I’ve been away from blogging and social media for a few months, needing time to recuperate from the onslaught of attention-grabbing, anxiety-inducing posts that had hijacked my “news” feeds. Taking a break to be in silence for a while helps. So do walks along the red dirt trails or the rocky coastline of Moloka’i, Hawaii.
In the end of March, I went on my annual silent meditation retreat to the center of the center of the center. (The retreat center is in the middle of Moloka’i, which is the middle of the Hawaiian Island chain, which is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.) It just so happened that the week of my retreat was the same week as Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii’s first statewide beach cleanup event. And the cleanup event planned for the island of Moloka’i happened to be scheduled on our only day “off” from silent meditation. There’s more serendipity in how I even found out about… Read the rest
A month ago, a reader named Ida left the following comment in the “100 Steps” section of this website:
For your Clothes section you never mention that the plastic clothes we have release high levels of plastic microfibers in every wash! This is pretty new knowledge, but hugely important as we cannot as of today find a way to remove from the sea. So when asked, I usually tell people to stop buying fleece, acrylic etc, but also to handwash what they have, which at least might lessen the problem… :)
I was as surprised as she was. I thought for sure I’d blogged about microfiber pollution. So I checked. As it turns out, I addressed the topic in the updated edition of my book, but I never posted about it on this site. Fortunately, the Story of Stuff Project has not been slacking like me. They have just released a brand new video and campaign called The Story of Microfibers. It explains what happens when we launder synthetic… Read the rest
This post might be controversial, but sometimes you have to admit when you might have been a little bit… wrong? Anyway, five years ago, I wrote a pretty depressing blog post about why we cannot solve the problem of ocean plastic pollution by focusing on cleanup schemes.
2010- 2013: My Doubts
My point was that as long as we continue to consume vast amounts of disposable plastic, any effort at cleanup would be, to quote Captain Charles Moore, “like baling water from a bathtub with the spigot still running.” So, in 2012, when I started hearing about a Dutch teenager who had designed an expensive contraption to clean up the gyre within 5 years, I dismissed the story as just one more distraction from the real issue. Here’s then 18-year old engineering student Boyan Slat at a TEDx event in Delft explaining his idea:
Since he first conceived the idea of a passive collection device into which ocean currents would deposit… Read the rest
Photo Restaurante Praia Arrifana ©
Michelle Cassar is a long-time reader of this blog and committed anti-plastic activist, although I’m not sure she would actually call herself an activist, nor anti plastic. She’s also a surfer, photographer, and world traveller who has been living in Portugal for quite a while. Back in 2011, she sent me a list of the over 10,000 plastic items she had refused since beginning her plastic-free life. And now, she’s helping others to refuse plastic by working with a local restaurant to eliminate plastic cups. Here is the story in her own words. Read, enjoy the beautiful photography, and be inspired!
(Por favor, vá para baixo para a versão Português.)… Read the rest
I’ve seen this picture of Kamilo Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii a million times in the past six years. It’s shocking. But not as shocking as seeing a plastic-covered beach up close live and in person like I did yesterday during Kokua Hawai’i Foundation’s Coastal Cleanup Day event at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on the island of Oahu.
When I first entered the area, I didn’t see much…
Then I looked down and started noticing microplastic particles in the sand…… Read the rest
Six years ago, I posted a rant about the fact that many commercial facial scrubs contain tiny plastic (polyethylene) beads meant to exfoliate the skin. These beads are too small for water treatment plants to filter out, so they end up in our waterways and eventually the ocean. In the ocean, tiny plastic pieces mix with the zooplankton to enter the food chain. What’s more, plastic in the ocean acts as a sponge, absorbing and concentrating toxic chemicals. It’s one thing when plastic ends up there inadvertently, but it’s inexcusable for companies to produce plastic products intentionally meant to be flushed down the drain.
Now, it turns out, plastic particles aren’t just in facial scrubs, and they aren’t only made of polyethylene. According to a recent position paper (PDF) (PDF) published this year by a coalition of ocean advocacy groups lead by 5Gyres:
Microplastic particles and microbeads … Read the rest
Dr. Marcus Eriksen of 5 Gyres, an organization dedicated to researching ocean plastic pollution, has said, “If you want to clean the gyre, clean your beach.” He meant it literally, since “if we stop adding more plastic to the ocean, in time the gyres will kick out the plastic pollution they currently hold.” But I choose to think of the statement metaphorically. Spending a morning cleaning plastic from a beach or river bank or roadway doesn’t just remove a fraction of plastic trash from the environment, it heightens our personal awareness of the problem and gets us in touch with the physical reality of plastic pollution — both beautiful and terrible. We understand how vast the problem is compared to our tiny efforts at mitigation. Sure, we might feel overwhelmed. But hopefully, the exercise can our revitalize our commitment to reducing plastic at the source.
Yesterday Morning at Damon Slough
… Read the rest
Hey, remember my rant last spring about the plastic Turtleback cup holder meant to be used at the beach? And how I thought it was so ironic to name a product for a sea animal that is routinely harmed by ocean plastic pollution? A bunch of green bloggers created quite a stir on Turtleback’s Facebook page back then, and after initially being taken aback by it all, the owner, Ryan Housley, listened. In fact, he had an open mind from the very start.
Switching to Biodegradable Material
Yesterday, Ryan emailed me a link to the company’s new Kickstarter campaign. The campaign is to fund the development of Turtleback 2.0, a version made from biodegradable plastic (Mirel), a plant-based plastic that is certified to not only biodegrade on land but also in sea water. In fact, it is the only bio-plastic certified to break down in the ocean, as far as I know, and it has also been tested by the folks at the Algalita Marine Research Institute, whose mission… Read the rest
You’ve probably already heard about the Japanese tsunami debris making its way across the ocean and the 66-foot long dock that washed ashore on the Oregon coast last week. (According to NOAA, the debris is unlikely to be radioactive, by the way.)
The dock is a story in and of itself, but what made me realize it was also a story about plastic was the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s June 8 press release requesting bids for removal of the dock:
Salem, OR — The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has reviewed options for removing the tsunami debris dock at Agate Beach. The department originally intended to pursue either of two options — demolition in place, or towing it off the beach to the nearby Port of Newport — but has since discovered the range of costs for these options overlaps. The reinforced concrete dock contains a large amount of styrofoam, making clean demolition a challenge and increasing the… Read the rest
Would you believe there is a company not only producing plastic products for the beach, but actually promoting them using a photo of an ocean wave sweeping one of their plastic gizmos, filled with a disposable plastic cup, towards the sea?
I wasn’t planning on posting a rant today, as I’m leaving in a few hours for my semi-annual silent meditation retreat, but I got all fired up after I and several friends left comments on Turtleback’s Facebook page explaining how plastic pollutes the ocean and asking the company to reconsider its product materials, as well as marketing images. I would have probably just been satisfied to leave my comment and drop the issue, until I discovered that Turtleback had removed our comments and banned us from further interaction on its page! That kind of censorship from a company is dishonest and irresponsible, regardless of the product in question.
What’s Wrong with Turtleback?
Turtleback… Read the rest