Thursday, November 19, 2015

Capitol Hill, Ocean Friendly Establishments, and Beach Cleanups.

Plastic Ocean Project goes to Capitol Hill!!  

On Wednesday, November 4th, Bonnie Monteleone, Executive Director of Plastic Ocean Project, visited Capitol Hill to speak in opposition to offshore drilling off our coast. She spoke about the importance of the Hatteras region where the majority of the sea turtle species, of which are endangered or critically endangered, frequently visit due to the Sargassum mats which form off our coast.   
She also talked about the fact that sargassum floats, and so does oil.  Sargassum, comes from the Sargasso Sea , and is an essential fish habitat important to many species because of its ability to provide shelter and foraging for hundreds of marine species, including baby sea turtles.  There are at least 81 species that rely on Sargassum as their only known habitat.  Sargassum is protected by law, and for that reason alone offshore drilling should not happen off the North Carolina coast. 
Please consider contacting the governor's office to express your opposition to offshore drilling off the North Carolina Coast.  Or, sign this petition.

After the screening of Mission Blue at UNCW , the UNCW POP volunteers were super excited and decided to start a Hope Spot in Cape Hatteras.  The student volunteers put a petition together to present to Sylvia Earle, of Mission Blue.
UNCW POP is the most active student club at UNCW!!  Congrats to all of you for making such a big difference in our community and our oceans!! 

Ginger Taylor, Tricia Monteleone and Bonnie Monteleone created this "trash turtle" using  trash collected by Ginger Taylor during her Monday morning walks looking for turtle tracks.  This sculpture serves to educate visitors touring the turtle hospital on the issues and problems with plastics in our oceans.  Bonnie and Ginger also put together an information board with facts about plastics.  This sculpture and information board is part of the tour at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital, and provides information to all of the visitors about the issues with plastic and marine debris litter.


Lea Island is in desperate need of a cleanup! After a recent storm, a house was washed away and the debris and litter that was left behind is unbelievable.  Audubon and other volunteers are heading to the island this weekend to do a major cleanup.  The photos below are some taken from a recent trip to the island.  This island is home to many seabirds and other wildlife.  We will do all we can to protect the island and keep it clean.  Organizing a cleanup in your area is an awesome way to make a difference, bring people together, and educate on the issues with debris and plastics in our oceans.  Please send any photos and information from your cleanups to and we will post it on our blog.  Thanks for all you do to help keep the oceans clean! 
"Individually, we are one drop, together, we are an ocean".
Ryunosuke Satoro 

Ocean Friendly Establishments

UNCW POP members and other volunteers have been busy contacting area restaurants to sign up for the "Ocean Friendly Establishment" initiative.  The only thing a restaurant has to do is make the pledge to only give straws upon request to their patrons.  It's such an easy way to make a big difference! Thanks to all who have signed on so far.  Anyone interested in joining this initiative and new trend, please contact Kim Beller for more information.
We are proud to announce the latest restaurants to come on board!  More to come!!!
Thanks you to all of you for making a difference in the use of single use plastics!

Monday, November 2, 2015

upcoming adventures at sea... success stories...and tips on reducing your plastic footprint


Ocean activist/ eco warrior, Lisa Rider will soon be on her big adventure with  As she travels the ocean blue, diving, exploring and collecting data, she will be staying in touch with us here at Plastic Ocean Project so that we can share her adventures, stories and findings with you.  Visit her blog to read her story and to see what she is packing for her trip, and what she has planned.  

Bonnie Monteleone , founder of Plastic Ocean Project, is getting ready for another big adventure as well.  On December 28th, she and the team of "Swim the Big Blue",  leave from Natal, Africa, and will be at sea for 100 days with Ben Hooper , as he swims the "big blue" from Africa to Brazil.  Ben's goal is to swim 1764 miles. He will be the first person to achieve this major accomplishment.  Bonnie will be collecting samples as they sail.  We will be in touch with Bonnie to keep up with his progress, her samples and findings,  and to hear all about the adventures they will encounter.  Stay tuned!


Recently, I saw my friend, Teresa's post on Facebook, sharing her beautiful handmade soaps and information about her soap making class.  The soap looked like something I would definitely want to try, but it was wrapped in plastic.  Reaching out to her was easy.  I sent her a private message on Facebook asking her to consider using a more eco-friendly wrap and she was happy to make the switch.  In fact, she made the switch within minutes and sent me a photo showing off her new packaging.  This is how the universe works!!  All we have to do is ask.  If you know of a business you would like to support, but wish they would be more conscientious of their use of plastic, then just put it out there to them and they will likely be happy to make the change.  Little success stories add up and become very important in our endeavor to make the ocean cleaner and greener.  


Plastic straws still remain one of the top items found at the cleanups.  The group has found almost 300 straws in the past couple of months at Wrightsville Beach.  Unfortunately, straws, (as all plastics do), pose a huge problem for marine life, not to mention the toxicity from the plastics leaching into our oceans.  UNCW POP volunteers and other volunteers are reaching out to area restaurants regarding the "OCEAN FRIENDLY ESTABLISHMENT" initiative.  Anyone interested in becoming an "OCEAN FRIENDLY ESTABLISHMENT" can contact Kim Beller ( to receive information and to sign up.  All we ask is that the establishment only gives straws upon request.  

UNCW POP has been busy doing beach cleanups and organizing events to raise awareness in the community.  Recently, guest speaker Dr. Bill McLellan spoke to the group about cetaceans and marine debris.  The number of whales, dolphins and other marine life affected by plastics and fishing gear is outrageous.  The plastic epidemic is huge and it is killing our beloved sea creatures at an alarming rate.  Saying no to single use plastics and keeping the ocean clean of fishing gear, plastics,  and other litter is essential to helping our marine mammals.  Dr. McLellan is doing important work to save whales and dolphins, as well as documenting all of the obstacles they face.  It was an honor to have Dr. McLellan as a guest speaker at UNCW. 

Beneath the Waves is a photo gallery of photos from diver's committed to cleaning up the ocean of marine debris.  Not only do we need to clean up the surface of the ocean, but beneath the waves, in the depths of the ocean lies a devastating problem for marine life.  Please e-mail any photos (with photo creds), if you want us to share what you are finding during your cleanups, (on the beach or beneath the waves).

"Individually, we are one drop.  TOGETHER, we are an ocean."
Ryunosuke Satoro

 Tuesday, November 10th there will be a showing of the movie MISSION BLUE at 6:30 in Dobo 134 at UNCW.  Everyone is welcome!!

making a difference through community outreach.....

Perfect timing for halloween, Sam Athey, Lara Noran, and Danielle Gutierrez visited Mrs. Casteen's second grade class at Ogden Elementary School to speak to students about plastics in our oceans.  After reading the book "All the way to the Ocean", by Joel Harper, the students were given re-usable bags for trick-or-treating on Halloween!  The story lead them to a group discussion and guessing how long it takes various plastic items to break down, and reach the ocean.  UNCW POP is available for presentations and outreach.  Please contact us if you are interested in more information and scheduling an event for your school or group.

Would you like to reduce your plastic footprint?  Every little thing makes a difference...
just a few tips to start!.......
*say not to single use plastics!!  (water bottles, straws, grocery bags, food wrapped in plastic)
* do a beach cleanup, a park cleanup, or an anywhere you are cleanup!!  (always leave it cleaner than you found it:)
*buy in the bulk section using your own re-usable jars
*say no thank you to straws when you dine out

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The war on PLASTIC... we're all in this together


Lots of people gathered at Wrightsville Beach on Saturday, October 10 to pick up trash and debris for 
New Hanover County's, Keep America Beautiful Beach Sweep.  Coordinated by the Caper Fear River Watch, this event was a huge success.   In spite of the forecast calling for rain all day, people showed up ready to make a difference by collecting all kinds of trash from our beautiful beach.  Surfrider Cape Fear Chapter and Wrightsville Beach Keep it Clean volunteers were there to greet and sign people in.  

David Cignotti and Ginger Taylor, (Wrightsville Beach Keep it Clean)
welcoming volunteers to the cleanup site.

Wrightsville Beach is a smoke-free beach, however, over 1000 cigarette butts were collected during the cleanup.  Unfortunately, cigarette butts do not go away, therefore posing danger to all kinds of marine life and the quality of the sand and water.

315 cigarette butts collected in under 1 hour.

 Bonnie Monteleone and volunteers, discussing "bio-discs".  This family found a huge amount of the tiny discs last fall on South Channel Drive.  During the cleanup several discs were found on the ocean side as well.

This is what 433 bottle caps looks like.  Over 600 plastic bottle caps were found during the cleanup.  These bottle caps would have eventually ended up in the ocean, adding to the ever growing problem in the 5 gyres and ocean debris.  Using re-usable water bottles and refusing to buy single use plastic bottles could eliminate this kind of litter.  Ocean Conservancy, in partnership with the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment has come out with a new report stating that the ocean could contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fin fish by 2025.  These numbers are frightening.  It is more important than ever to clean up our ocean and to take a stand agains single use plastics.  Because plastics do not bio degrade, once they get in the ocean the process of photo degradation happens and they break down into tiny pieces called micro-plastics.  These plastics are being ingested by all kinds of marine life and  fish, including those at the bottom of the food chain.  What can you do to help?  Say no to single use plastic, co-ordinate clean ups in your area, and spread the word! 

 Sam, with UNCW POP (Plastic Ocean Project), found 56 straws between access 15-29.  It is estimated that over 500 million straws are used per day.  (PER DAY)!  That's enough straws to fill over 46,400 large school buses per year.  Where are these straws going?  They likely will end up on the beach and in the ocean, if not in the landfill.  This is a problem that we can fix.  Consider saying NO to straws.  When dining in restaurants, tell your server you do not need a straw, or consider taking your own glass straw to your favorite eatery.  With the plastics in the oceans reaching extreme levels, it is more important than ever to make changes to reduce our plastic footprint. 

 60 straws found by Sam at access 29-33.

Plastic Ocean Project has teamed up with Surfrider, Cape Fear Chapter and Wrightsville Beach Keep it Clean to launch a straw initiative for area restaurants.  It's a simple concept, but one that can make a huge difference.  Restaurants who participate in this program will only give straws upon request.  Local artist and Plastic Ocean Project Ambassador, Kim Beller designed a certificate which will be given to all restaurants to proudly display when signing up for this initiative, recognizing them as an "Ocean Friendly Establishment".  Please contact Kim Beller if you wish to participate or learn more, and someone will be in touch with you very soon.  Regardless of where you are located you can participate in this program.  We have people from Oregon and California reaching out to us to see how they can help out!  Outreach and education is available to anyone who participates. 

We would like to thank Blockade Runner East Ocean Front Dining for being the first to participate in this awesome program! 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Summer Snapshot

Kirstin holding up her Porthole to the Sea   

Cell phones. Though they have become an addiction, POP would not have been able to visually record much of our journey sharing our stories of what we have learned from our research and the faces and places we've seen along the way.  I became a little overwhelmed by the 100s of photos we took with people who asked us to share our work AND the number of people who have stepped up to help eradicate plastics from their lives and our environment.  I like to call it People Power and nothing can change the world for the better than when we put our minds, bodies, and souls into it.

On July 4th  coordinator Lisa Rider invited us to have a booth at the Earth and Surf Festival on North Topsail. There we displayed plastic marine debris samples collect from various regions of the planet along with our Porthole to the Sea.  We were among many tents sharing the importance of caring for the ocean so many of us submerge our bodies into, eat from, and ride on. And thanks to the proceeds from the Keep Onslow County Beautiful' Fun Run, and the surf competition put on by Onshore Surf Shop, POP was able to fund moving our traveling art exhibit from UCAR, Boulder, CO to University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UH.

Kim Beller sharing the ocean samples
Mid July, we were at Tidal Creek for the Surfalorus hosted by  Kirstin Thompson.  One of our new members, Bonnie Mitchell, etched some super cute marine themed glasses as a fundraiser. We can barely keep them on the shelf - promoting the importance of drinking from glass while helping fund our outreach.

By mid August we had solved the mystery to a new plastic pollution problem. One of our recent UNCW student beach research discoveries were the release of plastic bio disks also known as bio media.  Kim Beller is holding up a handful she found on the spoil island near Wrightsville Beach.  Not only did the students work discover a problem, but POP was able to locate the source that led to the repair of the facility to prevent the release of these plastic bite size pieces of plastic.  To date, we have removed over 500 of them thanks to the collaboration of POP, UNCW students, and local volunteers.

We split our time and funds up between working with children, moving our education thru art exhibit around the country, performing research, and doing cleanups. Thank you all for the funding that helps eradicate this problem and to the people who joined this fight along the way.

Julie Hurley on spoil island cleanup duty

Thursday, July 2, 2015

When Plastics Cost an Arm or a Leg

Can you locate 4 different species?
This turtle was likely well nourished from the 80+ fish species and over 100 invertebrates associated with the Sargassum. Even so, the Plastic Ocean Project (POP, Inc.) has observed a decline in the marine biota associated with the Sargassum and continues to monitor this during surface sampling in the North Atlantic ocean gyre and circulation currents. This critically endangered Kemps Ridley, falling victim to ocean plastics at perhaps just three to six months old, was otherwise fat and healthy.  Here is her story told by Karen Comstock, founding director of
Casa Tortuga and copy editor for POP, Inc.

Beachgoers came across this fat little Kemps Ridley sea turtle half-buried in the seaweed that covered a good thick strip along the shoreline on Mustang Island off the coast of South Texas a few hot summers ago. The thick Sargassum matt, where sea life thrives and baby sea turtles grow to a size more likely to escape at least the threat of sea gulls, now gave some shelter to this stranded little one. But with one flipper already amputated by plastic ribbons from either rope or vinyl tarp, her chances of getting out of the tangled mass and back into the open water were slim. 

Sargassum full of plastic as it washes in on Bermuda
Unlike the pseudo-debate over causes of climate change, there is no mistaking the human-caused, heartbreaking injuries suffered by marine life battling for survival against the overwhelming onslaught of plastic debris. Flowing out of factories and shopping malls, blowing across parking lots and down our streets, the journey of plastic is from our hands on land to river and then to sea.

The vacationing couple in their 20's who found the turtle just outside my home, covered her gently in a wet cloth and asked anyone who passed for help. Word reached me quickly. I went out to see the status of the turtle and phoned Donna Shaver's team at the Padre Island National Seashore. They directed the call to Tony Amos at the Port Aransas Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARC) and this baby Lepidochelys kempii was soon taken to the ARC for medical care.

 In the good hands of the knowledgeable and qualified staff at the ARC, I imagine this turtle recovered and was released at an appropriate time in a well-considered place. Though sea turtles missing a flipper are as common in the sea as three-legged dogs are on land, no one can know her true fate or how long she survived. I do know her appearance on the beach that day was life changing and impactful on the tourists who found her and, subsequently, on those who heard their story and saw the pictures. 

 Seeing the tiny bones and pink flesh sticking out beyond the little tourniquet of plastic, I know that education doesn't get any more raw than this.  Our personal experiences seeing harmful human-caused results are the only thing that can augment how and when we take personal responsibility for the impact of our actions on the environment. This turtle lost her right arm to our use of plastics. Her story needs to be shared and shared widely.
Former Director of, Karen Comstock is now advocating for the Earth and her oceans from the mountains of Western North Carolina while pursuing an advanced degree in New Media and Global Education from ASU, Boone NC.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

All is not quiet on the western plastic ocean front!

Many of our followers are keen to our traveling art exhibit zigzagging across the country stopping at various cities along the way. The 25 feet of ocean waves has helped bring awareness to the pandemic of plastic pollution. We have met so many caring people along the way, many unaware that become extremely interested in the discussion. We just hit an epic location in Boulder Colorado, UCAR, on top of the Rockys but those stories can wait because this one shared by Linda Leitch from Canada is worth stopping everything for to read, learn and help.

The beaches on Haida Gwaii have always been a magnet for the flotsam and jetsam that circles the Pacific. The archipelago sits off shore from the mainland and reaches out into the currents and wild winds of Open Ocean. Some beaches collect the debris and display it for a while and then it’s simply swept back into the sea to continue its journey, but some beaches here hold on to the debris and do not let it go. 
In the last few years we’ve watched with alarm as our favorite areas started to collect devastating amounts of new debris. A beach known simply to the locals as “East Beach” was being hit particularly hard, the belly of this beach is exposed to Hecate Strait and all her wild personality. 

East Beach is our backyard playground. This paradise is where we draw sustenance into our lives. It’s where we hunt deer, collect firewood, pick berries, and gather shellfish. This playground extends from the tip of RoseSpit Ecological Reserve, all the way through Naikoon Provincail Park and is accessible only by 3 day hike or with the serious use of 4 wheel drive vehicles.

Very few people will dare to navigate this shore by vehicle forit’s extremely remote and the potential always looms near that the beach will leave you mired while the tide creeps in and claims your vehicle. It takes a special skill set to drive out here, a kind of built in sense for where the beach will have hidden obstacles and soft spots. My partner Dann has been perfecting these skills since childhood, but still we have the occasional white knuckle moments.

Watching the garbage flood our home was unbearable and we were forced into action. 
Using our trusty rusty pick-up and a small trickle of funding provided to Canada directly from Japan we started to take truckloads of debris off the beach. This is no easy task. We work as weekend warriors, camping overnight in all conditionsbecause the distance we travel is far and difficult and often dictated by the tides

Sometimes we enjoy glorious sun filled days with sparkling calm waters beside us and sometimes we battle our way down the beach in dark cold storms that dump water and flood the creeks blocking our passage. There are times when the beach is perfect and firm for driving that have been balanced out by days when we are stuck knee deep in muck prying the truck out of the mire with our bare hands, but we ultimately always get moving again and we have never considered giving up.

To make the most of our time and funding we load our truck to comic proportions. Often I’ve described our truck on its way home as a “fortune telling gypsy wagon put together with marshmallows by a drunken Dr. Seuss.” Such are the oddities we carry.
As well as bringing the garbage off the beach we’ve documented what we carry and set up monitoring sites along the way to begin to gauge the amount hitting our shores for the future. This is important information that has never been collected here before.

The debris is dominated by Styrofoam varying in size from blocks that dwarf the truck to tiny microbeads of mess. Behind the Styrofoam are bottles of every shape size and purpose, fishing gear, and tiny ground up bits of plastic that maybe used to fit together into something useful, but are now an environmental hazard embedding into the shoreline and being eaten by the wildlife.

After bringing in 62 loads of debris over an 18 month spanwe’ve exhausted our funding, while more garbage than ever is swamping our shores
It was exceptionally kind of Japan to donate to Canada their humble offering after they were devastated by a tsunami, knowing that tons of debris would make its way across the ocean landing on our soil. 
It is with the same respect I reserve for family that I pick up the ripple effect of problems from that day.

However, garbage has been a problem here long before 2011, and the increase in garbage that we’ve been finding and piling into our truck has not been entirely from Japan.
There is a horror show of irresponsibility unfolding in our ocean from countries all around the Pacific. Often we find things with markings that indicate their country of origin. We’ve found things from Chile, Philippines, Korea, Russia, China, United States, and Canada mixed into the debris.

This is a problem that connects all countries and cultures living around the Pacific Rim together. This is a problem that will need us all to act together to change our habits and lifestyles. It’s up to every country and every individual with in each country to help out and work toward change.

As I am a Canadian, I feel exceptionally let down by the lack of response from our government in particular. We are cleaning in an Ecological Reserve and Provincial Park, places that we, as a country, decided long ago deserve protection. Sharing this archipelago, though further south of us, is Gwaii HaanasNational Park Reserve which is home to many culturally significant heritage sites to the Haida people. They, too, were operating cleanup projects with the funding from Japan and have also exhausted that funding, without any of the problem being solved

My partner and I are not radical environmentalists, and may not be the typical type of people you would find having passion for this problem. We are simple folks, maybe even a little reclusive,but this land is our garden, this ocean is our larder and so this problem belongs to us as much as anyone.

As a temporary measure, until further funding is found I’ve started a gofundme page with the hopes we can keep our truck rolling down the beach clearing this paradise landscape of harmful plastics.

Any help is appreciated. Share the link with friends, donate, use less plastic, and clean debris from our waterways every chance you can. By Linda Leitch

Monday, March 30, 2015

Found the other end of Rt. 40 and Maybe a Solution to Plastic Pollution

Plastic Ocean Project's traveling art exhibit successfully made it to California in December 2014 where it was on display at the Aquarium of the Pacific. In February it moved to the ARTery in Costa Mesa, CA and is now on it's way to Boulder Colorado.

A special shout out to Kurt Lieber from Ocean Defenders Alliance who put me up and got my van ready for the road. Here are some photos from my journey heading toward Colorado.  But I have one stop along the way.  Salt Lake City, UH. You might notice it isn't exactly on the way.  But it is on the way to helping solve the problem with plastic marine debris and worth every mile out of our way.  Stay tuned for more details.