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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Plastic particles from box core. Examples of (A) fibers, (B) fragments, (C) film, and (D) spherical particles.
Researchers with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego have released a study 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 with regard to California, has coincided with the rise in California’s coastal population.
“This study shows that our plastic production is being almost perfectly copied in our sedimentary record. Our love of plastic is actually being left behind in our fossil record,” Scripps microplastics biologist Jennifer Brandon, lead author of the study, “Multidecadal increase in plastic particles in coastal ocean sediments” that appears in the journal Science Advances.
“It is bad for the animals that live at the bottom of the ocean: coral reefs, mussels, oysters and so on. But the fact that it is getting into our fossil record is more of an existential question. We all learn in school about the stone age, the bronze age and iron age – is this going to be known as the plastic age?” she said. “It is a scary thing that this is what our generations will be remembered for.”
The researchers analyzed coastal sediment of the Santa Barbara basic for changes in microplastic deposition using a box core that ranged from 1834 to 2009. The sediment was cataloged for plastic and the researchers found a subset off the man made material that was confirmed as plastic polymers using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. This led to the finding that plastic deposition in the ocean doubled every 15 years, from 1945 to 2009.
Most of the plastic that was found during the study were clothing fibers, starting in 1945 and then increasingly exponentially by 2010. They determined that 10 times as much plastic ended up in the Santa Barbara basin than before World War II. After the war, types of plastic discovered included plastic bag materials and plastic particles, in addition to plastic clothing fibers.
Clean Our Oceans Project announced it is working with SESOU Nature Source, a manufacturer of plant and mineral-based products such as soaps, shampoos, sanitizers, toothpaste and other home use products, to help the company ’s customers reduce the accumulation of plastic packaging by upcycling SESOU Nature Source packaging. The partners will help turn that packaging into durable goods such as school chairs and garbage bins.
Clean Our Oceans Project will place blue recycling bins in The SESOU Nature Source Alabang Town Center store and will further roll out bins at the following locations:
Customers of the environmentally responsible company should bring empty, clean and dry SESOU bottles to the stores for upcycling.
Below is the process of how the used plastics should be returned:
a. Empty all contents (including Gugo Bark, when applicable). Keep labels intact.
b. Rinse well under running water
c. Air-dry completely
d. Collect in a cloth bag or sack
COOP will collect these cleaned plastics weekly from the stores and will deliver these plastics to the upcycling facility. Both entities have agreed to embark on a social media campaign to highlight the efforts of both COOP and SESOU Nature Source.
“We applaud SESOU Nature Source in taking the initiative to work with COOP in an effort to keep plastics away from the oceans and landfills,” said Anna Varona, founder of COOP. “It is a step in a positive direction and we hope that more companies will join us in helping to keep our oceans clean.”
Clean, dry and segregated plastics are used to manufacture utilitarian products such as crates, school chairs, tables, monoblock-type chairs and recycling bins. The circular economy is complete by bringing the plastics back to humans for reuse, providing livelihood and keeping plastics away from the oceans and landfills.