This blog shares the research experiences and findings conducted at University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW faculty and students) in conjunction with Plastic Ocean Project. Earlier posts share open-ocean sampling and adventures in the North and South Atlantic, the South Pacific and the North Pacific Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Outreach and education is the primary purposes to bring global awareness to an issue that has reached a crisis level in the marine environment.
In preparation for a talk at the Cape Fear River Watch Saturday August 4th, I came across this footage I shot when sailing across the North Pacific from Hawaii to California in 2009. We were repeating the same sites Captain Charlie Moore had done in 1999 that led to his publishing scientific paper exposing the 6 to 1 plastics to zooplankton by weight. That is disturbing enough, yet, our results from the 2009 resample showed that there was twice as much plastic by weight than the 1999 samples. We had conducted 54 samples using two surface samplers - one for science, the other for educational purposes. This video was shot over 1000 miles from land and yet illustrates the disgusting contents of plastic found in our educational sampler. The majority of plastics found are bite size pieces festering at the surface where the base of the fish at the base of the food chain, on up to whales, feed. I became ill after seeing sample after sample of what looked like pristine waters, reveal a horrible truth, that we have polluted every corner of our planet.
The feasibility of going out there and cleaning it up is not the best solution. Reducing our use of one- time use plastics is by far the best answer to this ubiquitous problem. By doing so we reduce the production of plastics made out of limited resources, (toxic petroleum and natural gas) that we use once then throw away that will persist in the environment for 100s of years. Solutions like buying locally promoting small business in your community - soap makers, farmers, thrift shops, and hand-craft makers to name a few. When we do this, these business require a lot less packaging. REthink everything you buy. Make a game out of supporting small businesses and encourage them to not use disposible plastics. It beats trying to get a corporation to stop using it and you have a better shot of being heard. Keep the image of this sample in your mind if you need help remembering why it is important. Some good resources if you need some ideas are Danielle Richardet's blog, It Starts With Me and Beth Terry's book, Plastic Free.