The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

Category Archives: Ocean Plastic Pollution

June 12, 2012

Thoughts About Recycling Styrofoam After Japanese Dock Washes Up On Oregon Coast

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

May 3, 2012

This Summer… Go to the Beach but Leave Your Turtleback and Other Plastics at Home

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

April 24, 2012

What I Should Have Said to Melissa Harris-Perry: We Are the Albatross

This past Sunday, I had the honor to be a guest on MCNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show. It was my very first live national appearance, so as you can imagine, I was just a little concerned with getting everything right. As instructed, I put on way more makeup than usual (usual being none at all most days) and was grateful for finally having found plastic-free mascara this year! I got a haircut (probably the first in over a year), plucked my crazy eyebrows (couldn’t deal with mixing up a batch of sugar wax) and slathered on so much eyeshadow and mascara that Michael kept staring at me and going, “Wow. Your eyes.” And of course, for several days, I went over and over in my mind what I wanted to say.

The theme of the show was environmental justice, and the main guest for the segment was the amazing Majora Carter, environmental justice advocate and founder of Sustainable South Bronx. I was to join the conversation, happening live in New York… Read the rest

June 3, 2011

Little Plastic Fruit Label Stickers: Another Source of Water Pollution

A year ago I explained everything you ever wanted to know about plastic produce stickers: what they are for, what you can do with them, and whether we should spend time worrying about them.  After all, they make up a minute fraction of the plastic that’s finding its way into the environment.

What I didn’t know then was that my local utility district, EBMUD, considered produce stickers enough of a problem that it published an article about them in its January/February 2009 issue of Pipeline (PDF), the newsletter that goes out to its customers.  In fact, waste water treatment facilities are not equipped to deal with these little pieces of plastic when flushed down the drain, and they clog filters or end up in the Bay or ocean.

Here is the text of the Pipeline article:

Bay Pollution Prevention Corner An Itty Bitty Fruit Label Alert

A recent customer survey shows us that EBMUD customers are greatly concerned about the health of San Francisco … Read the rest

October 18, 2010

TEDx: Just One More Scary Thing

From my experience, feeling fear means something is worth doing.

You all know about the TED Talks, right?  The annual TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences bring together leading thinkers and doers giving the talks of their lives.  And these talks are accessible to the public via the TED web site, a fantastic repository of ideas and inspiration.  (Check out talks by Captain Charles Moore and artist Chris Jordan on the TED stage.)

TEDx: Great Pacific Garbage Patch

In less than a month, I’ll be joining oceanographer Sylvia Earle, activist actor Ed Begley, Jr, environmentalist David de Rothschild, and many more experts and visionaries on stage at TEDx: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch in Santa Monica, CA.

My topic: Leading by example.

And yes, I’m nervous.

In keeping with the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading,” TEDx was created “to give communities, organizations and individuals… Read the rest

September 28, 2010

Book Review: The True Adventures of Foamy and Leafy

Foamy and Leafy is a kids’ book about the plastic in the North Pacific Gyre.  This review is a guest post by plastic-free blogger,  Linda Anderson, who blogs at Citizen Green  She’s filling in for me today while my eyes heal.  Please stop by her blog and leave comments or suggestions.

Several months ago I was surfing the web to find children’s literature about the issue of plastic debris in the ocean and I came across this comic book called, The True Adventures of Foamy and Leafy.  Foamy and Leafy are two pieces of colorful plastic foam that were glued to a Halloween pumpkin by a child.  The pumpkin rotted and decayed, but the pieces of plastic, being very non-degradable, blew away with the wind.

Foamy blew into a small creek and eventually ended up in the Atlantic Ocean.  She actually floats through the Panama Canal and ends up in the Pacific Ocean.  Leafy blew away and got stuck to a truck tire.… Read the rest

June 25, 2010

Why We Can’t Clean Up the Pacific Gyre

Over the next few years you are going to hear a lot of claims about programs to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The floating island of plastic garbage twice the size of Texas. The trash patch. The area Captain Charles Moore discovered ten years ago. Don’t be fooled!

The Pacific Garbage Patch is not an island.

First of all, it’s a misnomer to call it an island. “Island” implies something floating on top of the water; big pieces of trash you could scoop up and recycle. Unfortunately, it’s worse. The plastic in the ocean breaks down over time into smaller and smaller pieces. While it doesn’t biodegrade, it “photodegrades,” meaning the sun breaks it down but it never really goes away. These tiny pieces have been found throughout the water column and are all mixed in with the plankton, the bottom of the food chain, a crucial component of life on earth. How can we clean that up?

There are several ocean

Read the rest
June 4, 2010

First Graders Learning to Say No to Plastic Trash

Julia Smith’s first grade class at Rooftop Alternative School, perched high up in San Francisco’s Twin Peaks area, is different from most, and Julia Smith is a special kind of teacher.

For example, in an effort to teach the children how to choose plastic-free grocery options, she actually took them on a field trip to Whole Foods to learn how to bring their own bags and containers to shop from bulk bins.  After a lesson about the problems of ocean plastic pollution, the class participated in the Show Your Plastic Trash Challenge to collect and tally their classroom-generated plastic waste for a week.

Check the Challenge site to see the full results from their week of plastic collecting and read more about what they learned. Last week, I visited the classroom to pick up the plastic they had collected and chat with the kids about the plastic I had found on the beach and find out what they had decided to do about their classroom waste.

Several of… Read the rest

March 29, 2010

Curating the Beach: Just Another Story of Plastic Trash

Last week I learned that you don’t have to travel to Kamilo Beach in Hawaii or Midway Island to find mounds of plastic trash. No, there’s plenty of it just up the California coast at Kehoe Beach, part of the Point Reyes National Seashore. And I got to see it.

Artists Richard Lang and Judith Selby spend their weekends gathering mounds of plastic trash from Kehoe Beach.

From a distance, Kehoe looks pristine. In fact, there are some days when Richard and Judith are all alone on the beach. So you wouldn’t imagine there would be much trash, especially in Marin County where folks are a pretty green bunch.  But get closer, and you’re in for a disheartening surprise.

Because of ocean currents, Kehoe ends up a plastic waste dump every year. And Judith and Richard come there to mine the beach for art supplies and help educate people about plastic pollution. I was fortunate to hang out with them last Monday and collect some plastic trash myself.… Read the rest

March 17, 2010

Captain Moore Paints a Bleak Picture for David Letterman. Now What?

Did you guys see Captain Charles Moore on the David Letterman show Monday night? He laid it all out — the complete picture of what our plastic waste is doing to the ocean and ultimately the food we eat and the climate we depend on — in his usual direct style. I’m amazed that Letterman devoted the entire last two segments of the show to this comprehensive discussion and handled it very seriously. If you didn’t see it, please take some time and watch it now.

Here are some of the main points from the first segment, which for some of you will be review and for others will be a revelation:

The trash in the North Pacific Gyre (Great Pacific Garbage Patch) is not a “floating island” as so many people think but is more dispersed.  It’s more like a soup than an island. The trash is 90% plastic. The trash has been accumulating ever since the dawn of the disposable plastic age in the 1950’s. 25% of the trash is debris from… Read the rest