Trump Administration Sued For Failing To Protect Hawaiian Waters From Plastic Pollution

Trump Administration Sued For Failing To Protect Hawaiian Waters From Plastic Pollution

The Center for Biological Diversity, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and the Surfrider Foundation have filed a lawsuit compelling the Trump administration to declare 17 bodies of water in the Hawaiian Island chain “impaired” under the Clean Water Act due to massive amounts of plastic pollution in those waters. The administration has thus far failed to examine the studies, according to a press release put out by the Center. 

Hawaii coastline covered with plastic pollution. Image credit: Raftography Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii

“The beaches where our keiki (children) gathered shells are now covered in plastic. Waters where our families fish are filled with toxic debris. Marine life in our coral reefs is choking on microplastics,” said Maxx Phillips, the Center’s Hawaii director. “It’s a crisis we have to address before it’s too late.”

According to the Center, the Clean Water Act requires that the Environmental Protection Agency designate as impaired all bodies of water in the country that do not meet state water quality standards. Once a body of water is declared as impaired, the government must take action to reduce the pollution. Surveys have found that much of the plastic found in Hawaiian waters originate in the state.

“As one of the leaders in plastic pollution cleanup and education in Hawaii, we’ve witnessed the increasing threats of Hawaii’s plastic pollution epidemic,” said Rafael Bergstrom, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. “Every year, a denser wave of plastic makes its way into our coastal waters. This insidious pollution shows up as giant heaps of nets that strangle our endangered marine life and as the most microscopic fragments that are mistaken for food by fish and animals of all sizes. Our islands need action on one of the most devastating forms of water pollution our planet has seen.”

The plastic pollution found in the waters off the Hawaiian island chain ranges from plastic water bottles and food containers to fishing nets and plastic goods. These materials make their way into the human food chain and are also killing marine life such as sea birds and turtles. 

Indonesia’s Five Points Of Action To Become Plastic Pollution Free By 2040

Indonesia’s Five Points Of Action To Become Plastic Pollution Free By 2040

Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago and has one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems on the planet. It is also second to China as the world’s second most ocean polluter. The country has realized that what it is contributing to the world in terms of plastic pollution cannot continue, and has formulated an action plan to reduce, and eventually eliminate plastic pollution. It has some serious goals—cut marine plastic waste by 70 percent in five years, and become plastic pollution free by 2040. That is just a single generation. According to the World Bank, Indonesia generates 24,500 tons of plastic waste every day. Of that, some estimate 20 percent of that plastic pollution ends up in the country’s rivers and oceans.

Raja Ampat has the highest recorded level of biodiversity, according to Conservation International. Hulivili/Wikipedia.

“Our beautiful nation is grappling with a serious plastic pollution challenge. We are home to the world’s largest archipelago – more than 17,000 islands, 81,000 kilometres of coastlines and a rich abundance of biodiverse marine ecosystems. Our pristine natural environment is a gift that we have treasured for thousands of years, and one that we must pass down to future generations,” Luhut B. Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs of Indonesia said in the 2020 World Economic Forum annual meeting last week.

Read More: US 100 Million Singapore Fund Launched To Prevent Marine Plastic Pollution

“At the same time, the amount of plastic waste generated in Indonesia each year is growing at unsustainable levels. In our cities, our waterways and our coastlines, the accumulation of toxic plastic waste is harming our food systems and the health of our people. Our booming fishing industry, the second-largest in the world, is under threat from rising levels of marine plastic debris. By 2025, the amount of plastic waste leaking into our oceans could increase to 800,000 tonnes – if no action is taken.

“I’m proud to announce that Indonesia will be choosing not what is easy, but what is right. Rather than staying with a ‘business as usual’ approach, we will be embracing a sweeping, full-system-change approach to combatting plastic waste and pollution, one that we hope will spark greater collaboration and commitment from others on the global stage.”

“The vision goes even further: by 2040, we aim to achieve a plastic pollution-free Indonesia – one that embodies the principle of the circular economy, in which plastics will no longer end up in our oceans, waterways and landfills, but will go on to have a new life.”

Five points of action

To successfully reach the 70% reduction target by 2025, we are committed to leading five system-change interventions that will change the way plastics are produced, used, and disposed of.

  • 1) Reduce or substitute plastic usage to prevent the consumption of 1.1 million tonnes of plastic per year.
    We will work with industry leaders in Indonesia to transform their supply chains by rooting out plastic materials that can be avoided. Examples include replacing single-use packaging with reusable packaging; embracing new delivery models, such as refill shops; and empowering consumers to move away from single-use plastic consumption.
  • 2) Redesign plastic products and packaging with reuse or recycling in mind. Recognizing that some forms of plastics cannot be substituted with alternative materials, we need to make sure that they do not become mismanaged waste. We will work with manufacturers and innovators to champion an industry-wide shift towards circular plastics – with the ultimate goal of making all plastic waste a valuable commodity for reuse or recycling.
  • 3) Double plastic waste collection to 80% by 2025. Currently, around 39% of the total plastic waste in Indonesia is collected; in rural and remote areas, this figure is as low as 16%.[ii] We need to aggressively invest in our waste-collection infrastructure, both in the formal sector (government employees) and the robust informal sector (waste pickers, many of them women, who play a significant role in our national waste management efforts).
  • 4) Double our current recycling capacity to process an additional 975,000 tonnes of plastic waste per year.[iii] In 2017, only 10% of plastics generated in Indonesia were recycled. We urgently need to close this capacity gap by directing investment into expanding existing infrastructure facilities and building new infrastructure to match the explosive growth in plastic production across the ASEAN region.
  • 5) Build or expand safe waste disposal facilities to manage an additional 3.3 million tonnes of plastic waste per year.[iv] This is our last chance to put a safeguarding measure at the end of the plastic lifecycle to prevent plastic waste from becoming plastic pollution. These facilities will allow us to safely dispose of non-recyclable plastic materials, as well as plastic waste that is generated in remote locations without recycling facilities.

To achieve these goals, Indonesia will work with consumers and manufacturers to achieve a circular plastic solution, with the goal of making all plastics a valuable commodity for reuse and recycling. Manufacturers who claim that consumers prefer plastics should take note. With more than 100 million Indonesians, these manufacturers better start innovating or risk losing out on a massive market to sell their products.

Source: World Economic Forum

Copepods Ingesting Microplastics, Researcher Says

Copepods Ingesting Microplastics, Researcher Says

Copepods, those tiny crustaceans that make up much of the building blocks of marine life, have been found to be ingesting tiny beads of plastic trash, also known as microplastics. These tiny animals usually eat algae, and are fed upon by larger organisms which in turn are eaten by larger organisms up the food chain, but Emily Shore, a student researcher at the University of Vermont has shown that the fecal material, otherwise known as poop, of Acartia tonsa copepods in her study, has shortened considerably, as these organisms, often just one millimeter in length, consume more micro plastics and less algae. 

“I have some data from a previous experiment where the adults were laying shorter fecal lengths, which showed that they were consuming less algae—and more microplastics,” Shore told UVM Today. “There was less biomatter to make the fecal lengths longer.”

Various copepod species. Andrei Savitsky/Wikipedia

Acartia tonsa is an important food source for Atlantic fish, and they do well in laboratory situations, so Shore and her professor,  Melissa Pespeni, can reproduce them in the lab and study how microplastics affects these crustaceans for the duration of their lives.

It is not surprising that these little critters are eating microplastics, because the world’s oceans are inundated with these man-made materials. Researchers with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego released a study last year that says microscopic plastics off the California coast has doubled every 15 years since the 1940s, and the increase in these marine plastics matches the rise in plastic production worldwide.

And a study of shellfish off the coast of the United Kingdom found that 100 percent of mussels taken from UK waters as well as supermarket-purchased mussels contained microplastics and other debris in their systems. 

Shore, who is pursuing an accelerated master’s degree in biology, is hoping that more attention is placed on the perils of marine plastics in the world’s oceans.

“There’s just not enough attention on plastic pollution in the ocean. It’s scary because you can’t see all these critters, except with a microscope,” Shore said, “but they’re out there, eating plastic. Which means we are too.”

$US 100 Million Singapore Fund Launched To Prevent Marine Plastic Pollution

$US 100 Million Singapore Fund Launched To Prevent Marine Plastic Pollution

None of these executives are smiling. They have launched the fund in an effort to clean up the oceans and prevent plastics from entering the evironment in the first place. Left to right: Rob Kaplan (Founder & CEO, Circulate Capital), Bambang Candra (Asia-Pacific Commercial Vice President, Dow Packaging and Speciality Plastics), Matt Echols (Vice President, Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainability, Coca-Cola Asia Pacific), and Matt Kovac (Executive Director, Food Industry Asia)

A venture capital fund management company in Singapore has launched a $US100 million plastic pollution fund in an effort to curtail the flow of plastics into the oceans of Asia. The partners of the fund, the Circulate Capital Ocean Fund (CCOF), include some of the largest conglomerates whose product packaging is often seen in coastal cleanups, including The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Danone, Unilever, and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company.

These single-use plastic satchets can be upcycled to create products, such as a pallet.

The fund comes at a time when the world’s oceans, and especially the oceans of Asia, are under assault from plastic. Microplastics found in shellfish. Marine plastics promotes disease on coral reefs. Marine plastics costs $US2.5 billion a year in losses. These are headlines from just the past year. We have an ocean plastic pollution problem, so much so that scientists have coined the term marine plastics, to describe something that shouldn’t be in the marine environment at all.

The fund will finance debt and equity financing for regional waste management efforts, and recycling and circular economy startups that are fighting what the fund calls a plastic crisis.

“The good news is that we are able to reduce nearly 50% of the world’s plastic leakage by investing in the waste and recycling sector in Asia, and even more if we invest in innovative materials and technologies,”  Rob Kaplan, CEO of Circulate Capital said in a statement released to the media. “This is why we are here in Singapore—a strategic hub of Southeast Asia—to prove that investing in this sector is scalable for the region and can generate competitive returns while moving closer to solving the ocean plastic crisis.”

About 60 percent of marine plastics originate from Southeast Asia, with China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam the top five ocean polluting countries in the world. A large portion of these pollutants can most likely be traced to the conglomerates that are contributing to the fund. They have realized that without efforts from industry, the marine plastic pollution problem cannot be corrected.

“Financing alone cannot solve the ocean plastic crisis,” the fund wrote in its press release. “It requires a full suite of solutions from policy and corporate commitments to financial incentives and changes in CONSUMER BEHAVIOR.”

“For the beverage sector, the more recycled content used in any type of packaging such as 100% recyclable plastics, the lower the carbon footprint. That’s why at Coca-Cola we have invested in Circulate Capital and have committed to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can we produce by 2030. Beverage packaging does not need to become waste. By investing in the waste collection and recycling sector in this critical region, it can become a valuable material used again and again—a step closer towards a circular economy,” said Matt Echols, Vice President, Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainability Coca-Cola Asia Pacific.

Circulate Capital was created in collaboration with Closed Loop Partners and Ocean Conservancy, and our founding investors include PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Danone, Unilever, The Coca-Cola Company and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, the fund wrote.

Companies Not Solely Responsible For Plastic Trash, Consumers Are Too

Companies Not Solely Responsible For Plastic Trash, Consumers Are Too

Many people want to blame brands for the plastics that end up into the ocean, as if a company such as Coca Cola tells you to throw the bottle in the ocean. They don’t. But those bottles still end up in the ocean.

anilao trash
Broken corals interspersed with plastic trash. Anilao, Philippines. Photo by John Virata

We as consumers have to find ways to minimize the plastic, paper, tin, e-waste etc. that we use everyday from leaking into the ocean. The solution can be as simple as buying less. Reduce and then refuse.

If you can do without soda, that’s one less consumer and one less plastic bottle that ends up in the ocean.

If you can do without SPAM, that’s one less tin can that ends up in the ocean.

See where you can cut down. Imagine if 8 billion people cut down on soda intake, do the math.

Reduce your use of online shopping. For example, according to Fast Company, about 165 million packages are shipped every year in the United States. That equals about 1 billion trees. That is a lot of cardboard that gets, for the most part thrown away, with much of it ending in the oceans.

In the Philippines, online shopping portal Lazada broke records for Singles day last November 11. It reported that a single shopper spent P1.2 million, and more than one million products were sold during the first hour of the online shopping sale. Imagine what the total was for the entire day. Filipinos spent 205 million minutes shopping on the website November 11. A sample of the breakdown, according to Interaksyon, is telling: More than 200,000 toys and games were sold, 13 million diapers, 240,000 pairs of sneakers and 10,000 pieces of luggage. That is not to mention 348 pre-ordered cars.

Where does all that packaging go? It has to go somewhere. Lazada and the maker of Pampers are not entirely responsible for the waste that is generated, the consumer is. The consumer is responsible for what is purchased. Companies though are beginning to take notice in how their products are packaged. Coca Cola announced that Coca Cola Sweden is the first to adopt 100 percent recycled plastic for its products. The company says the switch will prevent the use of 3,500 tons of virgin plastic each year and 25% fewer CO2 emissions.

California Proposes Toughest Plastics Packaging Laws In USA

California Proposes Toughest Plastics Packaging Laws In USA

The state of California is considering what many believe are the toughest plastic pollution law in the country, which, if passed, would require industry to recycle or reduce the amount of single-use plastic packaging used for consumer goods. Currently there are three bills before the California state legislature that addresses the issue of single-use plastics and the massive and widespread pollution that comes from the use of this man-made material. The bills would require companies that sell products found in grocery and fast food restaurants to take most of the responsibility in cutting the amount of plastic waste produced.

Plastic packaging would be 100 percent recyclable or compostable under a new bill in California. The colored spoons are made of renewable resources. There is no provision to recycle the styrofoam food container or the plastic forks, though the plastic bowl and food containers are recyclable.

If the bill(s) become law, by January 1, 2030, all single-use plastic packaging and food products, such as plates, cutlery, cups, bowls, and straws, would have to be made of recyclable materials or made of materials that can be composted. Secondly, by 2030, the bill would mandate a 75 percent reduction in waste that is created by single use plastic packaging in the state. CalRecycle, the state agency tasked with managing the state’s recycling efforts, would be required to draft the rules by 2024.

“Californians want to recycle,” Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, told the San Jose Mercury News. “They want to take responsibility for our waste stream. But the market conditions don’t exist to recycle a lot of these materials. We need manufacturers to step up and take responsibility.”

Industry has opposed the bills, claiming a massive bureaucracy would be created on top of what it sees as a broken recycling system. While many existing containers can be recycled, and there are numbered coding schemes on every recyclable piece of plastic, other items, such as Styrofoam food containers, and milk cartons and juice boxes made of plastic-coated paper, cannot. These items would be banned for sale in the state unless the companies selling them take them back and recycle them, or build them in a way that makes them easily composted.

“We oppose the bills primarily because of the massive bureaucracy that they would set on top of our broken recycling system,” John Hewitt, senior director of state affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, told the Mercury News. The GMA represents food, beverage and consumer product companies. “There’s not a shared responsibility.”

Those opposed to this trio of bills say that industry that uses these types of plastics are already working toward recyclable packaging. Five of the largest such companies in the world: Nestle, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Unilever and Anheuser Busch, have already set a 2025 deadline to make their packaging 100 percent recyclable or compostable, while 80 percent of the largest consumer packaging companies have set a deadline of 2030, according to the Grocery Manufacturing Association, which released a paper called Reduce. Reuse. Confuse. How Best Intentions Have Led to Confusion, Contamination, and a Broken Recycling System in America.

The deadline for these bills is today, September, 13, they will either pass or die for the year.