sea gull. What can I say? I'm just mad about these little guys. They seem to me to be under appreciated, and viewed as pests on the picnic blanket. But I always feel like when I am out on the sand, that I am in their house. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 187 - Jan. 18, 2010


life guard tower 26 - Ocean Park, Santa Monica CA
trash collected for 20 minutes
2.5 pounds
715 pounds total


One of my favorite things about being plugged into a piece of the the environmental community on twitter is that it leads me to great new blogs like this one: UNCONSUMPTION

The definition of their site goes as follows, "Unconsumption is a word used to describe everything that happens after an act of acquisition...Unconsumption means the thrill of finding new use for something you were about to throw away." 

And it goes on. Their most recent post is about a couple who live in Northern California who have literally collected tons of trash from their tiny stretch of beach and turned it all into art. I've come across them before, and they are amazing. 


To read more about the Judith Shelby Lang and Richard Lang's plastic artwork, check them out on their website: BEACH PLASTIC

"The plastic we continue to find is not left by visitors; it is washing up from the ocean. Back in our studios we clean, sort and categorize the pieces according to color and kind. We use the plastic to make artworks including large sculptures, installations, photo tableaus and jewelry."



Reminder: There is a film screening at the Electric Lounge this weekend called Sea Pulse. The screening starts at 1:30. There is a suggested donation of $5-$10 dollars at the door. More details here.


Next Tues. night the City Council of Santa Monica will vote on the long awaited Single-Use Carry Out Bag Ordinance. Find the details of the when and where of the meeting on the Office of Sustainability and the Environment's homepage.

Just to refresh on some of the issues against continuing to use the "free" plastic bags....

  • Only since 1982 have retailers provided “free” bags to consumers (retailers pass the cost of the “free bags” to shoppers).
  • The average “free” single-use bag is used 12 minutes before being released as pollution in the environment or waste into the landfill.
  • 19 billion (19,000,000,000) single-use bags are used annually in California.
  • Less than 5% of these bags are actually recycled. - courtesy of OSE website


Take the above snap shot of the high tide mark in the sand at the beach last night, and multiply it so that it stretches down the length of the entire beach in both directions. 

It might not look like much at first, but there were patches that were a lot denser than this picture. It was overwhelming at times to try and sift our the tiny bits of styrofoam, plastic nurdles, and bits of hard plastic. A plastic water bottle top looked big compared to what was out there. 

All of a sudden, 2.5 pounds seems like a whole lot more....



Here is SAVE OUR SHORES response to the recent OSU press release that the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is grossly exaggerated. 

A taste of what they had to say, and I agree one hundred percent: 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 186 - Jan. 16, 2011


life guard tower 26 - Ocean Park, Santa Monica CA
trash collected for 20 minutes
2 pounds
712.5 pounds total



Every once in a while, I like to dedicate a day's post to my fellow bloggers by sharing a bit of what they have been up to. 


I'll start with "The Flotsam Diaries - A chronicle of human debris. Washed up, blown in, left behind." written by Harry in Northern Maine. 







This picture reminds me of Daniel in North Carolina who has been collecting cigarette butts, and the other trash that she finds, off of her local beach. She has found 
I'm speechless. 


 This band-aid got "washed" clean. Whenever I find them on the beach, I always wonder why people wear them into the water in the first place? Band-aids come off in the shower...


A blog that I've started to follow more recently has posted their take on the Oregon State Univ. press release issued by Dr. White that calls into question the actual size of the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." The woman who writes the blog, Bonnie, has been out with Algalita and 5 Gyres four times. I think that she has something to contribute to the conversation.



The IBRRC - International Bird Rescue Research Center - is an amazing operation. Their first center sprung up in Long Beach many years ago. More recently, they have been treating the birds that are the victims of the BP Oil Disaster in Louisiana. They made their fundraising goal for the month of Dec. which is a good thing considering, 


"In 2010, we treated nearly 5,000 birds in our two centers – everything from pelicans to tiny sandpipers to lesser-known fulmars. Last month we also cared for a tundra swan that was found cold and weak in a farmer’s field."


Garen and I are approaching the count down until we head out with the 5 Gyres Institute to cross the South Pacific researching marine plastic pollution. 2011 feels full of promise and adventure. I hope that who ever is reading this finds the same.

This quote is about writing, but can be applied to many creative endeavors. 

"if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don't go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining." -- Anne Lamott

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 185 - Jan. 14, 2011


life guard tower 26 - Ocean Park, Santa Monica CA
trash collected for 20 min.
1.9 pounds
710.5 pounds total


Next weekend in Venice CA at the Electric Lounge, SEA PULSE presents films about the beauty, and the threats to the world's oceans. Come and join us if you live locally. Team Marine of SAMOHI will be screening the 10 R's that they produced last year. If you can't make it, you can also check it out on VIMEO. 

The Center for Environmental Health came out with a report about, "Disney Reusable Bags from Safeway Found With High Lead Levels." I cringed at first when I saw this. Not more fuel for the fire of pro plastic bag lobbyists! But then I read on. Here are some informative high-lights that will hopefully inspire you to check out the post from their site in full.

"A front-group for the plastic bag industry calling itself the “Center for Consumer Freedom” (talk about SPIN!) claims in a nationwide ad campaign that high lead levels and bacteria in reusable bags suggest that proposals to ban disposable plastic bags are misguided and driven by “junk science.” In fact, CEH’s testing confirms that the vast majority of reusable bags do not pose lead hazards, but those few that do are made of plastic.

"According to Consumer Reports, the CCF’s claims regarding the threat from bacteria in reusable bags are also overblown. The consumer watchdog traced the claims about bacteria in reusable bags to a single study paid for by the plastics industry. Contrary to the CCF’s ads, even this plastics industry study found no bacteria that normally cause disease in the reusable bags tested."



"ADVENTURES IN CLIMATE CHANGE" is a website that contacted me recently. I had not heard of them, and was thoroughly impressed by the scope of coverage that is available there. From blogs, news, video, slide shows and interviews, they cover interesting topics relating to, and about climate change. 

Aren't most things related to climate change in one way or another?


Wallace J Nichols needs you to become a BLUE ANGEL. Can you spare a small monthly donation so that he can have one employer -- the ocean?


I was dreading heading out onto the sand last night because it had been such a beautiful, warm day in Santa Monica. Sounds strange, doesn't it? Let me explain. It's my experience that when we have unexpected nice days in the off season, people will flock to the beach. This usually means that I find more trash left behind. So last night I braced myself for a hefty collection in my 20 minute beach cleanup. To my surprise, I came back close to my winter daily average with 1.9 pounds (my ave. is 2).

Two pounds is better than the summer average of four, but the picture above was the last thing I took off the beach as I walked to the parking lot, and that is never good.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 184 - Jan. 10, 2011

 lifeguard tower 26 - Ocean Park, Santa Monica CA
trash collected for 20 minutes
2.2 pounds 
710.8 pounds total 

Blogger is new and improved for 2011! The layout for posting looks unfamiliar. Please excuse me ahead of time if this blog entry is not very polished. Couple that with, and this is so cliche I can't believe I am admitting it, a detox diet in Jan. and you will soon see that my poor brain may not be firing on all pistons today. 

Having said all of that, I would like to share a couple of articles that came out yesterday in our local Santa Monica papers about our upcoming research expedition with the 5 Gyres Institute. 



We really appreciate the articles. One thing that all of them got wrong was that Garen said that plastics started to get produced in the 1950's. That is not true. 


Plastic production started much earlier than that. He just thinks that it was in the 1950's that many "disposable" plastic products, like single-use packaging, started to be most heavily marketed to the masses. If you take that fact, and look at the drastic plankton population drop off of about 40% STARTING in the 50's...well you get the idea. 


This is his speculation. Just an idea he's been looking at as we prepare for our trip.




I read an interesting post from SEAPLEX yesterday that takes a stab at the "how big is the garbage patch?" debate.  The author works for Scripps and has been studying the N. Pacific Gyre in particular. I appreciated the clarity, and tone of the post. 

"I think it is fantastic that so many groups and members of the public are passionate about what is happening in an obscure part of the ocean more than 1,000 miles away from any land. But the flip side of this interest is that the healthy scientific debate is going to be more public than usual. This is nothing to fear – in fact, I think it is a great window into how science is done. And I believe that this debate will ultimately be critical to finding a feasible solution to plastic pollution, whether than solution is based on land, at sea, or in legislative change." 
- Miriam Goldstein

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Beyond the absurdity of a “Texas-sized Garbage Patch” lies a larger menace of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans

Here is a response to this weeks press release from ass. prof. White out of OR. State that the size of the"garbage patch" is over exagerated from someone who has dedicated their entire life to the study of all 5 gyres - Dr. Marcus Eriksen


Best piece of writing about the gyres I've read. PLEASE pass this along.



Media is sometimes the tail that wags the dog of science. One oceanographer described finding plastic in his relatively tiny Texas-size study area of the North Pacific Ocean, while another began describing these areas of concentration as “garbage patches”. A mis-information frenzie birthed a mis-conception of an island of trash. Hurry, someone plant a flag - sell real estate! Disappointing to the entrepreneurial spirit that aimed to fix it for a fee, there are no such islands. They do not exist. Having traveled 20,000 miles across 4 of the 5 subtropical gyres, returning from crossing the South Atlantic Gyre in December 2010, I assure you that reality is much worse.

It’s a patchy patch. In 1999 Captain Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation based in Long Beach, CA, published an observed 6:1 weight ratio of plastic to plankton in the swirling center of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. I joined him in 2005 and 2008 to the same region. In this decade of research, the foundation was heavily criticized by other oceanographers for quantifying plastic this way. What was hidden in this criticism was the fact that the science of Oceanography was caught off guard. No one knew of this plastic plague on the world’s oceans, until a Long Beach surfer/sailor turned scientist made it known. It is true that plankton is extremely variable, and can bloom and dissipate with the season, temperature, moonlight, and a dozen other variables, therefore the margin of error is huge. But the plastic/plankton ratio serves a good anecdote for relative abundance of plastic to available food for scavenging fish and filter feeders, like from jellies to baleen whales. So, it’s important to describe plastic to plankton ratios as an anecdote, but not worth quantifying.

1999 was not the first time scientist studied plastic pollution in the ocean. Thor Heyerdal observed plastic in 1969 crossing the North Atlantic on Ra I. Two years later Edward Carpenter, from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, netted pellets and fragments of plastic pollution between the east coast and Bermuda. Plastic pollution in the North Pacific Gyre was first described by Robert Day in 1989 near the coast of Japan, and in the South Atlantic Gyre near Cape Town, South Africa in 1980 by Robert Morris of the Institute of Oceanographic Science in the UK. It was a quiet, poorly-understood menace that palled in significance and interest to oceanographers. Then the story broke about an island of plastic, with sensationalized accounts beyond science, mythological masses of synthetic detritus, an illusive terra aqua.

“Somebody do something,” cried the ocean advocates, artists, celebrities and politicians. And the scientists followed. Media called them to action. But not before the industrialists. A problem precedes a solution ready to sell. Groups with little or no experience at sea rose to the occasion with fanciful technofixes, contraptions of grandeur, robotic vagabonds to sieve the sea in solitude and bring the trash back to land, or parachutes that spin sickle-shaped islands that net plastic pollution in their path. All have failed, realizing that going to the ocean to remove floating plastic particles is like standing on the top of a skyscraper with a vacuum cleaner to remove air pollution. It’s not impossible, just impractical. There is no island to retrieve. We have run expeditions across the North Pacific Gyre, North Atlantic Gyre, Indian Ocean Gyre, and in December 2010 we crossed the South Atlantic Gyre. We found plastic in every surface trawl, in varying concentrations. Imagine a handful of degraded plastic confetti spread across a football field of the ocean surface. That’s as thick as it gets, but it’s everywhere. It’s a think plastic soup over 2/3rds of the earth’s surface. So far the 5 Gyres Institute has traveled to 4 of the 5 subtropical gyres in the world, conducting over 400 surface trawls, with plastic in every one. That is the menace of plastic pollution. It’s everywhere, thinly distributed, and extremely impractical to clean up at sea.

But if no one cleans it up, will the garbage patches keep growing? No. Studies in the North Atlantic Gyre and North Pacific Gyre have been repeated with interesting results. There’s no massive trend in plastic accumulation over time. Kara Lavender Law, of Sea Education, compiled data from 22 years of data from the North Atlantic Gyre, the same area that Carpenter studied 3 ½ decades earlier. We observed no strong temporal trends in plasticconcentration…” Last week we returned from 31 days crossing the South Atlantic Gyre. As we sailed into Cape Town we revisited half of the locations that Morris studied 3 decades ago and repeated his exact methods. Though our samples have not been analyzed yet, I can anecdotally report that the samples do not appear to show a tremendous trend in plastic accumulation over this time. Sure, there’s more, but the increase does not parallel the rapid increase in plastic production and consumption on land. So where does it go? We believe some sinks as absorbed chemicals, like PCBs, PAHs and other persistent pollutants, and biofouling make smaller and smaller particles more dense than seawater. Much of it washes ashore on islands in the gyres, like Hawaii and Bermuda, or is kicked out of the gyres onto mainland beaches as the gyre’s center wobbles east and west. Then there’s still room for unknown answers. What we now know is that if we stop adding more plastic to the ocean, in time the gyres will kick out the plastic pollution they currently hold. If you want to clean the gyre, clean your beach.

We want to know a few things. How much plastic is out there, what is the fate of plastic in the ocean, what is the impact of plastic pollution on fish, including fisheries we harvest to feed the world, and how do we end the plague of plastic in the ocean? The 5 Gyres Institute will sail across the South Pacific Gyre in the Spring of 2011 from Valdivia, Chile to Easter Island. You can follow this expedition on 5gyres.org. In January and February 2011, at the moment I’m writing this paper, we are crossing the South Atlantic Gyre again. The South Pacific will be our 5th gyre, and provide a snapshot of the global distribution of plastic pollution. We will also be freezing fish to look for toxins in tissues, which we are currently doing with fish collected from South Atlantic Expedition. Other expeditions conducted by SCRIPPS, NOAA and Sea Education, are contributing answers to these questions with rigorous science. All of this will be shared by colleagues in March 2011 in Hawaii during the 5th International Marine Debris Conference.

In the recent decade of rogue-science, media spun mis-information, a new revitalized science of synthetic pollution at sea has emerged, replacing confusion with clarity and commitment by many to solve the problem. The idea of cleanup at sea is no longer a sensible option, knowing that an island twice the size of Texas is actually a thin soup 2/3rds the surface of the planet. Sensible solutions now focus on preventing the flow of waste to waves in the first place.



Marcus Eriksen, PhD
Co-founder, 5 Gyres Institute
5gyres.org
Algalita Marine Research Foundation
Director of Project Development
algalita.org
323-395-1843