News Articles

Ocean Plastics series, Huffington Post 

Critical, timely series of articles on the serious global problem of plastic in the oceans.


Five simple solutions to Michael Gove’s plastic problem
 by Libby Peake,  InsideTrack, Green Alliance Blog 

The scale of plastic pollution plaguing our oceans is alarming.  Our new analysis now shows the five actions that could prevent nearly two thirds of the plastic pollution from ever reaching the sea.


Scientists discover a second ocean garbage patch
 by Rachel Desantis, New York Daily News, July 31, 2017

A team of scientists led by oceanographer Charles Moore — the same man who also helped draw attention to the famous Great Pacific garbage patch in the northern part of the ocean in the late '90s — has discovered a second garbage patch made of mostly plastic debris in a largely unstudied section of the ocean.

The newly discovered South Pacific patch is comprised of extremely tiny pieces of plastic that are smaller than grains of rice and nearly invisible to the eye. The South Pacific gyre was previously studied by marine pollution researcher Marcus Eriksen in 2011, though at the time, he saw very little debris. In the six years since, tens of millions of tons of plastic are thought to have descended upon the oceans of the world.

 "There's very little information on plastic in the South Pacific," oceanographer Erik van Sebille told ResearchGate. "Hardly anybody goes there, and it's really very poorly studied."

 

We Are So Forked - Wait, we toss out how many plastic utensils every year? by 

 

Corona and Parley to End Sea Plastic Pollution by Oscar Michel, Irish Tech News, July 13, 2017

A new alliance was made between Corona and Parley with the goal of protecting 100 islands by 2020. The procedure will start in six key regions: Mexico, Maldives, Australia; Chile, Italy and Dominican Republic.

“We are all connected to the sea. The state of our islands is a powerful reminder of that fact. Plastic trash travels around the world and washes up on the most remote beaches, enclosing paradise with a belt of colorful plastic debris. It makes you understand that something is dead wrong. Plastic is a design failure… In Corona, we found the perfect partner to bring this philosophy and strategy to a new territory: the beverage sector. Economy caused this plastic problem in the first place, but with the transformative power of collaboration and Eco Innovation, we can make it the key to the solution” said Cyrill Gutsh, founder of Parley for the Oceans.

 

Australian Researchers: 'We Found Evidence of Microplastics Pretty Much Everywhere We Looked' by Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch, July 14, 2017

Australian researchers were surprised to find high concentrations of microplastics embedded in the seafloor along the southeast coast of Australia.

Scientists with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies sampled marine sediments at 42 locations from Adelaide to Sydney and discovered these tiny particles at every location, from busy city harbors to seemingly pristine locations.

On average the team found 3.4 items of microplastics per milliliter of sediment. The highest concentration of microplastic pollution was from Bicheno, a fishing and beach town on Tasmania's east coast, with 12 microplastic filaments per milliliter of sediment. Results from the study was published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin

 

McDonald's foam cups running over with environmental controversy by Robert Reed, Chicago Tribune July 7, 2017

These vessels keep soda and ice tea pretty cool. If a supersized drink is left in the car beverage holder for a few hours, the cups don't disintegrate into a puddle of sticky goo.

Yet it's that very industrial strength and durability that makes these polystyrene cups so eco-unfriendly and potentially creates a big public image problem for Oak Brook-based McDonald's.

By reintroducing foam cups, McDonald's appears to be backsliding on its long-held assurance to use more environmentally friendly packaging. It's also out of sync with a growing band of huge brand-name corporations vowing to get rid of foam plastic products.


If you drop plastic in the ocean, where does it end up?
 by Alan Evans, The Guardian, June 29, 2017

Modelling shows that ocean currents can concentrate slow-degrading debris in certain parts of the world’s oceans, leading to so-called ‘garbage patches.’

It is estimated that between four and 12m metric tonnes of plastic makes its way into the ocean each year. This figure is only likely to rise, and a 2016 report predicted that by 2050 the amount of plastic in the sea will outweigh the amount of fish.

A normal plastic bottle takes about 450 years to break down completely, so the components of a bottle dropped in the ocean today could still be polluting the waters for our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren.A lot of plastic debris in the ocean breaks down into smaller pieces and is ingested by marine life, and it is thought that a significant amount sinks to the sea bed. But a lot of it just floats around, and thanks to sophisticated modelling of ocean currents using drifting buoys, we can see where much of it ends up.

 

A campaign to eliminate plastic straws is sucking in thousands of converts b Washington PostJune 24, 2017

It started so innocently. A kid ordered a soda in a restaurant.  “It came with a plastic straw in it,” Milo Cress recalled. He glared at the straw for a while. “It seemed like such a waste.”  Today Cress, 15, is one of the faces of a growing movement to eliminate plastic straws.

The Plastic Pollution Coalition estimates that 1,800 “restaurants, organizations, institutions and schools worldwide have gotten rid of plastic straws or implemented a serve-straws-upon-request policy,” said Jackie Nunez, founder of a group called The Last Plastic Straw.

 

 

We've Made a Mess of Our Oceans by Eleanor Goldberg, Huffington Post, June 9, 2017

See a clip and read about James Cameron's short film in celebration of World Ocean's Day entitled, What would the Oceans Say.  June 8, 2017 marked the annual World Oceans Day, an awareness event that brought together world leaders and activists to help identify solutions to end plastic pollution and keep litter from entering our waters in the first place. To support those efforts, Cameron, together with environmental group Avatar Alliance Foundation, released his short film which outlines the major concerns our oceans face today ― including climate change and overfishing. It was released in conjunction with another segment, which profiles seven advocates who are working to combat those issues.

 

River plastic emissions to the world’s oceans by Laurent C. M. Lebreton et al, Nature Communications, June 7, 2017

Plastics in the marine environment have become a major concern because of their persistence at sea, and adverse consequences to marine life and potentially human health. Implementing mitigation strategies requires an understanding and quantification of marine plastic sources, taking spatial and temporal variability into account. Here we present a global model of plastic inputs from rivers into oceans based on waste management, population density and hydrological information.


Clean Our Oceans: The Impact of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch 
by Greg Wiszniewski, May 31, 2017

The size, location, and extensive nature of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch makes cleaning it impractical. A large number of ships would need to work for an entire year to eliminate only a fraction of the plastic from the water. Because cleanup is infeasible, experts focus their efforts on prevention of additional accumulation of plastic in the garbage patches. To prevent additional problems, consumers should use biodegradable plastic when they choose to use plastic. Avoiding the use of plastic whenever possible can also help reduce the garbage patches. Recycling plastic properly is another effective prevention measure.  


Two proposals to clean up our oceans of garbage: Will either work?
 
by David Leveille, PRI's The World, May 30, 2017 


Billionaire Who Made Fortune Polluting Oceans To Donate Wealth To Clean Them Up
 by Eleanor

Goldberg, Huffington Post, May 26, 2017

He’s building a massive ship to conduct research and remove plastics from the seas.  



Millions Of Pieces Of Plastic Are Piling Up On An Otherwise Pristine Pacific Island
 by Camila Domonoske, May 15, 2017

More than 37 million pieces of plastic debris have accumulated on Henderson Island, largest of the the Pitcairn Islands, a remote island in the South Pacific, thousands of miles from the nearest city, according to estimates from researchers who documented the accumulating trash.  It's the highest density of debris reported anywhere in the world, scientists report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.say. 


Plastic Pollution at Four Coastal California Hotspots Violates Clean Water Act
 
by Blake Kopcho, Center for Biological Diversity, May 8, 2017

San Francisco Bay and at least three other California coastlines suffer severe plastic pollution that violates the federal Clean Water Act, according to an appeal the Center for Biological Diversity has filed with the California State Water Resources Control Board.

A Center review of scientific studies found that the Bay and its surrounding coastline and the waters off San Diego, the North Coast and Channel Islands National Park should be declared impaired b y the water board. That designation would require state officials to clean up plastic pollution sources.  

Scientists in Italy may have discovered a small solution to a big problem: they’ve found a caterpillar that eats plastic bags and shits out antifreeze.

The author of a paper published today in Current Biology, Federica Bertocchini, discovered this by accident: An amateur beekeeper, she considered waxworms pests. She plucked several of them off of her beehives and put them in a plastic bag. When she left them for a few minutes, they managed to chew through the bag and escape.

So waxworms — technically wax moth caterpillars — can not only chew through plastic, they can break it down into ethylene glycol.

 

How Much Plastic do you use in a day?   

Plastic. It's super useful but it's also a big problem for the environment. Enough plastic is thrown away every year to circle the earth four times! The main issue is that plastic doesn't biodegrade, meaning it sticks around for a very long time. This video gives a quick overview of the scope of the plastic problem and what some people are doing to try to solve it.

 

Toronto General Hospital nurse’s plastic collection transformed into mural
, by Megan Ogilvie, TheStar.com, April 4, 2017 

Shalof, 58, collected the plastic bits during her 28 years as a nurse in the intensive care unit at Toronto General Hospital where she cared for critically ill patients, including those suffering from heart failure or recovering from organ transplant surgery.  She has since turned that collection into a mural, creating a colourful mosaic of more than 10,000 pieces embedded in clear resin.



Who’s ahead on the curve
 
by Maxine Perella, Ethical Corporations, April 2017

With a proliferation of standards, metrics and tools to help firms join the circular economy, we look at those that are doing most to close the loop. 



A groundbreaking study on the dangers of 'microplastics' may be unraveling
 by Martin EnserinkScience Magazine

At the heart of the case is a paper that made headlines after it was published in Science* on June 3, 2016. It showed that, given a choice between a natural diet and tiny plastic fragments, perch larvae will consume the plastic "like teens eat fast food," as a BBC story put it. This unhealthy appetite reduced their growth and made them more vulnerable to predators. It was a dire warning, suggesting the plastic trash washing into rivers, lakes, and oceans was creating ecological havoc.  



BPA-free? Substitutions mimic hormones in breast cancer cells
 by BrianBienkowski, Environmental Health News, Mar. 16, 2017
Three chemicals used as BPA alternatives mimic estrogen and promote breast cancer cell growth more than the controversial compound they’re designed to replace, according to new research.

 

Restricting use of plastic straws the latest trend to clean up beaches, ocean by Lauren Williams, Orange County Register March 16, 2017  

Straws are a quiet part of everyday life. Americans use about 500 million straws a day.  Choosing to not use a plastic straw is “a tangible thing anyone can do,” said Jackie Nunez, a kayak guide from Santa Cruz who in 2011 launched The Last Plastic Straw campaign.

Two-year study to assess microfibers’ threat to the oceans by Jennifer Kaya, Associated Press, Mar. 15, 2017

Researchers in the Gulf of Mexico will look at how the microscopic plastics shed by synthetic fabrics affect marine life.   

3 super kids saving the world for future generations by Jared Cotter and Jessica Robertson, The List, Mar 14, 2017
Plastic is a substance the Earth cannot digest and every bit of plastic that has ever been created still exists. It's not just the oceans that need help. There are some unexpected people doing something about it. Jared Cotter has three pint-sized super heroes that are saving the world for future generations including PPC Youth Ambassador, Charlotte Weir - Cleaning the Ocean. 

Coral Gables Might Become the First Florida City to Ban Plastic Bags by Brittany Shammas, Miami New Times.com, March 9, 2017

Last month, a judge upheld Coral Gables' ban on Styrofoam products, finding that a state law barring the city from enforcing the ordinance was unconstitutional.  Now some city officials want to take on another notorious pollutant: plastic bags.

 

Report finds chemicals in one-third of fast food packaging by February 1, 2017

Most of the time, when you order fast food, you know exactly what you're getting: an inexpensive meal that tastes great but is probably loaded with fat, cholesterol and sodium.

But it turns out that the packaging your food comes in could also have a negative impact on your health, according to a report published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.
The report found fluorinated chemicals in one-third of the fast food packaging researchers tested.
 

A non-estrogenic alternative to Bisphenol A at last? by Sarah Vogel  Environmental Defense Fund Jan.


Plastic microfibre ingestion by deep-sea organisms
,
 by M. L. Taylor et al, Nature.com, September 30, 2016   

Plastic waste is a distinctive indicator of the world-wide impact of anthropogenic activities. Both macro- and micro-plastics are found in the ocean, but as yet little is known about their ultimate fate and their impact on marine ecosystems. In this study we present the first evidence that microplastics are already becoming integrated into deep-water organisms. By examining organisms that live on the deep-sea floor we show that plastic microfibres are ingested and internalized by members of at least three major phyla with different feeding mechanisms. These results demonstrate that, despite its remote location, the deep sea and its fragile habitats are already being exposed to human waste to the extent that diverse organisms are ingesting microplastics.

 

Clean Our Oceans: The Impact of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by Greg Wiszniewski, BBC Cleaning Service 2016

Information about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and further links.


Today’s Secret Ingredient: Traces of Toxic Plastic Chemicals
 by Sonya Lunder, Environmental Working Group blog July 15, 2016

A study by Ami Zota and colleagues at George Washington University, published last April in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found phthalates in nearly all of the 7,000 Americans tested. More specifically, they found higher than average levels of two phthalates – di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate and diisononyl phthalate – in those who reported eating fast food within the past 24 hours.

 

Tanzanian Bahati Sosthenes Mayoma:  When Plastic is Not Fantastic by Jan Kjær, Better-World.dkJuly 01, 2016

Eating plastic? Not a nice feeling. Neither for human beings, nor fish.

In collaboration with Roskilde University and the National Museum of Denmark, Bahati approached the largest lake in Africa: Lake Victoria.  Close to Mwanza, the second biggest town in Tanzania, the team carried out a small study based on the methodology Mayoma learned in Denmark and used in Italy and Spain.

We found that 20 per cent of the fish had plastic in their gastrointestinal tracts. We were the first to show the world and Tanzania that we have a problem in our waters, says Bahati.

Since the research only took place around Mwanza, the findings are only circulating among researchers – not in the Tanzanian media. A study covering a bigger portion of the lake is needed to see whether it is a general problem or confined to the urbanized area. If a new study concludes that a high percentage of Tilapia and Nile Perch from the Lake Victoria contain plastic, it could affect long term sustainability of the fish which are already under pressure from overfishing and nutrient loading from both agriculture and municipal wastes, Bahati reckons.

 


Anthropogenic debris in seafood: Plastic debris and fibers from textiles in fish and bivalves sold for human consumption
 by Chelsea M. Rochman et al, Nature.com, September 24, 2015

The ubiquity of anthropogenic debris in hundreds of species of wildlife and the toxicity of chemicals associated with it has begun to raise concerns regarding the presence of anthropogenic debris in seafood. We assessed the presence of anthropogenic debris in fishes and shellfish on sale for human consumption. We sampled from markets in Makassar, Indonesia, and from California, USA. All fish and shellfish were identified to species where possible. Anthropogenic debris was extracted from the digestive tracts of fish and whole shellfish using a 10% KOH solution and quantified under a dissecting microscope. In Indonesia, anthropogenic debris was found in 28% of individual fish and in 55% of all species. Similarly, in the USA, anthropogenic debris was found in 25% of individual fish and in 67% of all species. Anthropogenic debris was also found in 33% of individual shellfish sampled. All of the anthropogenic debris recovered from fish in Indonesia was plastic, whereas anthropogenic debris recovered from fish in the USA was primarily fibers. Variations in debris types likely reflect different sources and waste management strategies between countries. We report some of the first findings of plastic debris in fishes directly sold for human consumption raising concerns regarding human health.


Marine litter on the floor of deep submarine canyons of the Northwestern Mediterranean Sea: The role of hydrodynamic processes,
 Xavier Tubau et al, ScienceDirect,  March 31, 2015

Marine litter represents a widespread type of pollution in the World’s Oceans. This study is based on direct observation of the seafloor by means of Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) dives and reports litter abundance, type and distribution in three large submarine canyons of the NW Mediterranean Sea, namely Cap de Creus, La Fonera and Blanes canyons. Our ultimate objective is establishing the links between active hydrodynamic processes and litter distribution, thus going beyond previous, essentially descriptive studies.

 

The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare by Nathaniel Rich, New York Times Magazine, Jan. 6, 2016

Rob Bilott was a corporate defense attorney for eight years. Then he took on an environmental suit that would upend his entire career — and expose a brazen, decades-long history of chemical pollution.  

http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/1/4/140317

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0095839

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0079661115000543

http://www.nature.com/articles/srep33997 

The Deep Sea is a Major Sink for Microplastic Debris, by Woodall et al, Royal Society Open Science December 17, 2014

Marine debris, mostly consisting of plastic, is a global problem, negatively impacting wildlife, tourism and shipping. However, despite the durability of plastic, and the exponential increase in its production, monitoring data show limited evidence of concomitant increasing concentrations in marine habitats. There appears to be a considerable proportion of the manufactured plastic that is unaccounted for in surveys tracking the fate of environmental plastics. Even the discovery of widespread accumulation of microscopic fragments (microplastics) in oceanic gyres and shallow water sediments is unable to explain the missing fraction. Here, we show that deep-sea sediments are a likely sink for microplastics.

  

Plastic is Washed Up by Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor, Antennae, Autumn 2014

Dianna Cohen is the co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, a group that addresses the pervasive problem of plastic pollution. She was inspired to co-found the group by her work as an artist -- because her chosen material is the ubiquitous plastic bag. She writes: "Having worked with the plastic bag as my primary material for the past twenty-three years, all of the obvious references to recycling, first-world culture, class, high and low art give way to an almost formal process which reflects the unique flexibility of the medium." With the Plastic Pollution Coalition, she helps to raise awareness of ocean waste -- the majority of which is non-degradable plastic – and everyday strategies to cut down the amount of plastic we use and throw away. See uploaded issue.

 

These Popular Plastic Bottles May Be Messing With Your Hormones by Mariah Blake, Mother JonesJune 16, 2014

A new study finds that many BPA-free brands advertised as safe may be anything but.  Testing was performed using human breast cancer cells (MCF-7) and, in some cases, ovarian cells (BG-1). Chemicals were extracted for testing using a variety of solvents, including saline solution, pure ethanol, and ethanol with distilled water. The combination of solvents varied between products. Estrogenic activity was measured by comparing cells' response to plastic extracts with their response to pure estrogen (17-beta estradiol). Less than 15 percent of the maximum response to estrogen was considered negative.

 

Marine Litter Distribution and Density in European Seas, from the Shelves to Deep Basins,  by Christopher K. Pham, et al, PLOS One, April 30, 2014

Anthropogenic litter is present in all marine habitats, from beaches to the most remote points in the oceans. On the seafloor, marine litter, particularly plastic, can accumulate in high densities with deleterious consequences for its inhabitants. Yet, because of the high cost involved with sampling the seafloor, no large-scale assessment of distribution patterns was available to date. Here, we present data on litter distribution and density collected during 588 video and trawl surveys across 32 sites in European waters. We found litter to be present in the deepest areas and at locations as remote from land as the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The highest litter density occurs in submarine canyons, whilst the lowest density can be found on continental shelves and on ocean ridges. Plastic was the most prevalent litter item found on the seafloor. Litter from fishing activities (derelict fishing lines and nets) was particularly common on seamounts, banks, mounds and ocean ridges. Our results highlight the extent of the problem and the need for action to prevent increasing accumulation of litter in marine environments.



Impact of plastics on human health and ecosystems
 Medical Life Science News, March 20, 2010 

Rolf Halden, Associate Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University and assistant director of Environmental Biotechnology at the Biodesign Institute has undertaken a survey of existing scientific literature concerning the hazards of plastics to human health and to the ecosystems we depend on. His findings, which appear in the latest issue of the Annual Review of Public Health, are sobering.

 

The Environmental Toll of Plastics by Jessica A. Knoblauch Environmental Health NewsJuly 2, 2009

From cell phones and computers to bicycle helmets and hospital IV bags, plastic has molded society in many ways that make life both easier and safer. But the synthetic material also has left harmful imprints on the environment and perhaps human health, according to a new compilation of articles authored by scientists from around the world.

More than 60 scientists contributed to the new report, which aims to present the first comprehensive review of the impact of plastics on the environment and human health, and offer possible solutions.

 

Elizabeth Royte Says Boxed Water Just As Bad As Bottledby Jaymi Heimbuch, Treehugger.com, March 27, 2009

Elizabeth Royte, who wrote the book on the evils of bottled water, (Bottlemania), calls out Boxed Water as perpetuating a culture of unthinking convenience.

 

Altered Oceansby Kenneth R. Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling with photographer Rick Loomis, Los Angeles Times, July and August of 2006.

This five-part series on the crisis in the world's oceans won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting.

Part One: A Primeval Tide of Toxins  by Kenneth R. Weiss

Runoff from modern life is feeding an explosion of primitive organisms. This 'rise of slime,' as one scientist calls it, is killing larger species and sickening people.

Part Two: Sentinels Under Attack

Kenneth R. Weiss

Toxic algae that poison the brain have caused strandings and mass die-offs of marine mammals — barometers of the sea's health.

Part Three: Dark Tides, Ill Winds

Kenneth R. Weiss

With sickening regularity, toxic algae blooms are invading coastal waters. They kill sea life and send poisons ashore on the breeze, forcing residents to flee.

Part Four: Plague of Plastic Chokes the Seas

Kenneth R. Weiss

On Midway Atoll, 40% of albatross chicks die, their bellies full of trash. Swirling masses of drifting debris pollute remote beaches and snare wildlife.

Part Five: A Chemical Imbalance

Usha Lee McFarling

Growing seawater acidity threatens to wipe out coral, fish and other crucial species worldwide.

 
Why You Should Finally Give Up Bottled Water for Good, by Dawn Gifford, Small Footprint Family

Dawn is the creator of Small Footprint Family, and the author of the critically acclaimed Sustainability Starts at Home - How to Save Money While Saving the Planet. After a 20-year career in green building and environmental sustainability, chronic illness forced her to shift her expertise and passion from the public sphere to home and hearth.