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.
“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.
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.
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,” said Scripps microplastics biologist Jennifer Brandon, lead author of the study, “Multidecadal increase in plastic particles in coastal ocean sediments.” The study 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.
Congressman Rufino B. Biazon, representative of the Lone District of Muntinlupa City, has introduced a bill that would require companies to phase out single use plastic products, including such things as plastic straws, plastic cups and lids, shrink wrap and other plastic used to encase products.
If and when House Bill #546 becomes law, companies, grocery stores, restaurants, public markets, fast food chains, department stores and retail stores would have three years to phase out the sale and use of single-use plastics or face fines of up to Php200,000 pesos and suspension of license to operate as a business.
“The Philippines produces 2.7 million tons of plastic annually, of which 521 Thousand tons are leaked to the ocean,” Cong. Biazon wrote on his Facebook page when he introduced the bill on July 3, International Plastic Bag Free Day. “The surprising thing about this is that 74% of the leakage comes from plastic waste that was collected. It means that even though we collect the plastic waste, a huge percentage still leaks into the ocean, contributing to the choking of the marine environment.”
Biazon’s bill calls for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Finance and the Department of Science And Technology, to work together and devise a phase out plan. These government entities would commence working on such a plan within six months of the passage of the bill.
“Government should adopt more aggressive policies that will reverse the self-destruction that we are inflicting on ourselves through uncontrolled plastic production and use, absence of a genuine system of collection and management of plastic waste and recycling/upcycling mechanisms embodied in a comprehensive program of plastic waste reduction,” Biazon said.
Some of the provisions in the bill include the involvement of local government units, or LGUs. The LGUs would be tasked with employing a separate collection system of waste single-use plastic products. The role of ensuring that waste single-use plastics are collected separately would be the responsibility fo the barangays and barangay councils.
” As we continue to look for ways and approaches on how to deal with plastic pollution, we will file proposals as we go along, with the hope that we can undo what decades of plastic production and use have done to our environment,” Biazon said.
Plastics have entered the world’s oceans such a massive scale that scientists have coined the term, “Marine Plastics” to identify these forms of plastics. Now, researchers Ignacio Gestoso, Eva Cacabelos, Patrício Ramalhosa, and João Canning-Clodea of the Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Madeira Island, Portugal and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, MD, USA, have coined a new term for plastic that encrusts itself onto the ocean’s intertidal coastal rock formations, plasticrust.
“[The crusts] likely originated by the crash of large pieces of plastic against the rocky shore, resulting in plastic crusting the rock in a similar way algae or lichens do,” Gestoso told Earther.
These bits of plastic are most likely encrusting the rocky surfaces of intertidal zones around the world, and the impact of these man made materials on organisms that may be ingesting these plastics is not yet known.
Gestoso’s paper, “Plasticrusts: A new potential threat in the Anthropocene’s rocky shores” is published in the journal Science Direct. The researchers say these plastics present a novel pathway for entrance of plastics into the marine food web, and that plasticrusts are a potential new marine debris category.
“The potential impact that these new ‘plasticrusts’ may have needs to be further explored, as e.g. potential ingestion by intertidal organisms could suppose a new pathway for entrance of plastics into marine food webs,” the researchers wrote in their abstract discussing the new type of marine plastics. “Consequently, its inclusion as a potential new marine debris category in management and monitoring actions should be pondered.”
The impact of these plasticrusts are already having negative effects on the Portugese island of Madeira, where Gestoso says the plasticrusts are slowly replacing natural biological crusts and films on the rocks the intertidal animals such as snails and barnacles adhere to and rely on as a food source. For example, an algae-eating species of winkle sea snail was just as abundant on the plasticrusts as on surfaces that it normally feeds upon, suggesting that the mollusk may be grazing directly on the algae that forms on the plasticrusts, potentially ingesting plastic as it eats plasticrusts.
Clean Our Oceans Project takeaway: It is all about personal responsibility. Make a decision to use less plastic, and recycle the plastic that you do use.