Saturday, February 27, 2010

Breaking News: Plasticized Oceans!

A report presented by oceanographer Giora Proskurowski of the Sea Education Association (of Woods Hole, Mass.) at American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences meeting this week in Portland, OR declares that the oceans are totally trashed with plastics. Not exactly surprising news, considering all of the similar reports over recent years by groups like Algalita, 5 Gyres, Kaisei, etc, etc, etc – and even including the “lowly” Surfrider beach clean-up efforts (where 70-80% of garbage that is picked up on local beaches is of the plastic variety according to our records).

The best, most “revelatory”, point of this report is that it’s another “official” declaration that the majority of the ocean’s plastic trash is in the form of tiny particles that accumulate at equal densities throughout the water column to an approximate depth of 40 ft or more…or as they put it, “the waters between one and 10 meters deep hold as much plastic as the top meter of ocean does.” You can further imagine that the ocean’s fab ability to mix and circulate that those particles take them even deeper. Remove the cap from a clear plastic drinking bottle fill it with water…and watch it sink – that PET (PETE) plastic is more dense than water…glug, glug, glug and down it goes.

As Capt Charles Moore has been telling us, “We are changing the composition of the oceans.” – and knowing the inability of our natural world in breaking down these basic long-chain plastic polymers, we are changing this composition down to the molecular level…throughout the earth’s ocean’s average depth of two miles. That’s a lot of plastic soup – that eventually ends up on our dinner plates.

Therein lies the folly, or “fantasy” as Capt Moore puts it, in cleaning up the oceans (think about it) – we have to stop the assault at the source. In order for us to get a start on solving the problem, SINGLE-USE PLASTICS MUST END. Our phenomenal human ingenuity has allowed us to create synthetics that can literally last forever – WHY employ those technologies for something that is designed to simply throw away? Well, MONEY is the answer to that…no surprise there. And last-resort recycling can take the edge off a bit, but Patagonia ain’t selling enough $150 former-plastic-bottle jackets to use up the 60 million plastic water bottles used each day in the US, especially in this economy.

The solution is: blanket bans of SUPs, development of replacement technologies (or 100% acceptance of reusables), and associated education of SUP users about the problem of Plasticized Oceans and garbaged-up neighborhoods and what it takes to address the problem(s) as a ‘team’ - the 'team' being the human race, that is.

Anything else is an endorsement of pollution of both our neighborhoods and our overall environment. When the plastics industry sues a municipality for attempting an SUP ban, they are in effect shouting, “WE LOVE LITTER, POLLUTION AND FILTHY LUCRE! – AND FURTHER MORE, TAKE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD AND SHOVE IT!”

Well, that ain’t very neighborly at all, is it? :(

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Trashy Whale, Unveiled!

San Diego Surfrider RAP activist Heather Benson recently informed me that a group of first graders (that she had made a beach and watershed presentation to) were constructing a life-size whale out of plastic trash that they've found on the beach. "That's great!", I said, but I was really thinking, "...yeah, sure". Nice to know that I've been found wrong again!

One hundred and thirty (130!) Jefferson Elementary School (Carlsbad, CA) first grade students worked for five and a half months to create the art piece that is currently on display at their school, and which will travel to nearby Sea Life Aquarium (and beyond, just ask!) for an extended stay. Sea Life helped the project along with a $750 donation - sweet!

I came to the February 18th event with an open mind, and was b-l-o-w-n-a-w-a-y. The unveiling was standing-room-only and featured speeches, songs, THE BAG MONSTER!, free RAP canvas bags for the parents, cheering, photos, hugs and more. The baby-whale sized mural features everything from a set of dentures to surfboard leashes - a real eye-opener into the stuff we use everyday being presented back to us...hmmm... See photos from the event here. Check the student's blog of the effort here.

The students were guided and inspired not only by Heather, but by their teacher, Arlene Gnade, and local "gARTbage" artist, Teresa Espaniola. Bottom line: This type of connection with the growing minds of children is very important in our efforts to save the waves - the kids get it, they know that the problem of beach trash must be solved, and neatly "up-teach" their parents on the matter.

Bravo Jefferson Elementary!

Stiv & 5Gyres Update: 22Feb2010 - Sargasso Sea & the Azores!

The latest from Stiv Wilson & 5 Gyres' trip to the Atlantic Ocean, to see if the "garbage patch" phenom is only specific to the Pacific Ocean. The early diagnosis: not only "NO!", but "H-E-[double-hockey sticks] NO, it's NOT just in the Pacific!!" - the stuff is everywhere.

The team has come up from the Bahamas, crossed the Sargasso sea, and is now visiting the central Atlantic's Azores Islands ('A├žores' if you are conversant in Portuguese)... Here is Stiv's latest posting to us:

"Hey Oceansavas:

Lots more to come from my journey to the North Atlantic Gyre. Absolutely mindblowing experience. Seeing this stuff firsthand, in a liquid wilderness, and finding that it's ubiquitous is a tough pill to swallow. We did 37 trawls for plastic fragments. Each positive. BLECK. Then the patches of living in in pipes...transparent jellyfish with plastic flecs inside...lighters, shotgun shells...bleach bottles with fish teeth marks...milk's all there.


Reports/videos published in Wend magazine.

5Gyres stories, photos and other pithy info.

Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tom Jones East Coast Tour 2010

Extreme athlete Tom Jones stand-up paddled down the California coast (800+ miles thankyouverymuch) during the fall of 2007 to raise awareness to the problem of plastics pollution in our oceans. He made multiple landfalls along the way – each one punctuated by a media-friendly press conference and assorted beach & ocean-related events that local organizations planned for his appearances. The photo above is a shot of his final arrival at the US/Mexico border (yes, the fence extends into the ocean).

NOW HE’S BACK – this summer he’ll be paddling the ENTIRE EAST COAST of the USA. Take a look at the map and you’ll see that many stops are planned – giving your organization an opportunity for a splashy (no pun) media event – and a perfect chance to buy a hungry activist a meal!

Tom is a great guy, and is extremely dedicated to doing what he can to bring attention to the insipid problem of plastics in our oceans. He gets it – and he has helped form the group, PlasticFreeOcean to help further addressing the problem. The PlasticFreeOcean website is jam-packed with helpful info, links and action items - check it out!

Tom can also use your help in sponsoring this tour, or planning an event for one of his landfalls – do whatcha can!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Nestle: Chummin', Not Chuggin'

Great news, clean-ocean lovers! Nestle foods, who controls one-third of the bottled water market, reports a 5% drop in sales of bottled water. Niiiiice. Not the 50-100% reduction that we were hoping for, but a start is a start.

National Public Radio's Marketplace reported it yesterday, and if the numbered estimate is Nestle's numbered estimate, we can probably tack on a couple of extra percentage points. (wink) Nestle's brands span the likes of Perrier, Poland Spring, Ozarka and (get this) Pure Life... Listen or read the article at the Marketplace website.

Speaking of Poland Spring, seize the opportunity to see the new film about bottled water, and the bottles they come in - it's called Tapped. We've mentioned it here previously. It not only details how Nestle commandeers, free of compensation, local aquifers across the state of Maine, it also shows some simple "experiments" - like washing them in a dishwasher - on plastic bottles that yield some unhealthful outcomes. The film is currently touring around the country and the creators make it readily available (for a small rental/showing fee) to groups interested in spreading the word on the foibles of bottled water.

Glug, glug, glug...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Not Recycling Creates Jobs!

This pretzelagic (new word) revelation from the governor of Delaware – in a hackneyed attempt to show his brain-power and fix the economy, the gov’nr showed his lack of forethought by proposing to ‘can’ the current Delaware container refund law (which, BTW, does not even include aluminum can recycling, estimated to be ~50 of all recyclable containers).

His solution alternative: call the fee a tax, and reduce it from 5 cents to 2 cents per container - YAY! Hmmm...we're having trouble following the logic, but it is Monday after all...must be that new 'fuzzy math', yes? Perhaps calling for a recall of himself would create more jobs?

Lucky for us and Mother Earth, super-thinkers like Melissa Dombrowski, Chair of the Surfrider Foundation’s Delaware Chapter, are advocating for a needed expansion of the current law…versus its elimination/evisceration…and the associated creation of all of those jobs (wink) and the associated eventual robust return of the economy (wink-wink).

Try to make sense of it all here. Sic ‘em Melissa!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tijuana River Explodes With Trash & Sewage

[click any image in this blog for a larger view]

As written about previously in this blog…the Tijuana River crosses from Mexico into the US in extreme southern San Diego County. The important things to know about this unique regional feature are that:

1) There are little or no recycling programs in Baja California; nor is trash collection there at the standard that US residents are accustomed to.

2) Sewage plumbing and processing in Tijuana is not at the standard that US residents are accustomed to.

3) Some Tijuana residents use old tires to construct earthen retaining walls in the loose, crumbling local soil.

4) Three quarters of the Tijuana River watershed is located in Mexico.

5) The local topology is not flat – and is characterized as mesas and canyons.

6) When it rains hard in this region, the outfall of this river is the transport mechanism for mind-boggling volumes of sediment, garbage, sewage, tires, debris and…yes, plastics as they race to the nearby ocean.

7) On the US side, the Tijuana River estuary can act as a partial “filter”, capturing some of what flows downstream, before it gets to the ocean.

8) Not everything that flows down the river is stopped before it makes its way to the ocean.

9) Each time it rains, a new layer of infectious sediment and debris is deposited atop the last one, creating a stratified riverbed comprised primarily of layer upon layer of mud, tires and miscellaneous flotsam.

Surfrider San Diego created “No B.S.” (border sewage), a campaign designed to bring attention and action to this multi-tiered problem. It has partnered with the Tijuana River Citizens Council and other enviro groups raise awareness to the problem and to grow all attempts at capturing and stopping the debris flow – as well as to extract the deposited items during dry episodes. No blame is placed as to the source of the problem – it is known as a “cross-border” situation that both countries need to address.

[click any image in this blog for a larger view]

The team has made available scores of photos (here and here and here), and maintain their own blog with more details of the problem, related stories (from both sides of the border) and information on how you may be able to help.

Take time to at least look at the eye-popping photos...and don't believe the line that "it never rains in California"!

Check 'em out, help 'em out and buena suerte a todos!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

DC Bag Fee User Experience

Alan Honadle, a California boy (former Surfrider San Diego chairman as well) is currently working in Washington, DC and filed this report from his local drug store there:

"The Scenario:

San Diego Surfrider member Alan Honadle, presently freezing his tuckus off on a three month work stint in our nation's fine capital, shuffled up to the counter of his neighborhood business district CVS yesterday morning. In hand he clutched some vitamin D milk for his milkless java, which was sitting sad, cold, and alone on his office desk. The nice lady behind the counter then informed him of the new 5 cent fee on all plastic and paper bags in the city.

"If you wanna bag, we gotta charge you five cents now," the CVS lady hesitantly explained.

"REALLY!?!", Alan shouted back, half surprised but with a grin that grew larger by every passing second.

"DUDE!........SaWEET!", Alan's synapses finally starting to fire.

"Saweet"? The CVS lady softly repeated back. She wasn't expecting that response.

"Ya man....less plastic, right?" Alan offered up.

"Ohhhhh.....ya, that's right.", the lady said as she started to come to life herself.

"Ya, that green thing.", she went on. "Ya, i guess we're really doing this." Then, after a bit of a pause, "it feels pretty good too, actually."

Alan tried to jump in too fast, as he always seems to do in conversations. But he had no shot this time. The CVS lady was rolling now, taking back control of the counter.

"And, if you buy this green reusable bag over here for one dollar", placing the bag in front of one delighted Alan, "every fourth time you use it in our stores, you get one dollar off your purchase."

"OK", Alan proclaimed, with an instant kangaroo bounce in his step. "You have a really great day Latosha!"

"It's Latisha."

"Oh, I'm sorry Latisha." Alan replied sincerely and with apology.

"Not to worry", Latisha said, as clear and warm as a bright sunny day. "You have a fine day too....By the way, what's your name?"

"Alan", Alan replied, feeling quickly overcome with joy and happiness that can only come from a personal exchange as pure as the one that just transpired.

"Cheers", he said while exiting.

But then, while walking back to work, and with more time to think about what had actually just happened, it dawned on him the REAL reason for his bursting joy and happiness.....

He stopped, dead in his tracks, and realized in a moment of clarity, that a few really cool people can actually make a huge difference. People like Julie Lawson and the Washington DC Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

The End....

Congratulations DC on your Anacostia River Cleanup and Protection Act of 2009! Your Redskins may bight serious cheese
[Disclaimer: this is not the official Surfrider position. ;) ], but your 5 cent bag fee REALLY made my Monday morning (and the morning of a whole lot more people who actually know what's good for us all)!

Surfrider was and is simply the vehicle. Your passion and determination provided the victory for a cleaner city, local waterways, and beaches. Let us all replicate and turn our noses with confidence to those that think a bag fee isn't a positive step forward. National and State laws are great, but here's to you not sitting around waiting for that to happen.

Stand Proud, Enjoy your Moment, and keep fighting!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Stiv & 5Gyres Update: 8Feb2010

Wend magazine Editor-in-Chief and Surfrider Foundation Ambassador Stiv Wilson is on a sailboat with Dr. Marcus Eriksen of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation on an environmental research mission to explore plastic in the Sargasso Sea.

Here is his latest update, sent to Wend HQ via satellite:



After enduring a solid 36 hours of being hove to wait out a storm, the crew has come back to life. A low pressure system hit us early Sunday morning and the seas picked up quite a bit causing the boat to toss violently. Normally when faced with this situation you’d sail hard through it, getting away from the storm as soon as possible. But since our mission is to trawl for plastic every 100 miles to get a transect of our passage, we couldn’t run on full sail otherwise we would risk quickly eating up those 100 miles. Also, when the sea state is chaotic, the plastic debris stratifies deeper in the water column making the plastic trawls less to ineffective. Thus, we heaved to.

The 'heave to' is a technique sailors use to slow the boat down to near drift by backing the sails against each other and tying the wheel off, which makes the ship continually right itself back into the waves. Essentially, it’s like parking at sea as best as one can. Heaving to, though effective for waiting out storms, makes for an extremely difficult life aboard ship - especially in big seas. Thirty-six hours of rain, wind and tossing from rail to rail sometimes to 50° makes for bruises and sore muscles. This experience was quite a juxtaposition to the sail we had the second night when we were in T-shirts clipping along peacefully at 10 knots under a cloudless sky with a full moon.

Around noon local time (-4 GMT) Marjolijn yelled from above deck that dolphins had gained our bow, so the crew ran up to photograph them. But as they darted to and fro, we came across our second major windrow (an area that collects debris by ocean currents both organic and inorganic) on the trip and the first one on the leg from Bermuda to the Azores. We dropped sail and navigated by motor to large patches of Sargassum (a plant that grows on the surface of this area of the Atlantic known as the Sargasso Sea). At once, my seafaring romantic notions of dolphins being good omens were dashed by the insipid reminder of the human stain.

For nearly 45 minutes, the whole crew of the Sea Dragon documented and scooped up bucket lids, lighters, dental floss holders, toothbrushes, antifreeze jugs, mop squeegies, bottle caps, mouth guards (for boxing), Spanish nail polisher remover bottles, crates, and lots more. For the new crew members, including Maarten, the sculptor, this was a watershed moment. What was once a story heard on CNN and the BBC about the North Pacific became eyewitness reality in yet another ocean, 5,000 miles away.

Now, we’re steaming towards what we believe to be the epicenter of the gyre - still some 400 miles away.

Big thanks to Aquapac, Keen, Patagonia, Blue Turtle, EcoUsable, The Surfrider Foundation, Ron and Portia at Pangaea Explorations (owners of the Sea Dragon and directors of the Pan Explore Project) and the VERY AWESOME FOLKS at Clifbar who sent us a 35-pound care package of pure energy to Bermuda.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

You Picked the Wrong Day To...

...mess with the ecosystem, Plastic Boy!

Ok, just so ya know...we do not endorse the car company that produced this commercial (as seen during the 2010 Super Bowl), but ya gotta love those opening and closing scene-lets.

Also - the "cleanest" of diesels are those that burn used veggie oil, preferably chaser! (wink)

Oregon GOES OFF!

Characterized as a “$%&*-storm we've started”, by Surfrider Oregon Field Coordinator Charlie Plybon, is a little something that began as the local Portland Surfrider Chapter’s “Ban the Bag” campaign, which now has taken Oregon into hyper-drive on professing its disdain for the plastic plague statewide!

Here’s a rough time line: Portland Surfrider gathers 5,000 (not an over-night task, mind you, even in progressive Portland) toward their single-use plastic bag ban targeted at Portland-proper. The buzz grows and…lo & behold, State Senator Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, wants every store in Oregon to do the same: Ban The Bag. Wa-BAM!

Toward that goal, Hass is leading the charge on a bill, Senate Bill 1009, that is up for a hearing Tuesday in Salem that would outlaw single-use plastic bags at the retail level. The “hyper-drive” part of this is that this is a THREE WEEK BILL – T-H-R-E-E WEEKS! That is just nuts – how can any self-respecting plastics lobbyist dole out enough multi-martini lunches and freebie boondoggle junkets to the Greek Isles, etc, etc, etc in that miniscule span of time?? (For perspective, a California plastics bill now being considered is being given a two year [TWO YEARS?] lifespan – ugh!)

I love this Sen. Hass quote about SU plastic bags: “They contribute to litter, are minimally recycled, regularly gum up recycling sorting machines, harm marine life and are made from fossil fuels. I don't think people understand the true cost of these bags," …‘nuff said, homie.

Ahhh – the concept of “True Cost”, tru dat!! Nice job of bringing it all back home Mark! Therein lies the inherent, inbred, insipid “nature” of plastics – especially the single-use demons. AND a politician with his spinal cord attached to his brain stem - heretoforeunheardof – it’s all coming together in O-R-E-G-O-N!

Article Link Zone:

Both articles mention Surfrider's 5,000 signatures toward the ban:

OregonLive article ... Statesman Journal article

The Stateman article quotes Gus Gates Surfrider's Oregon Policy Coordinator.

You can participate in an online poll about the ban here.

So, DIG IT…and stay tuuuuuned.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

DC Bag Fee Report – Great Tips for Other Cities!

Officially referred to as “Skip the Bag, Save the River”, Washington DC’s bag “ban” – actually a $0.05 fee per shopping bag…paper OR plastic – went into effect one month ago and Julie Lawson, the DC "Capital" Surfrider Chapter Chair provided this recent update:

“…news stories have been covering the results. Most of the articles have a negative slant ("oh, what a hassle this is! oh, how confusing!") but they also readily report that it's working. Working beyond any of our expectations.

In only three weeks of the five-cent fee, demand for bags at grocery stores dropped 50-60 percent!

Reports from our members indicate that most cashiers have been well trained--and if that's not the case, members have been educating them. ;) Personally I have yet to pay the fee since I always have several cloth bags on me, but I've been pleased to hear cashiers ask "Do you need a bag?" before every transaction, rather than just bagging automatically. Signs about it are posted everywhere, and I definitely see more people carrying reusable bags than plastic. Public opinion on blogs and community sites has definitely turned in support. We're monitoring the implementation process and look forward to seeing the receipts from the businesses hopefully around the end of the month.”

The bottom line is that a simple, minuscule charge for any bag can hopscotch the EIR lawsuits that California is dealing with, AND initiate a wholesale (no pun) change in shopper actions. NICE ONE JULIE AND DC!!

Following are a few links about the DC effort’s progress – lots of good info on what works and where the friction may manifest itself upon taking an action like this – great for planning your own action:

1) The official Washington DC government “Skip the Bag, Save the River” bag fee site, explaining the particulars of the fee and where the money goes.

2) Washington Post article detailing the new phenomenon of “parking lot jugglers”!

3) Wall Street Journal article listing fringe business gripes about just which establishments should be charging the fee. These kinds of early adjustments can be expected for any type of positive change like this. Processes will change to adapt and all will be well...aahhhhhh... :)

4) Finally, even our gravy-slurpin’ politicians are finding merit in the ban, by trying to suck more money (can you say: $25/”free” bag) out of the electorate!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Pilots Punish Plastics!

The University of Portland (Oregon...mascot: Pilots) have smartly decided to 'can' the bottle, so to speak - they are BANNING SINGLE-USE PLASTIC BOTTLE SALES on their campus!

With nearly 4,000 combined students and faculty, UOP is making quite a statement.

Sez the Prez: “The University of Portland takes seriously its commitment to being a good steward of the planet,” said University President Rev. E. William Beauchamp, C.S.C. “This will not only reduce the amount of waste generated on our campus but will help focus attention on the critical issues of sustainability and water rights.”

We can hope that this kind of forward thinking will spread to other lernin' centers across the USA - better yet, we can press for it. Are you a college student? Are you a member of your school's "enviro" club? Are you willing to press to get rid of single-use plastics from your school...forever? Visit the campus president, and tell her/him that they can save $$$ with reduced trash removal, get positive press in the news, Go Green, do-the-right-frickin-thing, etc, etc, etc - there are a zillion reasons why eliminating single-use plastics from schools is right, and worth fighting for. Write a letter to the campus newspaper - let 'em know what you think!!

Campuses, with their specific and transitory populations, generate a lot of food-related garbage, but more importantly they are in the business of influencing and shaping the flexible minds of its member students. The good Reverend Beauchamp's words and actions are indeed commendable - hopefully the message will be carried by his students all along their life's paths.

UOP ROCKS! Check out their Sustainability page. A college sustainability page - NICE!