A Plastic Ocean

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    • #7291
      Jim Little

      Review by Melissa Rice (MM Everett):

      I found “A Plastic Ocean” to be very well done, as did the others at my venue who watched it on netflix. It follows a number of people working with the ocean or ocean life and looks at the impacts of plastic on marine life, birds, and humans. Finally, it looks at some solutions. I think it really brings home the urgency of the problem of plastics pollution and is a very compelling and engaging movie. It also makes clear that practical solutions are already within our means – we just need to make it happen.

      For anyone interested, here are my detailed notes on “A Plastic Ocean”:


      It looks at the problem including:

        – micro-plastics (small pieces of plastic from the breakup of larger plastic pieces)

        – micro-beads (tiny plastic beads in facial scrubs and so on)

        – nurdles (plastic pellets used in the manufacturing process)

        – large pieces of plastic waste (bags, bottles, fishing nets, parachutes, etc)

      The implications for wildlife and marine creatures:

        – toxic chemicals adsorb to the surface of micro-plastics which are ingested by critters

        – toxic chemicals are passed up the food chain

        – critters ingest plastic and die from their stomachs filling up with plastic

        – critters die from getting caught in discarded fishing nets and other plastic waste

      The implications for humans:

        – toxic chemicals and plastics get passed up the food chain

        – we are drowning in our own garbage, much of it single-use plastic

        – most plastics contain xeno-estrogens and endocrine disruptors

        – creation of huge landfills, many of which have people living/working in them

      Many solutions are mentioned:

        – alternative materials (e.g., compostables)

        – recycling (we have many good technologies already for sorting and processing)

        – policy changes: Rwanda outlawed plastic bags, 

            Germany has a plastic bottle recycling law

        – pyrolysis (thermal decomposition of polymers to monomers)

        – pyrogenesis (plasma gasification of plastic to synthetic petroleum)

      The viewer discretion warning is because they have some scenes of dissecting dead sea birds and finding their stomachs entirely full of plastic pieces (which prevented the bird from being able to eat). 

      Other random notes:

      We are producing enormous amounts of plastic every day, much of it single use (water bottles, packaging, bags, etc). This gets landfilled or otherwise discarded and eventually makes its way into the ocean where it floats around whole or slowly gets broken up into “micro-plastic” chunks by the action of waves, UV (sunlight) and salt. Micro-plastics are “secondary” (they come from  the break-up of larger pieces of plastic). This is distinct from “micro-beads” where are tiny pieces of plastic which are “primary” (they were purposely manufactured in that size, for instance, plastic beads in facial scrubs). 

      Large pieces of plastic and fishing nets and other debris can kill marine animals by strangling them or, if ingested, by blocking their digestive tract. 

      Micro-plastics are even more insidious because toxic chemicals in the ocean can adsorb onto the micro-plastics, which are then ingested by marine animals. These toxins are then passed up the food chain to the food we eat. In some parts of the ocean there is more micro-plastic than plankton (the base of the food chain). Shipping accidents have also released small plastic pellets (nurdles) into the ocean – nurdles are the raw stock for manufacturing plastic items.

      About 25% of fish sampled from Indonesian markets contains plastic in the gut and in the US market about 25% of fish contains plastic and/or textile fibers in the gut. All European shellfish sampled in one study contained micro-plastics, which people are more likely to eat since one eats the whole shellfish.

      Seabirds also ingest plastic that they pick up in the ocean and feed to their young. They showed the dissection of a seabird that was found dead and the stomach was entirely filled with plastic so the bird couldn’t eat food. One 90 day old chick that died had 15% of it’s body mass in plastic in its gut. 

      Turtles often eat plastic bags, which they mistake for jelly fish. The plastic produces gas in the stomach, making the turtle unable to dive.

      In third world countries people are burning plastics for the their cooking fires because plastic is free, unlike kerosene or other fuels. This outgasses toxic fumes, including phthalates (used in plastic manufacture) which are endocrine disruptors. 

      In Manila there is a 123 acre garbage dump with about 2000 families living on it. About 1500 lbs of garbage a day ends up in waterways from the dump. The dump generates enough methane that it periodically catches on fire, creating toxic fumes from the burning plastic. The film also shows a bio/phyto-remediation project in Manila.

      Germany has passed a plastic bottle recycling law – there’s a 25cent deposit on each plastic bottle. Rwanda has banned plastic bags. 



      • This topic was modified 5 years, 11 months ago by Jim Little.
    • #7292
      Jim Little
      The latest issue of National Geographic magazine has several articles on our plastic pollution problem: 


      Here are 6 solutions offered: 

      1. Give up plastic bags. Take your own reusable ones to the store. A trillion plastic shopping bags are used worldwide every year, and 100 billion in the United States alone—that’s almost one per American per day. The average Dane, in contrast, goes through four single-use bags per year. Denmark passed the first bag tax in 1993.

      2. Skip straws. Unless you have medical needs, and even then you could use paper ones. Americans toss 500 million plastic straws every day, or about 1.5 per person.

      3. Pass up plastic bottles. Invest in a refillable water bottle. Some come with filters if you’re worried about water quality. A handful of cities, including Bundanoon, Australia, and San Francisco, have banned or partially banned bottled water. But around the world, nearly a million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute.

      4. Avoid plastic packaging. Buy bar soap instead of liquid. Buy in bulk. Avoid produce sheathed in plastic. And while you’re at it, give up plastic plates and cups. The French are (partially) banning the stuff.

      5. Recycle what you can. Even in rich countries, recycling rates are low. Globally, 18 percent of all plastic is recycled. Europe manages 30 percent, China 25—the United States only 9.

      6. Don’t litter. The Ocean Conservancy has run beach cleanups for 30 years. Of the top 10 types of trash they find, the only nonplastic item is glass bottles. Worldwide, 73 percent of beach litter is plastic: cigarette butts (the filters), bottles and caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, polystyrene containers. In 2016 the conservancy collected 9,200 tons of trash in 112 countries—around a thousandth of what enters the ocean each year.


    • #7294
      Jim Little

      The documentary “Albatross” also addresses plastic pollution in our oceans.


      Based on the trailer, it looks like a beautiful, heart-wrenching film.

      I believe Chris Jordan is a local filmmaker:


      Ocean Plastic Pollution Resources

      Parley for the Oceans: Cyrill Gutsch, Lea Stepken, and their visionary organization Parley for the Oceans, are collaborating with industry, governments, creators, thinkers, and leaders around the globe to protect oceans and solve ocean plastic pollution from the inside out. Parley also supports lots of ocean-related artistic projects, and has been a major supporter of ALBATROSS for several years.

      5Gyres:  Marcus Ericksen and Anna Cummins are two of the world’s most respected marine scientists studying ocean plastic pollution. Their website at 5Gyres.org is chock full of articles, videos, and other resources:

      Plastic Soup Foundation: founded by Maria Westerbos, PSF is a powerful activism group centered in Amsterdam with a global reach. Their website is loaded with valuable information about ocean plastic pollution. https://www.plasticsoupfoundation.org/en/

      Plastic Pollution Coalition
      : a global org co-founded by Manuel Maqueda after our first trip to Midway; devoted to all facets of plastic pollution, including guides for anti-plastic activism in your school/campus/town. Headed by our close friend Dianna Cohen:

      Plastic Change International: Dear friend Henrik Beha Pedersen, based in Copenhagen, is a passionate ocean sailor and plastic pollution activist. His org is taking the lead on ocean plastic pollution in Scandinavia.

      Bag It: a touching and funny documentary film about ocean plastic pollution, directed by Suzan Beraza and filmed by ALBATROSS lead cinematographer Jim Hurst:

    • #7295
      Jim Little
    • #7296
      Jim Little

      Recycled plastic and paper is going to landfill after China stopped accepting recycled waste.


      Here’s more info related to WA state:


    • #7297
      Jim Little
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