CRISIS: Plastic Oceans

The worlds oceans make up 72% of our planet.

The ocean drives global weather, absorbs the heat from our addiction to burning fossil fuels and provides the main source of protein for over a quarter of the worlds population.

The ocean breathes for the planet, with most photosynthesis occurring on the sea surface more than anywhere else.

The health of our future is dependant on the health of our nation, however silently and out of sight the deep blue is suffering from our contact destruction. Depletion of the worlds fish, polluting it with industrial runoff and plastic pollution and acidification threaten its survival.

Marine litter in particular plastic waste is a global problem. The vast majority of plastic waste is destined for landfill which limits the impact through containment however does not solve the problem. A significant proportion of plastic gets into the water course through bin spill-off,  local litter and is then washed through the drains and into the ocean. Global currents push waste around the world and distribute it along all coastlines, populated and remote.

46% of plastics float, according to the EPA and can drift for years, until, not unlike water getting sucked into a sink hole get caught in a circular spin that concentrates waste into large areas in the middle of the oceans that are called “GYRES”.

Wind, wave action and sunlight UV breakdown the plastics during this journey which makes the pieces small and smaller, eventually microscopic, but still plastic. The North pacific Gyre is probably the best known as it is the size of Texas and well documented but others including our own Indian ocean are increasing at alarming rates.

This plastic soup is likely to worsen quickly given the development and populations of India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand however the good news is that we are not impacted by US waste which is probably historically the worst, and importantly plastic bag reduction plans in India, Bangladesh and Thailand are coming into force and are the sharp end of a sustainability sword which have the capacity to reduce waste overflows quickly.

The Bay of Bengal Large Marine Environment project that is highlighted on this site is an important cross border 10 year program that is in year three of coordinating sustainability.

Thailand’s own coastline along the Andaman has low population density and is a manageable aim for all of us at SEEK to be able to be guardians and educators easily across an extremely long coastline.

The fact is, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE, plastic waste is persistent and pervasive, pernicious and persistent. Plastic reaches every part of the planet and we all have a responsibility to resolve the problem by reducing it, recycling it, reusing it.

Plastic is Energy

The production of plastic uses an incredible amount of fossil fuels, with most estimates placing it at an incredible 8% of global oil production, half of which is used in the actual manufacturing! Oil will inevitably become a precious resource and it seems absurd that we simply throw so much away, even the plastics industry view plastic as too valuable to throw away but recycling is still not in plastic users psyche.

The concerns of energy consumption within the industry have prompted growth in the research and development of bioplastics. They already account for 10-15% of the global market however are not the solution. They rely on potential food source crops for their production in the majority of cases and have become synonymous with degradable and biodegradable products – something that is not always the case, many products can take decades to degrade and can release methane gasses that are a significant contributor to global warming.

We need to reduce our usage significantly and look at reuse, redesign, and recycling of products as much as possible.

Environmental Impact

  • Entanglement
  • Over 250 species have been known to have ingested or become entangles in plastic.
  • As much as 8% of some seals and sea lion species have been entangled and
  • Over 130,000 cetaceans are caught in nets each year.

http://www.plasticoceans.net/wp-content/uploads/Rope-on-dolphin.jpg

Ingestion

  • The United Nations Environment Program estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean.
  • Over 1,000 species of sea birds are known to ingest plastics
  • Research has shown over 95% of Fulmers, a sea bird have plastic in their stomachs that affect them in both chemical and mechanical ways.
  • Over 31 species of marine mammals are known to have ingested marine plastic
  • Here in Phuket regular deaths of dolphins, turtles, dugongs and whales have been partly attributed to plastic ingestion on autopsy.

 Transport of Invasive species

  • The huge increase in marine litter is having an unusual ecosystem impact. Plastic hard surfaces are ideal “carriers” for a number of organisms that can have a catastrophic impact on indigenous species. This is called “Biotic Mixing” that is bound to accelerate.

Economic Impact

  • About half the world’s population lives close to the sea a figure that within 15 years is expected to rise to 75% as climate change impacts the world and interiors become both wetter and more flooded in some areas (Thailand/Cambodia/Vietnam) whilst becoming drier in others (Australia).
  • Around 60% of the world’s population gets the majority of its protein from the sea.
  • As well as an environmental impact, this plastic is also having a significant economic impact.
  • One estimate is that plastic pollution alone could be costing developing and industrialized nations trillions of dollars in lost tourism, depleted fish stocks and unsustainable practices.
  • In 2010 the cinque terre region of Italy banned plastic water bottles after it was estimated that 2mn were left behind every year by tourists, With 4mn tourists a year in Phuket, on a 3 day stay if is highly likely at 3 bottles per person per day Phuket already is wasting over 12mn bottles per year.
  • About 17mn barrels of oil are used annually to make 50bn water bottles, according to the pacific institute
  • There is 158.76 litres per barrel of oil
  • X 17mn barrels = 2,698,920,000 litres
  • Divided by 50,000,000,000
  • =0.0539 litre per plastic water bottle
  • Oil costs about US$0.50 per litre or about 3c/1 baht oil per bottle
  • Think about that each time you throw one baht away…

In 1989 29,000 bath toys were lost overboard in a shipping accident in the pacific ocean. 15 years later and 17,000 miles of travel the same toys washed up on beaches in the UK…

Think before you throw

Health Impact

  • So you know agree, plastic is bad for the oceans, for the air, for our ecosystems and for our wallets but heres the kicker… it has bad health side effects.
  • Plastic is full cycle… we saw how it goes from street to ocean, from ocean to ocean getting broken down, from pieces to particles and then ingested by fish, birds and all sea creatures.
  • Fisherman collect a school of fish that have been feeding on plastic bits and bring to your local fish market… fresh fish… really?? Onto your loved ones dinner plate. These are called Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPS) which tend to concentrate in fish at far higher levels that are found in the oceans.

Todays Menu: Tomorrows Cancer

Daily Special: “Plastic snapper and shrimp a la plastic”

  • THE DEVILS IN THE DETAIL, or in the products “ingredients” .. do you know what you are drinking out of, eating off??

            Health issues now become the issue:

Bisphenol A is a key plastic ingredient that is used in all matter of products but is now subject to bans in the use of baby products, particularly baby bottles in much of the US, the EU and now in China and Malaysia and is the start of greater awareness that all plastics and not the same. Studies have shown that ingestion, through drinking or eating tainted plastics can increase the risks of:

  • CANCER (wang et al, WWF 1999, Ociepa –Zawal et al 2010, Purdue et al 2009, McGlynn et al 2008
  • DIABETES (Ruzzin et al 2010, Lee 2008, Carpenter 2008)
  • LOW SPERM COUNT (WWF 1999) , shown to reduce sperm count by as much as 30% and maybe the worlds way of reducing populations?
  • ALTERED IMMUNE SYSTEMS (WWF 1999, Hertz Picciotto 2008)
  • GENITAL DEFECTS (WWF 1999)
  • ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS( Cao et al 2008, Han et al 2010, Goncharrov et al 2009)
  • RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS (lee et al 2007)
  • ENDOMETRIOSIS (Porpora et al 2009)
  • LOW BIRTH WEIGHTS (Murphy et al 2010)
  • LOWERED IQ (Jacobsen and Jacobsen 1996, Park et al 2009)
  • LOWERED READING AGES (Jacobson and Jaconson 1996)
  • AFFECTED SOCIAL SKILLS (Jaconson and Jacobson 1996)
  • BEAHAVIOURAL PROBLEMS (WWF 1999)
  • MEMORY & ATTENTION PROBLEMS (WWF 1999, Jacobson and Jacobson)

Thanks to Plastic Oceans website for these excellent facts and plastic details, a site promoting the film “Plastic Oceans”

http://www.plasticoceans.net/the-facts/

Bisphenol A:

Plastic research shows a very big problem coming with Bisphenol A and F&B containers.

At a minimum first step, baby containers and all products for children under 3 should be banned in Thailand, as they are in much of the world in 2011, a relatively new finding and global action. (See Bisphenol A section on SEEK website)

Global Coastal Cleanup

http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/marine-debris/international-coastal-cleanup-11.html

Clean Coasts

http://www.keepthecoastclear.org/people-like-you/how-to-visualize.html

Plastic Oceans

http://www.plasticoceans.net/

Dec 2011 NEWS: Plastic oceans

Scientists recently announced the existence of a garbage patch in the Indian Ocean — the third major collection of plastic garbage discovered in the world’s oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located in the North Pacific Ocean gyre, is well known. And more recently scientists confirmed the existence of a second garbage patch in the North Atlantic gyre.

http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/ygreen/20100727/sc_ygreen/newgarbagepatchdiscoveredinindianocean

http://www.plasticmarinelitter.eu/media/publications

http://www.plasticmarinelitter.eu/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/PML100_report-plastics-do-not-belong-in-the-ocean-Ex.Sum_.pdf

As plastic production and consumption are predicted to triple until 2050 A new Roadmap for a clean North Sea with a new anti plastic campaign incorporates a wide range of strategies:

SUMMARY

Increase knowledge on ecology and health. Develop a roadmap towards an almost plasticfree North Sea based on scenarios. Increase and integrate hypothesis-driven monitoring efforts coupled to concrete actions. Increase and integrate knowledge on long-term andindirect effects of (micro)plastics. Build on the existing marine infrastructure.

• Enable cyclic business models. Rethink manufacturing: design for reuse and recycling.Improve the methodology of life-cycle analyses. Avoid potential toxicants, including microplastics. Make cyclic design principles part of education programmes.

• Promote behavioural change. Create awareness among consumers of the value andimportance of the North Sea. Improve plastic usage and disposal behaviour both onland and at sea.

• Improve waste management. Increase collection of plastic waste. Increase recycling rates.

Close the leaks.

• Rehabilitate habitats. Starting in areas with high plastic concentration and high ecological value (“hotspots”): beaches, estuaries, rivers, and coastal areas. Develop low-cost technologies for cleaning up plastic marine litter, without damaging habitats.

• Develop international policies. Connect and cooperate with formal international policy  developments and improve enforcement of regulations. Embed stakeholder knowledge and best practices in policies, building on the “the polluter pays principle” and the

“precautionary principle” that are currently part of the Marine Strategy Framework

Directive (MSFD), and define responsibilities for action and funding. Work towards a shared definition of “harm”

UPDATE: Ban the Bag globally

Plastic bag ban update 2012

ENGLAND 

A levy on single-use plastic bags should be introduced in England, environmental groups urged today.

The call comes after the latest figures showed the number of carrier bags being given out by supermarkets rose by more than 5% last year across the UK, the second annual rise in a row.

According to figures from the waste reduction body Wrap, supermarket customers used almost eight billion carrier bags in 2011, a 5.4% rise on the 7.6 billion in 2010, with each person using an average of almost 11 a month.

England is the only part of the UK which has no plans for a plastic bag charge, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Surfers Against Sewage are calling for one to be brought in.

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/renewed-calls-for-plastic-bag-charges–as-76-billion-used-in-a-year-7997067.html

WALES

Welsh plastic bag reduction up to 96% Y-Y since introduction

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/04/plastic-bag-use-5p-charge?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

But in Wales, where a 5p charge was introduced last October, the amount of single-use bags being taken home has fallen significantly.

CHINA Update

http://www.businessinsider.com/china-plastic-bag-ban-2012-6

Figures from China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) regarding the impact the 4-year plastic bag ban came out earlier this week, and frankly they’re incredible.

China Daily cites a government official who says the ban has saved 4.8 million tonnes of oil (the equivalent of 6.8 million tonnes of standard coal), not to mention 800,000 tonnes of plastic.

If these figures are true, it’s not only a remarkable success for China’s environmental policy, but also a strike for international effort to ban plastic bags.

USA

Los Angeles ban

http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nightly-news/47558940

America still has some way to go if it wants to catch up with these figures. Seattle is the latest city to go plastic bag-less, following cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, but strangely, a lobbying group representing the plastic bag industry’s interests has argued that reusable bags are bad — because they’re made in China. Recent bans are in Colorado & North Carolina.

Chicago ban proposed

http://www.surfrider.org/campaigns/entry/chicago-bag-ban

Hawaii

In a first of its kind move in the United States, the residents of Hawaii have collectively said “No!” to plastic bags; a ban is slated to take effect July 1, 2015

Mexico

Mexico City adopted a ban last summer—the second major city in the western hemisphere to do so.

India

India seems to be taking the lead in bans on plastic bags, although enforcement is sometimes questionable. Cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Karwar, Tirumala, Vasco, Rajasthan all have a ban on the bag.

Burma

A ban went into effect (with little notice) in Rangoon late last year. In neighboring China, the use of plastic bags is restricted.

Bangladesh

Plastic bags have been banned in Bangladesh since 2002, after being found to be responsible for the 1988 and 1998 floods that submerged most of the country.

Rwanda

The country, which has had a ban on plastic bags for years, has a reputation for being one of the cleanest nations not only on the continent, but in the world.

Australia

Sydney’s Oyster Bay was the first Australian suburb to ban plastic bags. Twelve towns in Australia are now said to be plastic bag-free—an effort to cut down on the estimated 6.7 billion plastic bags used in Australia every year.

Taxed, not banned

Plenty of other places have chosen not to ban plastic bags, but to discourage them through financial means. There have been taxes on plastic bags since before 2008 in Italy, Belgium, and Ireland, where plastic bag use dropped by 94 percent within weeks of the 2002 ban. In Switzerland, Germany, and Holland, the bags come with a fee.

UPDATE SEPT 2011

USA

http://laist.com/2011/06/28/tumble_on_tumbleweed_plastic_bag_ba.php

Los Angeles county bans plastic bags

Sets up website to explain ABOUT THE BAG

http://dpw.lacounty.gov/epd/aboutthebag/

http://laist.com/2011/08/31/santa_monica_says_so_long_to_single.php

Santa monica California bans bags

http://laist.com/2011/08/01/long_beach_plastic_bag_ban_effective_today.php

Long beach California bans bags

http://laist.com/2011/07/14/manhattan_beach_bans_plastic_bags.php

Manattan beach bans plastic bags

AUSTRALIA

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-09-01/20110901plastic-bag-ban-begins/2865780

New territory, Australia bans bags

http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/332273/measure-boosts-plastic-bag-ban

PHILIPPINES

MANILA, Philippines — The campaign to ban non-biodegradable plastic bags got a big boost after the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a bill requiring the store owners to provide biodegradable plastic bags to customers.

To be known as the Plastic Bag Regulation Act of 2011, House Bill 4840 is an initiative to address the impact of climate change.

Under the bill, stores are mandated to implement an in-store recovery program in which the customers can return the plastic bags they had used.

“The recovery system will lead citizens to exert effort and give their due share in protecting the environment by bringing used plastic bags to stores and commercial establishments which in turn shall provide the logistics for recovery of these plastic shopping bags,” Caloocan City Rep. Oscar Malapitan, the bill’s principal author, said

HB 4840 also provides that the bags must have a logo showing that they are biodegradable, with a printed note saying “lease return to any store for recycling.”

Under the measure, all business establishments shall have their own plastic bag recovery bins, which shall be visible and accessible to the customers.

For their part, the local government units (LGUs) shall be tasked to collect, recycle and dispose of all plastic bags recovered by the stores.

“The State must ensure that contaminants to the environment, such as plastic and plastic bags, be prevented from being introduced into the ecosystem,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who co-authored the bill, said.

It is expected that after the implementation of the HB 4840, there will be a phase out of non-biodegradable plastic bags within three years.