Sunday, December 26, 2010

"Children Swimming with Plastic Fragments"

Learning about the plastic accumulation in the North Pacific known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, I felt I needed to find out for myself if it were true or an urban legend.  I also wanted to know, if plastic accumulated in the ocean 1000s of miles away from land mass, did it happen in the other four oceans.  My latest journey across the center of the South Atlantic confirmed my suspicions.  I have now witnessed for myself that plastic is not only accumulating in the N. Pacific, N. Atlantic, and S. Atlantic,  but the photo degraded plastics mechanically broken down by the ocean are often times spit out onto some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  

Here are photos of a couple of samples we took in the S. Atlantic gyre.  Note the plastic fragments collected as well as marine life that is a viable food source for the base of our food chain.  It is easy to see how predators could mistake plastics for marine life that also gathers at the surface of the ocean. These plastic fragments are the same types of plastic bits I found washed onto the shores of Rio De Janeiro while children were playing in the ocean.

The first time I met with Captain Charlie Moore, (instrumental in bringing awareness to plastic marine pollution), he said to me, "If we don't stop plastic from getting into the marine environment, soon, our children will be swimming in it."  That was over two years ago.  At the time, he was talking about the North Pacific Garbage Patch expanding to the continental rim.  He was right in some respect, though Brazil is in the South Atlantic continental rim.  In this video you can actually see the same type of small fragments that we find in our open-ocean samples washing up on beaches in Brazil.  The fragments are extremely weathered which indicates it is not from a local source.

Should children be forced to play in ocean water laced with plastic?  Should marine life have to suffer because they confused plastic for food?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sea Beautiful People

I had the privilege of being at sea with extraordinarily beautiful people.  Some of them have made direct positive impacts on "Sea Change" while others have their sleeves rolled up.

Professional Surfer  Mary Osborne is now a member of the United Nations Environmental Program after our voyage across the S. Atlantic where she witnessed firsthand plastics accumulating thousands of miles away from land. She will also be getting her blood tested for chemicals associated with plastics.

 James Pribram, is a professional surfer and host of "Eco Warrior."  He's been instrumental in ocean projects in various parts of the world.  From helping to prevent developers from altering shore waters, legalizing surfing in Lake Michigan, to bringing awareness to water quality issues and protecting precious reefs. James is now committed to educating the masses on yet another issue, plastic pollution.

StivWilson, Pangaea Explorations and 5 Gyres Communications Director, was formally the editor-in-chief of Wend Magazine. He quit his day job after voyaging across the N. Atlantic earlier this year and seeing the mass of plastic 1000s of miles away from land.  Stiv also played a major role in getting plastic bags banned in Portland, Oregon.

Founder of the Environmental Clean-up Coalition,  Rich Sundance Owen, has been working with companies creating technology for cleaning up plastic in the marine environment.  His resolve - to clean up the North Pacific Garbage Patch.  What we all learned from this voyage was that beach sweeps ARE gyre clean-ups.  Cleaning waterways that lead to the ocean are far more productive than traveling 1000s of miles out into the middle of the sea to commence clean-up.  Rich has been educating the masses on the problems with plastic pollution through his coalition.

Mary Maxwell seen here repairing the mainsail. We were on nearly every watch together.  Through our many hours on watch, I learned about her ideas for bringing awareness to this issue.  She works in the hotel industry and this voyage has helped her see the magnitude of this problem firsthand.  I have a feeling she is going to be a powerhouse in greening up high-end hotels.  A much needed and very difficult proposition.  She also has a huge vision - can anyone say Alcatrash?  Go for it Mary.

The most informative person to explain the significance of plastic pollution and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) - Chelsea Rochman.  She's a PhD student through a combined program at both University of California, Davis and San Diego State University studying toxicity of Marine Plastic Debris.  Here she is using a water sampling device looking for contaminates that we might also find on our plastic samples.  Many of the chemicals found in our water at minuscule levels can reach toxic doses when adsorbed onto plastic.  Chelsea also collected fish to sample their tissue as well as necropsy their digestive track looking for plastic ingestion.  This area of research is relatively new and she is a promising scientist in this field   questioning, "If fish are eating our plastic and we are eating the fish, what is the chemical burden from the human consumption of fish?"

A special thank you to Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummings for spear heading the S. Atlantic voyage. To Clive Cosby and Dale  Selvam for a safe journey over 4100 nms from Brazil to Cape Town Africa.  And to filmmakers Michael Lutman and Jody Lemmon for capturing it all raw.

Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummings
Michael Lutman

Jody Lemmon
In a recent interview, James explained how arduous it is both physically and emotionally to be at sea so long.  You are forced to face obstacles of physical harm and look hard down the barrel of your tender psyche.  In the end, some of us became more polished.  I saw several transform. I'd like to believe my experience in the S. Atlantic transformed me as well.  I now have been in 3 of the 5 gyres and feel I can speak as an ocean ambassador on the severe extent of plastic pollution.  This voyage making us the VERY first research crew to cross the S. Atlantic surveying for plastic.  When asked why is it important to go to such an extent, the answer is simple.  Once we understand the global magnitude of this problem, we can no longer point fingers at someone else.  And with the research information and these personal experiences, we can start transforming the world to reduce their plastic use.

More later,

Bonnie Over the Ocean

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blog 14 From Wednesday, December 8, 2010 -Last Daze at Sea

Last post I quoted from the book, “Adrift.”  I have also referenced the book in many of my talks explaining how several people have witnessed plastic accumulating in high-pressure systems as far back as 30 years ago.  Steven Callahan, the author, being one of them.  I lay in my bunk that night fidgeting around trying to make my back ribs happy when it occurred to me that his raft WAS plastic pollution.  Much like the plastic we witnessed in the South Atlantic gyre, Callahan possibly traveled the same fate.  He drifted outward from land (where he capsized) and was brought to the center of a vortex via wind and current. According to Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an expert in ocean current modeling, items can remain inside a gyre indefinitely while some of it is slung out and onto island beaches inside gyres and coastlines.  That is precisely what happened to Callahan in 1982.  It took 76 days for him to travel into the North Atlantic gyre high-pressure system via wind and current.  There, he reported seeing miles of trash better than a thousand miles away from any land mass.  Lucky for him, he was spit out of the high-pressure system. Sixteen days later he was nearly washed upon a treacherous island shoreline when three fishermen rescued him.

We arrived in Cape Town, Africa at 2am December 9th.  My team had the last shift from 10pm – 2am.  Most of my clothes were either wet from previous watches, or damp from being down below.  The homestretch current we were in runs from the Antarctic up the west coast of Africa.  The water only 9 degrees Celsius made the Sea Dragon into a giant humidified cooler.   Mike, Mary and I huddled on the bow cold bare feet and hands shivering as the wind howled.  Quietly we sat staring into the oppressive fog.  Foghorns muffled by its thickness as scenes from the movie “Casablanca” ran through my head.   Mike shouted to the captain talking him through the green and red shoreline buoys barely visible until we were only several yards away from them.  Slowly, the shoreline lights burned through the grayness as street lights lined up like birthday candles welcomed us - Mary Maxwell’s birthday candles.

With all hands on deck Clive at the helm, we quickly and quietly tucked Sea Dragon into port. Thirty-one days at sea had made sailors out of many of us though my skills lean more toward swabbing the decks.  With Sea Dragon backed up to the front of the Two Oceans Aquarium, we all got out to stretch our legs.  As we walked toward the aquarium, we couldn’t help but notice the dozen or so large silhouettes on a floating platform.  Fur seals accompanied by a large sign illustrating how plastic pollution entangles marine mammals.   Kudos to Two Oceans Aquarium for not only providing the platform for the wild seals and educational signage, but for also disentangling many of them.  According to the assistant director, they remove plastic fishing gear or packaging straps several times a month.  
That night was my last night aboard the Sea Dragon, but there is much more to tell.  A very special thanks to Danielle Richardet who besides her Sundance Films documentary found time to post my blog and to Jennifer O'Keefe who has always been there for me whether its jumping rope for funds or collaborating. Love to my ladies!

More later.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Treacherous Mountains in the South Atlantic Ocean: Day 29

Blog 13-- Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So imagine that you wake up in the morning and your house is on such a slant that you have to walk on the moldings to get to the bathroom  That is exactly what I had to do this AM.  Gravity pulls at you like a giant serpent wanting to throw you down.  You fight with every knuckle, every limb, and all your core strength to move inches at a time.  Occasionally, it will mix it up and heave you a foot in the air then gravity finds you.  You put down your best Spiderman landing and try to stick.

Anna flying!  
No one is allowed on deck without a life vest and strapping in.  On my 2am-6am watch I was eating oatmeal when a wave decided I had enough.  It washed me 6 feet across the cockpit and stole my oatmeal. The Sea State is "roughly" a six with gale force winds in the 30s.  We're making great time and could be in Cape Town on the 8th.  As I sit here at the saloon table typing, shards of sunlight flicker through the gallery windows as waves crash over the bow.  Chelsea came down from the deck since she is on her. She checked on her -20˚ freezer that doesn't like working on a slant.  She stood dripping, pounded by the waves.

We are less than 300 nautical miles from Cape Town and will have to endure these treacherous mountains until the end.  Cape Town is near the horn of South Africa where two ocean currents wrestle it out for control.

I am reading "Adrift," by Steven Callahan.  It's a true story of him surviving 76 days at sea in his emergency raft he named "Ducky."  It happened in 1983.  I'll leave you with this passage from the book and why what we are doing out here matters.

"We [Steven and his raft] drift through a line of weed piled up like autumn leaves.  The Sargasso is laced with trash.  For sixty days the ocean has been pristine, a world that might never have been touched by man.  Ships and a single chuck of Styrofoam have been the only evidence of man still inhabits the earth.  Suddenly my surroundings are full of their excrement-- our excrement... The highway of trash stretches from South to North as far as I can see.  For hours Ducky wades through one lane of rubbish after another.  The highway is miles wide."

This is from his 61st day lost at sea.  He must have found the high-pressure system also known as the accumulation zone where we habitually find plastic pollution.

More later.

Bonnie Over the Ocean

Monday, December 6, 2010

Plankton and Micro-plastics in the South Atlantic: Day 26

Blog 12-- Saturday, December 4, 2010

Stiv says he's been on this boat so long he's starting to have a crush on the lady pictured on the Fire Blanket box in the kitchen.  It's a drawing that shows how to put an extinguishing blanket over a stove fire.  Rough.  Though we all got excited when we saw the whales surface 30 yards out, starboard side, last evening.  They were running with us for about five minutes then gone like phantom submarines.  We had seen whale spouts off in the far distance days ago, but that was all we could see.  This was the first clear sighting and it may have something to do with the amount of plankton we are pulling up in our trawls.  Many whales live on a plankton rich diet-- the plankton being a draw for the whales moving in the area.  Not surprising the plankton we pull up in our trawls also contains plastic.  We will separate the plastic from the plankton, but there is no way for the whales to filter out the micro-plastics that accompany the plankton.

So far we have traveled over 4,026 miles.  By the time we arrive in Cape Town, we will have traveled twice the diameter of the moon (2,159.6 miles).  We're hoping to land in three days.  Clive has a flight back to the UK on the 9th and is looking forward to getting home to his young family.  But with fuel running low and random winds, "We'll get there when we get there."  Right now we're welcoming a tailwind pushing us forward at 8 knots while we heel portside after weeks of heeling starboard side.  Nice to give the other muscles a chance to perpetually flex, though it is tearing my right side that I injured a week ago.  Hopefully the movement will help assuage the lumpy mass out.

In all of our travels, we were only in the high-pressure system for three days.  Remarkable the amount of trash we were seeing there and now that we are out of the high, plastic items are more widely spread out.  That doesn't mean that we don't continue to find and pluck plastic debris from the sea.  As far as my research goes, the record continues after three open-ocean gyres voyages-- every sample contains fragments of plastic.  We will continue to trawl every 60 nautical miles until we get to Cape Town.

The jumping continues as well.  Jennifer has jumped 5000 times while I mend and I have been able to do 3,400.  My count is not great considering how much time I've had to do them.  Bummer that the days the boat has been a level plane was when I was crippled the worst.  I'll get them done evein if I'm jumping at the airport during mega-layovers on my way home-- 21,350 to go-- no problem.  Thanks to all of you who have sponsored my trip.  I'll have plenty of photos and videos to share once I get to port.

More later.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gyre-Normous Boa in the South Atlantic: Day 24

Blog 11-- Thursday, December 2, 2010

There are three teams that do around the clock watches on a rotating basis.  The day watches make sure we don't run into another vessel or object; clean the "loos" (bathrooms), the kitchen walls and floors, pump out the gray water tank and cook.  At night, we fight to stay awake while watching for debris and ships coming our way.  Yesterday morning, it was a good thing what we found appeared during the day.  We may not have seen it at night and according to our first mate, it could have done serious damage to Sea Dragon.

Anna was the first to spot it.  As she shouted that there was a large object ahead, everyone ran for the deck-- everyone except Mary and me.  We were just finishing up one more episode of "LOST." (A distinct sign of addiction.)  It wasn't long before Anna came down shaking us from our Mac-trance, "Bonnie, your'e gonna want to see this."  When I peered over the port-side of the ship, I felt a little sick at the thought of ignoring her call.  I had seen plenty of large ropes in gyres, but this one was the mac-daddy.  It had to be at least 30 feet long by 10 inches around and completely entombed with barnacles.  A gyre-normous boa constrictor looking rope.  It had a huge knot for a head measuring 3-4 feet wide with a tail that dipped into the water column several feet down.  We pulled it out of the water better than halfway, but the mast began to complain from the shear weight of it.  We stopped.  Without a moments notice, Anna leaped onto it and it instantly dwarfed her size.  Serving as scale, we took pictures of her on the rope then sadly released it back into the abyss too heavy to pull on board.  We were only 20 feet away from it when it became nearly invisible to our naked eyes.  This navigational hazard is one example of how plastic pollution can have a direct negative impact on human safety.  Sadly, the potential still exists with our find.

(Check back...Photo coming soon!!!!) :)

Every watch it is our responsibility to log the coordinates Latitude and Longitude, time, barometer reading, true wind, distance traveled thus far, and our position in relation to direction of the wind.  Today it was especially special.  Why? Because we crossed the Prime Meridian.  Our longitude read 0.000.0 like the green flash of a perfect sunset.  Many of us pack around the chart table with the anticipation like in Times Square New Year's Eve.  It was 12:05pm.  We might have celebrated with champagne, but had done that the night before drinking a shot of champagne to celebrate Mary Osborne's birthday.  I yelled out a special birthday wish to my partner in plastic pollution crime-- Bill Cooper-- in honor of his birthday too.

Though my contusion in my back hasn't moved much, I can no longer hold off on my jumps.  Thank you Jennifer O'Keefe for subbing for me.  She put in nearly a thousand the last time she checked in.  I was able to do 700 yesterday and 200 today with slight improvisation.  But there is a rope involved and I am indeed jumping.

More later.

Bonnie Over the Ocean

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting "Lost" in the South Atlantic: Day 22

Blog 10-- Tuesday, November 30, 2010

We reached the center of the South Atlantic high yesterday and we are not here in vain.  Silently, I had hoped it wouldn't be a repeat of what I witnessed in the North Pacific Garbage Patch.  Like cancer that starts in one part of the body and spreads to another, so does plastic in our oceans.

It started with a blue hardhat that we spied moments into our 6am watch.  Soon, everyone was on deck busy plucking plastic.  Everyone but me.  My back continues to keep me up all night and flexibility is limited, so I journal entry all the stuff we are seeing and collecting.  Between the perfectly calm seas, feathery clouds to minimize glare, we were all yelling out sightings of plastic.  I wrote them down.  Most of the debris doesn't present itself until we are right on top of it.  Much of it swivels and swirls inches below the surface. Only bottles and buoys set up higher in the water-- things that contain air.  Just to name a few of the items that we plucked:  Plastic sheeting with mega bite marks in them, bottles, buoys, very fragile and degraded laundry baskets, large fragments bigger than my hand, crates, and the hardhat that had smaller items twisted in it like a corner of a candy-like wrapper!!

I also did several "Timed Observations" yesterday with bionic-eyes Rich, who confessed having something like 20-15 vision.  In three hours and from just one portion of the ship (because you cannot get an aerial view), we counted 63 items larger than 3 inches and as big as 3 feet.  Unlike the fragments we find in our trawls these fragments were huge.

We stopped the boat long enough for an underwater photo shoot.  My GoPro went in with Stiv as he videoed Anna in her Roxy sponsored wet suit.  We filmed the debris we had just collected from where we found it but with the water hovering around 60 degrees, they got out and we went on our way.

Now onto our evening activities...

I haven't mentioned it, but there has been an addiction formed on this journey instigated by the pro-surfers and it isn't just the chocolate bars that Anna rations out nearly every night after dinner.  It's a fitting title to what we are doing and where we are.  Many people get lost at sea, much of our plastic gets lost at sea, and many of us aboard Sea Dragon are in  a "LOST" marathon.

For years, my son has been trying to get me to watch the weekly series "LOST."  I have not watched a TV show consistently since I left Cortland, NY.  Back then the addiction was "Friends."  My good friend, Pam Sullivan, and I would meet at a litter bar appropriately named Friends.  So we would meet to watch "Friends" at Friends with friends.  Now Mary Maxwell and I usually meet at the "saloon table" on our night shifts to watch hours of "LOST."  Last night when it was our turn to be out on deck, we had to tear ourselves away from the 2nd to the last episode in the first season.  We watched Shannon put a gun up to Locke, pull the trigger and then.... we had to hit the stop button, climb into our foul weather gear, complicated lifejackets, clip-in lines and then head up the stairs into a dome of darkness.  The ocean gently lapped against our boat reminding me of Pleasant Lake in Syracuse, NY.  Slowly our rods and cones went to work poking holes in the blackness and the sky began to lighten taking our minds off of "LOST."  Well, for an hour anyway.

"Be right back," I assured Mary.  I popped through the companion-way within seconds.  Mary's whites eclipsed the stars.  And there we were happy as clams, hunched together in the glow of my Mac screen under the star lit canopy lost in "LOST."

More later,

Bonnie Over the Sea

Also, be sure to check into 5 gyres blog.  Stiv Wilson wrote an amazing blog post:  Convenience Can Break the Entire Ocean  What Bonnie and I (Danielle) did going plastic-free with our food choices for one week (and beyond for me and my family) is one way that we can break this cycle.  To learn about living with less plastic, visit Fake Plastic Fish's Plastic-Free Living Guide

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Observations in the South Atlantic: Day 20

Blog 9-- Sunday November 28, 2010

The next best thing to having a pair of good eyes is to be next to someone who does.  Rich Owen and I had been doing a field study we call "Timed Observations of Plastic Pollution."  It was Saturday, 10:00, I wrote down the coordinates and boat speed on my data sheet then started the timer for one hour.  When one of us saw something, the other would confirm the sighting and I'd write down the time, the color, and rough dimensions.  When the hour was up, we would get the coordinates to determine how far we went, tally the number of observed plastics and calculate how much plastic we observed over that time and distance.  But by 10:10 our focus had shifted.

"Whales!" Rich shouted, "Whale spouts!"  I scanned the horizon feverishly until my eyes focused on a water fountain roughly a half mile off portside.  It had to have been a big one for us to see the spout so clearly at such a distance.  Soon the one turned to a series of them and our marine biologist, Chelsea Rochman, confirmed through binoculars that there was a pod of them.  "My fiancĂ© studies whales, he could tell you what kind they are just their spout."  Grayson, I had thought to myself.  It's a non-fiction book by Lynne Cox we have been passing around aboard ship.  (Being out at sea invokes reading.)  The story is of a teen-aged girl who is training to break the world record swimming from Catalina Island to Long Beach.  One morning, she finds herself being followed by a baby gray whale.  You can't put the book down as it tells her story of how she reunited Grayson with his mother and pod.  Hearing Chelsea say the word pod brought back the amazing story of this child and her experience of somehow communicating with creatures of the sea.  It lends pause to the notion that the last place we should find plastic is in the ocean.

Sometimes marine life confuses plastic as being food and sometimes we confuse marine life for being plastic.  For example, Friday, Rich and I were doing one of our Timed Observations when we kept noting what looked like Styrofoam bits or bottle caps every 3-5 minutes floating 20 yards off starboard.  They were white and floated high in the water.  I'd write it down with a question mark beside it.  If they are plastic, why are they all about the same size and traveling so close together??  I knew from previous experiences at sea that like things travel at roughly the same speed and eventually catch up with each other, but this was truly unusual for it to be that consistent.  Saturday we found our answer in on of our trawls.  Several of these "white bottle-cap"  looking things were in our trawl.  They are clearly a product of the ocean.  Marcus calls them Gooseneck barnacle balls because usually there are gooseneck barnacles attached to them.  (Holly can you figure out what the scientific name of them??)  If we cannot identify the difference between plastic and marine life, how can we expect marine life to be able to?  Here's a twist to the story.  Every hour we take the high speed manta trawl out to see if we've caught any fish.  Tonight at 3am we pulled the trawl out, opened the codent to find not a single fish!!!  But we did catch a bottle cap!

The thing about being on the open-ocean is that you have to be on deck to learn what is out here.  If you're down below, you might not make it up the deck stairs to see an amazing opportunity like a sea turtle or dolphins swimming by.  I had missed both of those.  So we've all learned to be on deck as much as possible and if not have our ears pricked in case someone shouts out a discovery so we can "Flash Gordon" from below.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black yet Bright Day in the South Atlantic: Day 18

Blog 8-- Friday November 26, 2010   "Black Friday"

It was a beautiful day, though cool.  We had to dip down more southerly to get ourselves into the high pressure system which means it is colder.  It would be like driving to New Jersey or Pennsylvania from Wilmington, NC.

The sun was out all day and we all came in with red cheeks and big smiles.  The sea state is just above a 2-- winds around 15-20 knots and 1-2 foot waves.  A lot of trash.  I've been doing my hour-long timed observations. and counted a lot of debris today.  We even had a ghost net hung up on our trawl.  That's a first.  I've not seen that happen in previous voyages.

I processed a couple of our samples from start to finish.  I took some pictures and will share once I get to Cape Town.  Our plans are a bit sketchy right now.  We are running several days late and hope to catch up some time on the way in.  The captain has a flight to catch on the 9th and we all plan on going to a eco-tourism white shark cage observation.  Should be some great photos from that as well.  I'll give the particulars on their process once I know more.

In the meantime, we did our Black Friday shopping collecting free floating debris.  All of us are blown away by the amount of stuff we are seeing that the seas have calmed and we're in the high pressure system.

More later.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Blue and Calm in the South Atlantic: Day 17

Blog 8-- Thursday November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yesterday, finally we could all spend the day out on the deck.  It had been the first since the day we left.  It was the place to be.  The sky was completely blue and the sea state calmed to a three-- winds between 10-20 knots (a guesstimate since our wind meter is down) and 2-3 foot waves, though there was an occasional rogue wave capable of knocking us off our feet.

It was my watch from noon to 6pm, so I did what I usually do when the weather and visibility allows during my watch-- I spied the seas for plastic.  Through the course of two weeks, I had seen a laundry basket, several water bottles, a basketball, and numerous large fragments from unidentifiable items.  In all that I had witnessed in the very rough sea state, I saw more in two hours in relatively calm seas.  I believe a windrow of plastic was forming.  It wasn't the first time that I observed this phenomenon.  July of '09, I saw windrows of seaweed called sargassum form in the North Atlantic.  Because plastic floats like the sargassum, it actually does form a windrow of plastic during certain sea states.  I observed this in the North Pacific gyre with Captain Charlie Moore in the fall of '09.

The windrow was about 20 yards portside.  I stood on a three foot high wooden box at the bow of the ship with my GoPro camera strapped to my forehead hoping the fisheye lens would be able to capture the debris floating by.  Anna had been standing on the box moments before holding onto the guide wire and when a rouge wave would hit, she'd pull herself up, lifting her legs like a pole dancer to avoid getting wet.  But once she noticed the plastic floating close to the ship, she took action.  I filmed.  I had moved to the box to get a better angle  of the teamwork that irrupted-- getting nets out, taking down sails, and slowing the boat so that we could start collecting debris.  Anna was going after one bottle when I noticed another one coming at her.  I yelled to her, "Anna, look there's another one!"  Just then a rogue wave slammed into the side of the ship.  I had been holding on with one hand and pointing with the other.  I quickly grabbed on with both hands as I began to spin around the guide wire that Anna had used, but with not so graceful moves.  As my body spun, my feet were planted and something had to give.  Unfortunately, I felt my hands slowly slip off and I dropped down 3 feet hard, slamming my right side onto the edge of a porthole frame.  I heard a very distinct pop.  I lied there completely out of sight from the others.  I laid perfectly still telling myself, "I am not broken, I am not broken."  Though I was sure I had cracked a rib.

I slowly peeled myself off the floor, confident that I had talked my body out of being seriously injured.  I had to.  There was way to much action going on.  Marcus came to the bow to pull down the staysail, Dale maneuvered the boat so we could attempt to net plastics.  Some of the crew had cameras in hand to catch images while the others had nets.

Yet it didn't matter which way we went, the plastics alluded us.  In total frustration, Marcus took off his shirt and dove in, grabbed a floating water bottle, put it between his teeth like a retriever and started swimming back.  But just as the plastics had out maneuvered us, so began the challenge of pulling Marcus out of the water.  Ten minutes went by.  Every time he swam toward us, a wave would come and wash him back.  He struggled a bit to tell us the water was cold.  Fear started to set in.  At one point he was 30 yards out.  With the fantastic navigational abilities of Dale and Clive, we were able to get him back on board.  The exercise reiterated just how difficult it is to find, then extract someone if they go overboard.

As for me, I'll be gimping around for a little bit.  Mary Osbourne gave me her chilled water bottle to use as ice, then later applied some icy spray.  Chelsea Rochman generously gave me Advil and her bag of Jelly Bellies her friend labeled "Do not open until your birthday."  Prematurely opened by two days.  How sweet was that!!  Later, Dale gave me a chilled hemorrhoid gelatinous ring (you use what's available on a ship) and my watch team let me sleep instead of getting up for my 2am-6am watch.  I'm in good hands.

Our two samples yesterday were among the largest we've collected from the manta trawl so far.  (How I wish I could send pictures!!)  Evidence of plastic accumulates in the high?  Perhaps.  We should have perfect conditions from here to Cape Town to get good samples.

We'll be having Thanksgiving dinner out in the cockpit and will share what we are thankful for.  After yesterday, I've added a few more things to my list.

More later.

Bonnie spies over the ocean

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wind, Rain... and Blue!--South Atlantic: Day 15

Blog 7-- Day 15: Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday proved to be another trying day.  Our True Wind Speed meter stopped working, but one doesn't need to know the exact number to feel the sensation of the flying and floating with occasional speed bumps.  Flying up to 50 knots and hitting one head-on creates havoc, like in "Jaws" when he slammed Shawn Connery's boat.

It isn't just the wind.  Rogue waves can also be damning.  James Pribram had just stepped up on deck, clipped in and then wham.  An enormous wave came over portside and washed him from the cockpit (a sitting area in front of the companion way) and carried him 20 feet.  It flipped him over the mainsail traveler, mashed him into and then over the railing to the steering column... then he felt his clip snap into action.  Jerking him to a holt, it then dropped him on the wooden slotted floor a foot from the deep blue.  Had he not been clipped in, he may not have stopped.  The back of the boat was completely filled with water.  He said he had a vision of being in the water and watching the sails fade in the distance.  It was a warning to us all that it only takes one split second for things to go wrong.  Bruised but not broken our star surfer is okay.  James is not only a professional surfer, he has his own TV show called "Eco Warrior" and is a freelance writer.  Give him a Google... he's a multi-gifted character activist, athlete, and writer who's personable and handsome like my son.  (Sorry, had to throw that in)

Yesterday, I spent four hours on deck and watched the wind poke holes in the gray blanket that has been following us for nearly 500 nautical miles.  At 6am, the sky thick with gloom.  By 9am, the large blue patches reflected off the ocean creating a multi-blue plaid pattern.  Our observations of plastic trash floating by has increased somewhat, maybe because we are nearing the high pressure system, maybe because the sea state has calmed some to allow debris to pop up through the water surface or both.  Our samples continue to collect plastic fragments.

Marcus and I were discussing ways to convey to the world just what these samples mean.  I likened it to a fine quality of fabric that has a three mile radius and we are sampling just one small portion of just one thread.  His analogy was that we are sampling a razors edge in an area the size of a football field.

At midnight, I was back on watch and finally got to see the full moon we feared we'd miss.  It lit up the sky blocking out most of the stars but entertained me with a rainbow ring of brilliant orange and yellow.  Another first.

More later.


Be sure to visit 5 Gyres blog to learn more about the above photo :)
5 Gyres Blog: I Can See Clearly Now the Rain is Gone

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Even Angry Seas Can't Wash Away Plastic...South Atlantic: Day 13

Blog 6-- Day 13  Sunday November 21, 2010

I wish I could send pictures, words cannot describe and even pictures struggle to convey what has been unleashed upon us.

Twice a day the Captain gives us a weather report.  For the past week he says roughly the same thing, "It will just be another 24 hours of high winds according to our weather forecast ."  Today he paused, then added, "Yeah, whatever."  Funny to hear even him grumble a bit.  Too many days we've been hopeful for just one ray of sunshine.  Just one.  We can handle being knocked about collecting bruises, but no sun and high winds means staying down below if not on watch

For the past two weeks, whenever the weather gets the craziest, Anna and Marcus attempt to make us feel better by saying, "At least it isn't as bad as it was in the North Atlantic in January." Yesterday, the North Atlantic was surpassed.  Fifty-one knot winds pounded into our sails.  The "Cape Fear" movie sound effects howled and moaned as the water sprayed up over the deck.  Vertical rain pelted our eyes.  Yet, as the angry sea attempts to wash us away, it cannot wash away the plastic that we invariably see floating by.  Random parts of once bigger objects surface then disappear.  I wonder to myself where the other parts are.

More news.  It took two days to repair our main sail that tore last week.  Yesterday, the repaired tear was dwarfed by yet a larger one.  In fear of damaging another sail, we now lumber through the water at about three knots just using our Staysail.  Currently we are three days behind schedule, but the Captain assures us  that we will make up time once we get into the high pressure system-- our targeted research site.

I spent six hours on the deck Saturday regardless of the wind and rain.  The air is so amazingly fresh, nothing back home compares.  We have no idea what air should really breath like and most definitely, the air "fresheners" pull us further from what it truly is.  I enjoy watching the petrels and albatross laugh at the wind as they dart around the waves at 50 knots.  It temporarily beats staring at a computer screen for eight hours a day.

By the way, Butchie you were right (again).  My fingernail that I pinched in the tile cutter two months ago is on its way off.  I liken it to losing a tooth as a child.  It probably seems worse than it actually is.  But losing a fingernail is better than losing our opportunity to collect good samples.  So we wait it out another day.

Clear skies and calm seas please.


For more about what's happening with the crew in the South Atlantic, be sure to visit:

Rough Seas in the South Atlantic: Day 11

Blog 5  Day 11  Friday November 19, 2010

Rain-- inside and out due to the combination of, well, rain and waves crashing over the bow.  Water is stealth in finding any orifice to climb into and it found at least one.  After coming off a hair-raising watch, Rich and I climbed down to the galley to get some hot tea.  The captain made the order to tack portside and moments later a gallon of water poured over our heads missing us by inches.  Without a word, Rich grabs a pan and I look for something to wipe up the water.

"We're on a boat," the captain says nonchalantly, "boats leak."

A little background info-- there are three watch shift crews.  

Bay Watch: Chelsea Rochman, Anna Cummins, Marcus Ericksen, and Michael Lutman.

Surf Watch: Mary Osbourne, James Pribram, and Jody Lemmon.

And then there's my team... Rolex Watch: Rich Owen, Mary Maxwell, and Stiv Wilson.

We either do 8 or 10-hour split shifts per day.  (as Rich repeatedly says, "I didn't see this in the brochure.")  So Wednesday night, we were on from 6pm to 10pm shift (after being on watch from 2am-6am earlier that day.) The head winds were pulling us along through the waves and rain at about 25 knots.  THEN a huge 10 knot gain hit us in our already over-filled sails and the boat heeled dragging the handrails on the starboard side through the 20 foot patches of sea foam our boat laid-- like rubber pavement.  Mary and I were nearly pitched like stones from a slingshot from the portside into the drink on the starboard side.  Sitting yet standing on the wooden rail screwed into the floor of the cockpit for that very reason-- we braced ourselves...white knuckled fingers and toes.  The captain, who had been sleeping at the time raced up the steps in his undershorts, "Is everything under control?"  And soon it was once we reduced a reef line and took down the front sail.

These conditions are not conducive for getting good samples.  Like the sea life that hunkers down under the turbulent surface, so does the plastic.  Yesterday, we did manage to see a basketball float by but out of reach.  And our last samples amazingly still had plastic in them.  One has to wonder:  

How much plastic is really out here if we are still picking it up when it is known to be forced, down deeper into the water column when the ocean surface is rough.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

South Atlantic: Day 9

Blog 4: Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The wind continues to howl with headwind gusts up to 27 knots making it difficult to sail in the direction we need to go.  So we tack getting nowhere fast.

Everyone knows when we "come-about" everything moans in unison with movement, including a few stomachs.  Clanging like a really bad marching band as our world shifts to a new found position.  We are healing (leaning) starboard side and I'm almost standing while sitting using my feet to brace myself.  Walking is likened to the uneven room in Ripley's Believe It or Not Fun House.  To walk toward the port side of the ship is like climbing Mount Everest-- step and reach for something to grab onto-- step and reach.  It's a total body workout.

My jumping rope challenge is exactly that!!  I had to improvise to a swinging rope that I jump over while holding on for dear life.  As Anna Cummins assured me, "Your sponsors will understand.  They wouldn't want you to risk your life."  There are three locations large enough for me to jump without interruption.  One is at the bow (bad idea!!) in front of the steering column at the stern and if we aren't healing, I can jump in a 2 foot space on the starboard (right) side.  It's a challenge no doubt, but one I gladly take up in appreciation for the financial support that I have been given by those who support this cause.  Better than a third of my goal has been brought in.

Regardless of the rough seas, we have done 12 trawls.  Every trawl has collected plastic.  (Unfortunately, I don't have any photos to share with you... in the mean time please visit  Yesterday, we also caught a mahi-mahi fashioning a bright blue, yellow and green dorsal fin with cobalt blue spots on its 29" metallic body.

We continue to eat well.  Last night it was sushi with a shot glass of wine.  We laughed as our "chef" donned a Rising Sun homemade bandana.  Priceless.

We finished the night with me giving a talk about my Plastic Ocean Project and how it has transformed me from a wallflower to an advocate for a better planet.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Jumping Ship Update

November 14, 2010

The seas have been too rough for Bonnie to jump until yesterday (November 13), when it calmed down to 18-20 knot winds.  She improvised jumping over the stay sail sheet which is a line that is rather loose.

Bonnie did a thousand jumps which is what Kim Fisher challenged her to do.  Thanks Kim!!

This brings Bonnie's jumps up to 3700 completed where she completed MJ Giammaria's challenge and started on the next batch.

Bonnie wrote:

"Thanks to all of you who helped me get here.  I wouldn't have made it without you."

And from me (Danielle), if anyone would like to help Bonnie further please don't hesitate to challenge her to jump ship... $1 = 10 jumps....every bit helps... visit to contribute to the exploration of plastics in our oceans and become part of the solution. :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

South Atlantic: Day 3

It's Saturday, the 13th, and we're hoping it's a lucky day for us.  Not that is has been totally bad.  NPR contacted us.  Marcus and Anna will be on so be sure to listen.  I'll let you know when. Our communication system is still troubled so I have to type everything on the ship's computer which is really tough. I cant send pictures yet which is another bummer because there is such beauty out here. We've seen albatross, petrels, and frigget birds. Last night the sky began clearing on my 10-2am shift and we saw stars in the sky as well as in our wake.  Bioluminescence sparked our white caps. Amazing gazing with my shift peops, Stiv Wilson, Mary Maxwell, and Rich Owen.

Jennifer and Danielle, I'm sure you're itching to know about the samples. We continue to find plastic in each trawl, but nothing like we found in the N. Pacific or the N. Atlantic. We're still 500 miles outside the small accumulation zone we are going to hit, then on to the largest one in the S. Atlantic.  We'll send pictures when it is possible. Jody Lemmon put out a fishing line and caught a lid-fish - a 15 inch garbage pail lid. 

No fish yet after 2 days, but we did catch plastic!!

Today we woke to our first blue sky. Like moths to a flame, it brought many of us from our berths early.  We're hoping the days of 30 plus knot winds and rough seas are behind us.

Stay tuned.


South Atlantic: Day 2

A day of illness and uncertainty by some crew member. A few have questioned the decision to climb aboard the Sea Dragon.  As we pass an ocean field of oil rigs, one imagined a way to get to a rig, climb aboard, request a helicopter, fly to back to Brazil and catch a flight home.  Can't blame them, we started our day with a torn mainsail, the water pump on a constant fritz, an hour of promising sun devoured by saturated clouds that let loose. But the biggest blow came when the captain reported a virus in our main computer-injected from a memory stick knocking out our weather and communications systems.   Our stomachs tightened.  Thirty knot winds punched our sails with random blows above while 12' waves threw upper cuts - a KO for Mike who has been suffering the worst seasickness.  Perhaps I'm the sick one, but I am still enjoying the adventure.  Confident we have the right people on board to keep the boat afloat while we contend with the conditions when we start doing our trawling.

I spied a palm-sized, songbird displaced on our deck.  It look up at me timid and confused wanting to go home as well. Last we saw of it, it took to the sea attempting to ride the gusts that ride the waves.  It flapped in a panicked state as a 10' wave came directly for it.  It disappeared behind the wave - surely it had been steamrolled, but no.  It rose above the wave just as it curled and we all cheered.

I tried to imagine its journey traveling 220 miles without food or water.  I had hoped it would stay as some sort of boat bird - safe from the wind and rain.  But realized even if it did make the journey to S. Africa, it would be the only one of its kind there, devoured in minutes.

At best, it could make it to the oil rigs, rest awhile before making the last 100+ miles. What are its chances? What were the chances of me, a 51 year-old woman from landlocked Elmira, NY crossing the S. Atlantic?

More later,

Sea Dragon Ship's Blog
5 Gyres blog

South Atlantic: Day 1 Noon Position

Day 1 Noon Position

I’m having a cheerio time being bounced around the ship sleeping in a cave.  Its fun - oddly enough.  My berth is under a double sized though it isn’t as big, its bigger than most.  I have to climb down into it.   It’s a completely different ride than Algalita’s 50’ catamaran I was on last year in the North Pacific.  It’s quieter, but heels a lot more and has much less open space for jumping.  I’ve completed 2700 jumps so far of the 30,050.  The challenge continues if anyone wants to participate

The sea is too rough for us to sample the first few days, with winds between 18-22 knots and a Sea State around 6. I’m the oldest one on the crew – comforting isn’t it?  But, our young Captain Clive Cosby is not only super human, trained in racing sail ships, and in fact sailed around the world with this very vessel, he is brilliantly funny.   Did I mention the boat I am on has been in the Challenge Race?

Half the crew has fallen ill to the steady rock and “normal” boat smells.  (I won’t go into that)  We’ve traveled 250 nm (nautical miles which are slightly longer miles) since our departure on Sunday at 6pm.  We got a late start waiting for the tide to fill the bay and the fuel to fill our tanks.  It took over an hour to pump around 1800 liters - $3600 worth.

The last night I stayed on the ship solo, readying my cave. Earlier in the day I took one for the team trying to catch the dock before our dingy bounced off it.  I lunged for the dock catching it with my fingertips, pulling the dingy of seven people with white knuckled proved to be unsuccessful and I went face first into the drink. So I decided to stay back, clean and use the bread maker on board.  The captain assured me it was easy.  The list of seven ingredients taped to the inside of the baking supply cabinet door, pen scratched, protected by cellophane.  “You can’t screw it up,” he said in his British italicized words.  “It mixes and bakes itself. Wake up in five hours and it’s done!”

After finally finding everything I needed that wasn’t in baking closet, I shut the lid, push select – 5 hours, “start” then went to bed with a warm and fuzzy thought that we would all wake up to warm “homemade” bread.

I woke up to the early morning sunrise with the captain gently calling my name crouched beside my berth.  “Bunny, look . . . our furst loaf of bread.  It’s going to be our boat mascot,” said chocking off a laugh.  I opened my eyes to a beautifully bronzed loaf of bread about 3 inches tall.   I sat up in shocked! But his giggle viraled mine.  I entered the galley and took a few wise cracks while Anna Cummins found the beauty in it and dared to take a piece.

It wouldn’t be until that night when Captain Clive absolved me when he pulled out his freshly created loaf only to find it was the same size.  Hah!

The moral to the story?  Don’t try to use beer yeast to raise bread, if the label wasn’t written in Portuguese, we might have figured it out.

More later.


Also, be sure to visit:

5 Gyres blog
Sea Dragon Ships blog

(By the way, "Hi!  I'm Danielle!  I'll be posting everything that Bonnie sends me from the South Atlantic to The Plastic Ocean Project blog.  Should you have any questions or curiosities about the voyage, please comment and I'll be sure to ask Bonnie for you!!)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Follow us across the South Atlantic

I´m in Rio typing from a cafe that you pay by the minute soll keep it short. We set sail on Monday leaving from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Cape Town, Africa. We are a team of 13. Already we have seen devastated waters along streams and rivers here and along the shoreline. Rio is one of those places that brings mountain ranges right up to the curb of the ocean. Houses are carved out in the mountains side and bring bright colored flats that liven-up the deep green vegatation. Beautiful. I´ll send pictures tomorrow. Until then, if you want to learn more about this 1st time ever transect looking for plastic in the marine environment, go to
The blogs:

5 Gyres Blog
Pangaea Exploration Blog
Live Map of Sea Dragon's position can be viewed here:
Friends and family can keep track of the weather we're getting here:

More later.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

TEDx Great Pacific Garbage Patch

What started my curiousity regarding the issue of plastic marine pollution was learning about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in a grad course I was taking in 2008. So you can only imagine how jazzed I am about TEDx hosting a HUGE patch of some powerful and knowledgable people on this very subject. So make a date with your computer on Saturday to watch the conference on this very subject.
Watch live streaming video from tedxgp2 at

Just an update on my fundraising for research in the South Atlantic open-ocean, I'll be jumping 29,050 times between being on Brazil soil to being on S. Africa's. My goal is 100,000 so if you can spare some change, make me jump. Or if you prefer to make Jennifer O'Keefe jump, just say so in your donation and we'll get her in the act too!!!!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jumping on Ship

As an attempt to come up with the funding necessary for me to join 5Gyres and Pangaea Explorations, I'm jumping rope for cash. check it out.
I'll jump 100,000 times to raise $10,000 necessary to join the research crew sampling plastic on the first every transect from Brazil to S. Africa sampling for plastic marine debris.

Why is it so important? There are 5 major gyres in our world ocean and they have a reputation for accumulating our plastic thousands of miles away from any land mass. Because we don't see it, we don't know its there. If we don't know its there, we can't know the negative impact. We can't fix what we don't know is broken. And our mass production and overuse of plastic is a broken system. If we don't figure it out soon, children will be swimming in waves of plastic fragments like I witnessed in Bermuda.

Why its a problem is because plastic is mostly chemical compounds, harmful chemical, especially #3, PVC. One of the most widely used plastics in the world is the most toxic. In fact, PVC is known as the "Poison Plastic," the plastic we use to make baby toys and shower curtains. " Did you ever wonder what that smell is when you open a packaged new shower curtain? That is harmful chemicals off-gassing into your lungs. It get into our water and our marine life. Research done by Dr. Roger Payne on over 900 whales, all contained PVC compounds.

Following a national campaign by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) and other environmental groups, PVC is slowly being eliminated from our store shelves, but is far from gone. PVC often contains lead and pthalates, which have been linked to reproductive problems in humans and release carcinogens when incinerated." (4 Things not to Buy at Target)
Follow us across the S. Atlantic – it promises to be an education, an adventure, and a first!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Letting the Fox out of the Bag

So I probably haven't mentioned that I ride a motorcycle. Some would tease, if it isn't a Harley its a glorified motorized bike. I like my little Honda Rebel 250 for one because it gets about 80 miles to the gallon. It's my only mode of transportation and is plenty enough hog for me. But after today, I maybe having a change of heart.

My new found motorcycle friends all ride Harleys. On Saturdays the owner of Carolina Coast Harley-Davidson, Rick Noyes, provides free hot dogs and soda at his Market Street store in Wilmington and that is where you will often find my friends. This Saturday was no exception, but what they witnessed was. Crossing six lanes of very busy traffic came a small gray fox, which was feat enough, only this little guy had a plastic bag completely over its head. According to my friends, it could barely see as it made its way passed them and headed toward the back of the shop where they lost sight of him.

"Don't tell Bonnie," said LT Hines, "What ever you do." Butch Barnhardt told Bonnie and sure enough they all had a good laugh when I said "let's go find it." Butch was the only taker and he whined the whole way. "What are we gonna do if we find em?" Planless, he still couldn't stop me.

I wandered around along a hedgerow near where they last saw the fox. I found 12 plastic bags of all shapes, sizes, and brandings in just 10 square feet and thought, "no wonder." Now days, we find more plastic on the roadside than wild flowers, or wild anything for that matter, and maybe it is the fact that not only are people crowding out nature, but plastic debris is too. Anyway, we came up upon the owner's son who not only saw the poor traumatized fox, but took matters into his own hands. He and another co-worker corralled the fox. With one guy in front, Rick's son pulled the bag off of its head! He explained how there was so much moister inside the bag from the fox breathing that it was all fogged up. The bag had something sticky like candy that matted into its hair and caused it to stick even more - probably what the fox was looking to eat in the first place. check out this video:!/video/video.php?v=485673523407

So here is why the issue of over-use of one time use plastics is so important to me. We have no idea how many animals are maimed and die slow painful deaths due to our inability to manage plastic waste. And the worst part is, this plastic is a resource! Its petroleum energy that we can either recycle into other useful items, burn for electricity, or turn into gasoline. Instead of doing damage, it could be helping our energy crisis. If that doesn't convince you, how about this. Try not to use one time use items like plastic bags because they are made out of petroleum. By doing so we could use the petroleum for better uses. And if you have to use bags, recycle them at your local grocery store, but don't throw them away or let them get away into the environment.

Just a reminder, please support my research into the South Atlantic Gyre sampling nearly 3500 nautical miles from Brazil to Cape Town, South Africa. This research in conjunction with and educates the masses on the problems with plastic especially on animal life. We leave in less than a month - please visit and click on donate!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Week Without Food Wrapped in Plastic

If you're looking for a good way to lose weight, try to eat foods untouched by plastic. In keeping with Fake Plastic Fish and It Starts with Me blogs, I attempted to take on their challenge - A week without food wrapped in plastic. Unlike Danielle Richardet, who has a husband and small children, I only had to fend for myself. So while she was planning meals around the plastic obsticle course and learning how to make almond milk from scratch weeks before, I was working on how to raise $10,000 for my upcoming 4000 mile voyage in the South Atlantic. Needless to say, when the week of deprivation started, I was scrammbling to find anything that wasn't wrapped in or poured out of plastic. The latter one being an even bigger challenge. About my only true dependency is half and half creamer for my coffee. Try to find one that doesn't have a silly plastic spout. About three days into the challenge, I found Sealtest uses a carton the old fashion way, no plastic liner, no plastic cap, and spout. It was at Fresh Market where I also picked up organic carrots bound by a rubberband, soups in glass jars and metal lids, and canned soups and fruit without the plastic BPA lining. My cart was a work of art!
What I did learn was seldom does our food go without touching plastic at one point or another. For example, Fresh Market had beautiful stakes in their meat case. I seldom eat meat, but this looked tempting. I asked to have it wrapped in butcher paper and explained why. "Oh, lady, all of our meats are shrink wrapped in plastic when they are shipped to us." Okay, never mind. I went on to the breads. Spying some french bread wrapped in paper, I pulled a sleeve out of the wooden basket and sure enough, there was a plastic window on the sleeve of paper. For real? I then went back to the counter asking if they had any bread in the back that I could buy that wasn't put in a paper sleeve yet. "Oh, lady, we get all our bread dough sent to us in plastic bags, we then bake them here." Ugg. I moved on. I found myself in front of the bulk food items with brown paper bags in hand and as I started to scoop, my daughter said, "Aren't those bins plastic?" I had to compromise on this one.

I visualized what it must be like first thing in the morning just at Fresh Market. Bags from bread and desserts being tossed as trays are filled being readied for the oven. Bag after bag of individually wrapped cuts of meat sliced opened then quickly tossed. Cheeses, fruits, vegetables, unbagged for the display case.

What I realized is that this plastic use issue has many tiers. The amount of plastic waste before we get it to our store shelves has to be astronomical. It's no wonder it ends up every where. So, how we can reduce some of this use is buying in bulk, choose not to use single wrapped items (that are most often over processed), and look hard for the things you like that are devoid of plastic. You just might find there are businesses out there that share the same value.