From time to time, we like to take a look at some of the recent news stories dotting the headlines around the world that focus on ocean plastic pollution. Our goal is to show you just how pervasive the problem really is and how many different storylines are created because of it every day. We can certainly tell you that it is never the same day on the water when we are doing our ocean cleanups and it never ceases to amaze us the types of things that we pull out of the ocean and off of our coastlines.
Cigarette Butts Top the List of Ocean Plastic Pollution
According to our May non-profit partner the Ocean Conservancy®, they have picked up more than 60 million cigarette butts since they began organizing beach cleanups all the way back in 1986 with 5.6 trillion cigarettes being smoked each year! And at our 4ocean Community Beach Cleanups, we see the same thing. On the last three cleanups, we engaged "citizen scientists" to help sort and document the types and amounts of trash we were picking up. Here are the totals from our cleanups:
- Siesta Key, FL: 5,877 cigarette butts
- Daytona Beach, FL: 5,325 cigarette butts
- Boca Raton, FL: 1,976 cigarette butts
Most people don't think of cigarette butts as plastic. While cellulose acetate, which is what makes up the majority of the cigarette filter, has its origins in the naturally occurring material cellulose, once it is processed it forms a plastic that isn't biodegradable. That is why it is so important for smokers to dispose of their cigarette butts properly. And it isn't just people at the beach that are tossing their butts into the sand, these small pieces of plastic can travel from many miles inland in streams, rivers, and storm drains to eventually make their way to the ocean.
Another little known fact is that as cigarette butts are exposed to water and the elements, they begin to leech their toxic chemicals into the environment. Dangerous pollutants like lead, arsenic, nicotine, and a myriad of other carcinogenic byproducts of smoking are now exposing animals and people who may not smoke to their possible side effects. It really is a serious problem.
So, if you do smoke, we ask that you please take into consideration the potential damage that may be caused before you flick that next butt and simply dispose of it properly. The ocean thanks you in advance.
Check out this video of a little experiment we did on our home beach to see just how bad the problem of cigarette butt pollution is!
Pokémon Go Players Band Together on Earth Day to Clean Tons of Trash
When you think about the gaming community, you don't necessarily associate them with massive outdoor trash cleanup projects. Not that that is a knock on them in any way, it's just the nature of where video games are generally played in the indoor environment. However, in celebration of Earth Day 2019, 17,000 Pokémon Go players from around the world got together to collect 145 tons of trash! That is 290,000 pounds of trash that will never make its way into the ocean.
A company named Niantic, Inc., a leader in the augmented reality world, provided limited-time events to encourage players to join and when certain levels of participants were reached, things like Digletts, Groudon, stardust, and candy would appear in the wild for players to find. With participants from 41 countries and a total of 41,000 volunteer hours logged, this event was an incredible success. It is going to take an army to clean up the ocean and coastlines around the world and creative ways like this to get people to participate are a great way to get the ball rolling. Who knows, maybe some of the players will take the experience into their own lives and become cleanup warriors themselves.
Biodegradable Bags - Solution or Greenwashing?
There has been some buzz in a few circles recently that things like "biodegradable bags" may be one of the answers to the ocean plastic pollution crisis. However, a recent study by the University of Plymouth's International Marine Litter Research Unit found that plastic bags that had been exposed to three years of elemental conditions could still hold a load of groceries like nothing ever happened!
A number of different types of plastic bags were tested including oxo-biodegradable bags, biodegradable bags, compostable bags, and standard plastic bags made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE 2). They were tested under normal conditions as if they were litter and monitored regularly by scientists to follow their progress during this time. So, it is unlikely that this will be the magic bullet when it comes to single-use plastic bags.
"Our results showed that none of the bags could be relied upon to show any substantial deterioration over a three-year period," said Imogen Napper, co-author of the study.
"This research raises a number of questions about what the public might expect when they see something labeled as biodegradable," said Richard Thompson, lead researcher of the unit that conducted the study.
"The Creature" Washes Up on Shore –– Full of Plastic
In a stunning encounter, a never-before-seen "Creature" washed up on the shores of the UK, full of plastic. The shock and awe of onlookers were apparent as they feverishly tried to save the unknown leviathan from the deep. It looked like there might be some hope when the animal seemed to realize that the people were trying their best to help....but it was not to be. To the dismay of the saviors, the "Creature" died there on the shore that evening and was taken back by the sea from whence it came. Here is the amazing story!
Now, it turns out that this "Creature" was a bit of fiction, but the point behind this stirring and eye-opening film by UK non-profit Surfers Against Sewage really hits home. We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about the deep ocean. With estimates floating around that as many as one million species will face extinction at the hands of man, we are harming animals that we still don't even know to exist and which may perish before we ever do. This is the state of plastic pollution in the ocean. It is up to us to help save all the "Creatures" that are out there so that we have the chance to experience their company before they disappear forever. If you live in the UK you can sign their petition to the Prime Minister here to demand action on ocean plastic pollution.
As you can see, there are so many ways in which people and organizations are coming together to fight the problem of ocean plastic pollution. At 4ocean, we are doing our part by cleaning up the ocean and coastlines one pound at a time. We encourage everyone to find some way in which they can contribute to helping solve the plastic pollution crisis. The choices you make every day have real consequences now and in the future.
If you have something that you think is a real game-changer, let us know in the comment section below. Make sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up to date on all things 4ocean! Also, head on over to our Discover 4ocean Facebook Group to get in on the conversation around ocean plastic pollution and other important ocean conservation topics.
The ocean plastic crisis may seem like a relatively recent phenomenon with how much attention it's received over the last decade. However, this situation extends decades beyond modern-day — and the inception of plastic itself stretches even further. Understanding the history of ocean plastic pollution gives us a glimpse into how this material became so pervasive and how we might learn from past behaviors.