This is the first of two-part post. This installment is written by Kim, who will present alternatives to the Ocean Cleanup project to help curb the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans. The second installment is a technical review of the Ocean Cleanup feasibility study and is a collaboration between Kim and Miriam .
Last year, Deep Sea News reviewed the Ocean Cleanup project. The brain child of Boyan Slat, he claimed that his design could clean the ocean of plastic in 10 years. At the time the project was just a concept. It was a concept that we found had serious potential problems. As is explained in the technical review, we still think it has a lot of problems.
We can all agree here, we WANT to see plastic in the ocean cleaned up. But it isn’t an easy job and right now there isn’t a catch-all solution. Therefore, I’ve assembled a list of organizations that are actively trying to reduce ocean plastic, and suggestions on how you can help facilitate positive change. Because ocean plastic is a big problem that needs a big solution, and we need to work together on multiple fronts to solve it.
ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE HELPING REDUCE OCEAN PLASTIC
These organizations have waged an awesome and successful war against ocean plastic and in particular the terrible microbead. Microbeads are the little pieces of plastic that cosmetic companies put in their products for some extra scrubbiness. But once you wash your face, these microbeads go straight into waterways because they can’t be removed from wastewater*. Working together, 5 Gyres, Beat the Microbead (part of the Plastic Soup Foundation) and The North Sea Foundation has successfully convinced Unilever, The Body Shop, L’Oreal, Colgate-Palmolive, and Johnson & Johnson to all stop using microbeads in their products. These organizations are also working with lawmakers to enact microplastic bans in the US, Canada and Europe. Keep up the good work you banishers of microplastics!
You can also stop using cosmetics with plastic microbeads, but make sure you dispose of them properly.
Sometimes you got to use a little muscle to clean the ocean. And that’s just what the ocean conservancy does, each year they organize the International Coastal Cleanup. The next one is September 20. Volunteering is good for your soul and the beach.
They surf, they shred, they care about the ocean. The Surfrider foundation is on it with their Rise above Plastics campaign, working at the local and state level to get plastic bags banned and help pass other plastic reducing initiatives.
Writer at Southern Fried Science and friend of Deep Sea News Andrew Thaler just alerted us to this really neat trash collecting water wheel. In development since 2008, its collecting plastic before it enters the ocean RIGHT NOW.
THINGS YOU CAN DO TO CURB OCEAN PLASTIC
GET INVOLVED LOCALLY
Does your town/city/state recycle? Do they have a plastic bag ban? Is there a ban on microbeads? No? Then get on it people! You can find ways to help make these plastic reducing initiatives a reality in your area and in your country. Congressman Frank Pallone has just introduced legislation to ban microbeads nationwide. But for reals, Seattle started making everyone pay 5 cents per plastic bag and I can see the change when almost everyone brings reusable bags to grocery shop!
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
I have a confession to make to you all. I may love all my new-fangled science gadgets, but I am a big earth loving hippie at heart. I try my best to make my footprint on this earth as small as I can. And you should too.
Before you run away screaming from what you imagine to be my patchouli stink, I just want to clarify that I’m not here to tell you to go all Ed Begley Jr. tomorrow because the ocean is filled with plastic. Instead I just want you to think about making one small change. One small change that you try and abide by regularly to reduce the amount of plastic you use.
Put a reusable bag in your car so you always have a bag at the grocery store. Use tupperware instead of a plastic baggies. Buy something you really want used instead of new (and save money…SCORE!). Bring a reusable water bottle/coffee mug. Cloth diapers if you dare. Cloth wipes if you double dare. Pick up a piece of trash and put it in a waste basket. Use a razor with replaceable blades. Even better, look badass and use a straight razor. Buy laundry detergent in cardboard boxes. Switch out your plastic microbead face wash for one with a natural biodegradable exfoliant like apricot seeds. Use paper disposable plates and compostable dinnerware. Reuse a ziploc bag or get compostable ones. Throw your cigarette butt in the trash instead of the street. Hold onto that bottle until you find an appropriate recycling bin.
Once you get the hang of this one change, add another. It might take a while to make the change a habit, but stick with it. Because I seriously do believe that a little change by everyone is much more effective than one person changing everything. And we all need a little less plastic in this world.
AND FINALLY AN IDEA I LIKE…A LOT.
STORM WATER DEBRIS NETS
I’ll admit, I am particularly enamored with this idea and I REALLY want it to work. By adding nets to the outlets of storm drains, a lot of plastic can be captured before it potentially gets to the ocean (which is also why Baltimore’s water wheel is SO awesome!). But this solution also has its problems, as the nets need to be emptied and maintained. That costs manpower and money. Money many municipalities don’t have right now. I really wish they did. And even if the array doesn’t work, it would be wonderful if the plastic collection technology that results from ocean cleanup project could be adapted to filter plastics from stormwater runoff.
Have any other solutions to reduce ocean plastic? Please list them in the comments below!
*The Ocean Cleanup array can’t collect microplastics, so even if you think the plan will work, STOP USING MICROBEADS NOW.