Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Texas sized garbage patch: mythbusting

So it's time to set the record straight, or at least qualify a bit. I myself have been tossing the "Texas sized garbage patch" image about carelessly, something we well-intentioned environmensters do from time to time.....

There is certainly a GANG of plastic waste floating around in the Pacific, especially concentrated in the North Pacific Gyre. Its a huge problem.

However, its not quite nicely shaped together in a patch "now twice the size of Texas". Rather, its spread out over a massive area, more like a big plastic soup than a patch per se. Even referred to it as Plastic Soup a while back. "Patch" conjures up the notion of something solid, Trash Island, somewhere the hard core eco-travelers might consider vacationing.....

The map above gives an idea of the scope - HUGE area. If the waste were all contained in a nice neat pile, might be easier to consider a cleanup.....

Its just such an irresistible image, the "Texas sized" analogy. And visuals so help us to wrap our head around concepts that seem abstract or "out there", like many ecological issues.

Another way to make this issue tangible, is bringing the gyre back. I mean literally.

I'm headed there for a month in January/February, sailing from Hawaii to the Gyre with The Algalita Marine Reseach Foundation to do some more research on plastic marine debris.

We'll be bringing back actual samples, like the one you see Captain Moore holding below. If you want your own personal sample, for educational or personal enlightenment purposes, give a call, perhaps we can work something out.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

December 20th: A Day Without A Bay

I know you can do it.....and if you're reading this blog, you're likely inclined to do so already:

Next Thursday, December 20th, Los Angeles has officially declared a day of plastic bag abstinence.

If for any reason the lack of a bag is preventing you from joining in the BYO fun, this is your day to pick up a freebie - check out all the locations for bag giveaways.

You can read more about the event in my last SM Mirror column, or visit Heal The Bay's Site for more info.

Plastic bags blow. Keep 'em out of our landfills and oceans - Bring Your Own.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Potomac Attack Takes DC

Despite my eco-cycicism, sometimes I see glimmers of hope for the future. This past weekend in DC was one of those moments.....

I joined Marcus Eriksen from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, to attend the first Forecast Earth Summitt hosted by the Weather Channel, with 22 young eco-ambassadors from all over the US. The students, selected for their outstanding committment to sustainability, spent a whirlwind weekend participating in workshops, hearing presentations from speakers, going on various green tours around the Capitol....

And learning all about the plastics plague.

For many students, one of the weekend highlights was building a raft out of recycled plastic bottles with Marcus, test floating it in the Potomac River, and watching the two of us successfully paddle -using two old crutches fashioned into paddles - to the other side.

It was without a doubt a memorable way for these super inspiring students to learn more about plastics issues, after a morning of indoor presentations on the subject, including some hands on activities - dissecting Albatross boluses to quantify plastic contents, making super strong, boatworthy rope with hundreds of plastic bags, and crafting PSAs about various ecological issues. I have no doubt they will take their new found knowledge back to their communities, and inspire positive action. Read more about these future leaders here.

Marcus and a student test the raft for floatability.....

....before I hop in, and help paddle across river.

Mission accomplished!

Thanks to Erik Lesser for the awesome images.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Plastic Bag Ban for LA County - you in??

You've been following this blog, you know plastic bags are a nuisance, you'd like to see them off your beaches and outta your sushi.....

LA County has been considering a bag ban for some time, following San Francisco's lead. This is a big move, and there is clearly tremendous opposition from "the industry" (read petroleum, huge financial interests, war....) Such that the process has been stalled. See Heal The Bay's Website for more background.

Now is the time to make your voice heard! Sign Heal The Bay's petition to ban plastic bags in LA County, let the Board of Supervisors know how you feel. Lets work together to bag the bag and kick some plASStic.

"..plastic bag use is increasing at an exponential rate in the County of Los Angeles, throughout California, and worldwide. In Los Angeles County alone, a estimated 600 bags per erson are used each year. Millions of barrels of oil are used each year in the United States to manufacture plastic bags. Unfortunately, these bags are seldom recycled. The California Integrated Waste Management Board estmates that less than 5% of plastic bags consumed in the state are recycled."