Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Taking our mission to heART.

From litter to art....

From Plastics to art- Plastic Ocean Project members are passionate about cleaning the environment, and re-using some of those materials to make art that raises awareness and tells a story.
Founder of POP, Bonnie Monteleone collected plastics from nearly 10,000 nautical miles in three oceans and used them to create a beautiful work of art inspired by Katsushika Hokusai's, famous wave painting, "The Great Wave of Kanazawa".  Bonnie's exhibit is used around the country to bring awareness to the epidemic of plastics in our oceans.  Titled, "What Goes Around, Comes Around", this massive collection of canvas brings it's viewers to the center of the issue as they stare at the twenty five foot exhibit adorned with plastic bits and pieces Monteleone found during her research in four of the five gyres.  Five bins of plastics and trash pulled from the ocean samples allow viewers to see hands on what is used in the art work and what is being collected from our oceans.  
From The Cameron Art Museum, in Wilmington, NC to the Aquarium of the Pacific in California, and many places in between, the installation has traveled over 4,700 miles, and has been on view in many locations across the country.  Please visit Plastic Ocean Project website for more information. 

Bonnie Monteleone with her exhibit "What Goes Around, Come Around"
 at the UNCW Center for Marine Science, April 2016

Many of the Plastic Ocean Project volunteers are passionate about art and raising awareness.  Local artist, Kim Beller, Secretary and volunteer for POP,  designed art for the "Ocean Friendly Establishment" program started by Ginger Taylor of Wrightsville Beach Keep it Clean.  Ginger teamed up with POP and Surfrider Cape Fear Chapter to launch this program that helps reduce the use of single use plastic straws among restaurants.  Restaurant owners continue to find this program helpful, as the only requirement is to pass out a straw only if customers request it.  The latest restaurant to sign up is "Crabby Mikes" in Surf City, NC and is the first restaurant in the Topsail area to become an "Ocean Friendly Establishment".   Each restaurant who signs up receives a framed copy of the  hand painted certificate to hang in their establishment.  Beller was recently featured in Wilma Magazine  for this work.

Doug and Moe receiving the "Ocean Friendly Establishment" certificate.

Arisa Yoon, UNCW POP

UNCW Plastic Ocean Project members are also getting very artsy with their use of plastic trash they collect at the many cleanups they organize.  Their first annual Art Gala, "Plastic to Art", was held at EXPO 216 in downtown Wilmington, on Earth Day.  Arisa Yoon, UNCW POP member and Jared Sales, Event Manager of EXPO 216,  along with the UNCW POP members, organized this event to raise awareness and as a fundraiser for UNCW POP.  The group collected close to $1000.00 selling art they made using plastics from the cleanups they organize.  

"Later Doesn't Exist" by Catherine Hunt and Ashlyn Keidel

Coral Reef, by Katy Nickel

Jared Sales and Arisa Yoon with a Whale Sculpture 
created by Bonnie Monteleone and Tricia Monteleone

Terri Misch, of Wilmington, NC,  is another example of an artist working to raise awareness.  She will be leaving for Puerto Rico soon and this is what she says about her mission.......


"My Personal Journey of Evolution in Creative Endeavors as it Relates to Water and Aesthetics in an
Environmentally Sound Manner .

Location: Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

I am about to embark on a great adventure. I am leaving all manner of familiar and toxic means of expressing the art that takes place in my mind at home in Wilmington, North Carolina as I travel to Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Acrylics, acetone, paint pens and enamel, glue sticks and spray paint, will sit this endeavor out. Canvases forlorn and noxious fumes will soon be forgotten as I attempt to portray the island, the ocean, and sea life in a natural and environmentally sound way.

Since I have yet to discover what materials will be available, I am not exactly sure what direction my art will take. I am hoping to utilize found, reclaimed, and natural materials. I aim to bypass the consumption of any purchased supplies that are not biodegradable, experimenting with natural pigments, fiber art, and sculpture, with an open-minded approach to new forms of expression. I will incorporate plastic pollution in my art to highlight this issue, in hopes that I will find a personal solution in my quest of capturing the essence of our blue planet.

I hope that this transformative period will bring beauty to others and further awareness of the plight of our oceans when I return to the Carolina coast in the fall."

We will stay in touch with Terri as she travels and will share photos with you when she returns!


EARTH day is EVERY day!!  What can you do?  Organize a cleanup wherever you are.  Make art from some of the pieces of plastics you find.  Skip the straw.  Say no to single use.  Use re-usable bags when shopping.  Buy from the bulk section and take your own jars.  Talk to your friends about what you are doing.  All choices you make, big or small have an impact. 

“Our decisions, our actions will shape everything that follows” Dr Sylvia Earle

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dr. Kara Lavender Law Marine Debris Event

"Where is all the Plastic?"

On Monday night the Plastic Ocean Project, the UNCW Center for Marine Science (CMS) and Surfrider invited Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) marine debris researcher, Dr. Kara Lavender Law to Wilmington to partake in a two day marine debris event complete with a film screening and seminar.

Dr. Law is a research professor at the Sea Education Association at WHOI, where she studies the distribution, behavior and fate of plastic debris in our oceans. She serves as the co-principle investigator of the Marine Debris Working Group at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and hold a Ph.D. in physical oceanography from Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

About 25 students, faculty and community members turned out for the screening of ‘Into the Gyre’, a documentary about WHOI’s marine debris research in the North Atlantic. The film focused on a research expedition made by WHOI researcher in 2010 to the Sargasso Sea, the center of our North Atlantic gyre. The researchers were pursuing answers to the question of where exactly our plastic trash goes when it is released into the ocean, how long does it take to get there, and most importantly how much is out there. The data collected during the 35 day journey contributed to an almost 40 year old collection of marine debris at WHOI.

After the film, Dr. Law held a Q & A with the audience discussing the research techniques used during the film, her research on the photo-degradation of marine plastics, and the consequences of our plastic trash filling the mid Atlantic.

On Tuesday night, Dr. Law was invited to CMS as one of this year’s speakers in their The Planet Ocean seminar series. Dr. Law’s talk, entitled ‘Plastics in the Ocean: Floating Island or Invisible Threat’, addressed many aspects of the marine debris issue from misconceptions about the actual physical make up of these ‘garbage patches’ to estimates on how much plastics are actually floating on the ocean’s surface.

According to a study done in 2010, approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic entered the ocean. Using statistical modeling of plastic sampling data, the researchers estimate about 7000 – 245,000 metric tons are on the surface of the water. That’s less than one percent of what is entering the ocean. So where is all the plastic?

That is the million dollar question, that has unfortunately not been answered yet. Some scientists hypothesize the plastic could be below the surface, sinking to the sea floor, being ingested by animals, or ending up on beaches and coastlines.

Dr. Law wrapped up the lecture by touching on ways we can all do our part locally to tackle this global issue. These include recycling, reusing, enacting extended producer responsibility, cleaning up our coastlines, not directly releasing litter (balloons, cig butts or microbeads). But the absolute best way to ensure plastic free oceans is by reducing our plastic use. Avoiding single use plastics and choosing reusable options. Or simply skipping unnecessary items, like straws. There are many ways we can all contribute!

During the reception following the seminar, the audience was able to speak with Bonnie Monteleone, Founder of Plastic Ocean Project, along with other POP volunteers, UNCW POP Student volunteers, and UNCW marine debris researchers to learn more about the pollution solutions being explored at UNCW. Also on display was the POP traveling art exhibit created by Bonnie Monteleone, (Plastic Ocean Project founder), out of recycled debris collected during her trips to 4 of the 5 major ocean gyres. Bonnie presented Dr. Laws with a copy of the art and other gifts after the presentation.

Bonnie Monteleone and Dr. Kara Lavender Laws

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

“Waste is a Terrible Thing to Waste”

Bonnie Monteleone, Found of Plastic Ocean Project, introduces Priyanka Bakaya, founder of PK Clean 
to the audience of students, faculty, local government, and members of the community attending her presentation at UNCW.

“It’s really going to be the biggest problem of our generation.” Forbes ’30 under 30’ award winner, Priyanka Bakaya begins the plastics-to-oil conversation here in Wilmington, NC to a large crowd of about 70 UNCW students and faculty, community members, and local legislators. The Stanford-MIT grad is the CEO and founder of PK Clean, a new company successfully and efficiently converting oil derived plastics back into usable fuel.

Priyanka Bakaya, Founder of PK Clean

Currently about 10% of our waste is recycled in the US per year, competing with an 8% increase per year in plastic consumption. Most often recycled are plastics numbered one and two, while numbers three through seven often end up filling landfills (and our oceans). Every piece of plastic created (with the exception of the plastic that has been incinerated) is out on the planet somewhere. Now imagine that  inside each and every piece of plastic that there was energy, just waiting to be utilized. Clean energy we can use to fuel our cars and heat our homes.

“Instead of seeing [plastic] waste disappear into the trash can, we are seeing it as a resource.” – Priyanka Bakaya, PK Clean

While growing up in Australia, Bakaya spent much her time along side family friend, Percy Kean, in his homemade chemistry laboratory. He shared with her his process of converting typical waste into fuel by reducing long carbon chains. Having always been interested in the environment and where our waste ends up, this big idea stuck with her through her years at Stanford and after the death of Kean.

“Once you have all that desire to solve [the plastic problem], you have the ability to find a solution.” Starting about 5 years ago, working with other engineers at MIT, Bakaya was able to honor Kean’s lifework by working hard to perfect his model and creating the company PK Clean (in his namesake).

This process takes all plastic types (including landfill bound unrecyclables) through its continuous reactor system. This oxygen free environment means the plastics are not being combusted (a process often leading to the emission of dangerous dioxin chemicals). The process does emit a light hydrocarbon gas (methane) that is put back into the system to keep the reactor heated, as well as an inert char (formed from organic and unreacted materials on the plastics). Once through the continuous reactor system, the plastic has successfully been converted to crude oil and can then be distilled to diesel fuel (or other fuels by distilling at different temperatures). This product is then ready for use in a lawnmower, asphalt, etc.!

PK Clean’s technology is the most efficient plastics-to-oil converter to date. It has an energy recovery ratio of 52 to 1, meaning for every unit of energy put in, 52 units are produced. The operating costs of PK Clean’s system is $30 per barrel of diesel fuel ($40 less than market price). According to the American Chemistry Council, the plastics-to-oil sector could produce 36,000 jobs and bring in $6.6 billion dollars annually to the US (2014). PK Clean expects “standard off-the-shelf technology within a decade”, Bakaya explains. Their plan has been to start local in Salt Lake City, taking this project across the country, and globally, currently exploring options in Canada and Australia.

In 2014, Bonnie Monteleone (founder of the Plastic Ocean Project) reached out to Bakaya and her team at PK Clean about the possibility of converting ocean plastics into fuel via this process. Ocean plastics often spend decades at sea constantly being broken up by wave action, scattered by wind, and degraded by light. The surface of ocean plastics will absorb toxins (BPA, PCBs, DDT) and grow organic matter. This makes ocean plastics a different animal than plastics from recycle centers. However, that didn’t stop PK Clean from using samples collected by Plastic Ocean Project members from a beach in Hawaii and putting it through their reactor. What it produced was clean fuel! Using the same process of other plastics.

Together with the Plastic Ocean Project, they want to bring this technology to coastal communities and islands to tackle the ocean plastic pollution problem. By giving waste value and exposing the amount of energy locked up in each and every piece of plastic, PK Clean and POP hope to encourage a movement from the throw away culture so prevalent in today’s society.

“I hope you’ll join us in our mission to end plastic waste forever”, Bakaya urged the UNCW audience as she discussed ways to become involved. By raising awareness, starting local with a major local impact, extending our knowledge of the process through research and exploring community funding opportunities are all great ways the local Wilmington community can get involved right now. We know that plastic waste is the problem and “being conscious of your own habits with waste” (Bakaya) will be the key to the solution.  

Following Bakaya’s talk, New Hanover County Commissioner, Rob Zapple, stood up to say a few words. “[We need] to start mining our landfills and recovering that energy”, Zapple stated. He also announced the establishment of a new material recovery facility in New Hanover.

Rob Zapple - New Hanover County Comissioner

Priyanka's presentation left the audience feeling inspired and ready to support this plastic pollution solution. “UNCW and the Plastic Ocean Project has opened my eyes (even wider) to the problems that so many people don’t think are problems”, Gen Wright, UNCW undergraduate.