Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Video Roundup!

Time to slide into a relaxing weekend with some visuals from the boob tube – all three dealing with the presence and increasing levels of plastic trash on the beach [do you see a theme at this website? :) ]. Three shorties to get you through your Friday morning:

==> One from the BBC, visiting a Hawaii’s Kamilo plastic beach (have patience, it takes a minute to load) – the same beach that Charles Moore has made us aware of.

==> One from the Kaisei Pacific garbage patch trolling project of last summer. In it they talk briefly about the lab activities that follow any scientific field collection trip:

==> Last, but most, is a vid featuring Surfrider CEO Jim Moriarty – as shot by Surfrider Portland and 5Gyres activist Stiv Wilson.

ALSO - Bonus Yahoo article about the Atlantic Garbage Patch as recently discovered (uncovered?) by 5Gyres - the photo below is from a shoreline on one the Azores islands, in the middle of the Atlantic ocean...yuk.

The weather is shaping up well for some outdoor activities here in lower-upper California – beach cleanup anyone??? Sounds like Hawaii, the Azores and San Onofre are good places to start.

Have a g000d weekend!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Banksy on Bags

This one is a couple of years old, but worth a replay, considering the new film (Exit Through the Gift Shop) about secretive street artist Banksy, opening in US theaters this week.

Using the image of a ubiquitous plastic shopping bag, this unauthorized London neighborhood "installation" has come to be called "In Tesco We Trust"...and has since likely been obliterated... :( ...even though his impromptu and uninvited paintings instantly add considerable value to the target buildings...

According to a UK blogger, Tesco is "the UK equivalent of Wal-Mart, a dirt-cheap, mega chain supermarket that has taken over the British landscape and pushed out Mom & Pop shops wherever it opens. Tesco also recently expanded into the U.S. West Coast, opening a chain of convenience stores called Fresh & Easy.". Just so ya know...

Here is an article about the art piece, with a mention of a UK retail chain, self-imposing a bag fee.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Plastics Get There First (Malloy Brothers Vid)

The surfin' Malloy brothers are known for their world travel to places so remote that they may have actually been the first people to visit. But as you will see in this video, put together by the good folks at the Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC), man's trash had gotten to these places before the exploratory surfers ever did:

Take time to visit the dedicated souls at PPC, both at their home website and at their YouTube channel which has several other plastics-related video shorts.

You'll be glaaad you did!

The Story of Bottled Water

From the folks that brought us 'The Story of Stuff', this animated documentary highlights many issues with bottled water in an easy to understand way. You probably know most of the content so the best thing to do is pass it on to someone who may still need convincing... Rob Nixon posted this great little flick here a month ago - definitely worth a second viewing!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Time Mag Article on Bioplastics

Weekly newsmag, Time, tackles the subject of "biodegradable plastic" in next week's issue...w/o any outright mention of "jumbo shrimp" or "military intelligence"... but they gave it a catchy, realistic title: "The Promise And Pitfalls of Bioplastic".

Stuff we all know (ya gotta compost it under proper conditions, ya can't recycle it, it'll last nearly as long as petro-plastic if tossed in the trash AND..."it's a start"), neatly presented in a fashion that your mom can understand.

Thanks to Time for another to-the-point article on our plastic problem!

[oh yeah...the image is of a fake Time magazine cover...but the article is for reals!]

Friday, April 23, 2010

Anti-Plastic Hero-ess

I saw her on TV last week (while she was choosing her prom dress) talking about how her Los Angeles-area Environmental Charter High School is reacting to being named one of six finalists on Obama’s “Race To The Top” grant competition.

I met her in person at a Rise Above Plastics event in Los Angeles last fall (and thought she was one of the teachers…but is actually a senior at the high school).

She even has her own website.


She has been identified as one of the top Ten Anti-Plastic Heroes by the Huffington Post!

Her name is Jordan Howard, she's a Rise Above Plastics activist, and though she’s only 18, I’d say keep an eye on her as she’s probably gonna be your boss someday. Don’t worry, you could do muuuuuch worse.


Vote for ECHS in Obama's Race To The Top here.

Use Less Plastic Vid

'Nuff Said - Yooou Cannn Do EEeeet!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dead Whale in Seattle

Yesterday, the fifth whale to die and wash up in Washington's Puget sound this year (fourth in the last two weeks) is drawing attention for what was in its stomach.

The "slightly emaciated" whale (not so unusual, they say), that washed up in West Seattle, had "more than 50 gallons of undigested stomach contents, including more than 20 plastic bags, small towels, surgical gloves, sweatpants, duct tape, pieces of plastic and a golf ball", according to John Calambokidis of the Olympia-based Cascadia Research Collective.

Gray whales are known to do a bit of "bottom feeding" and can pick up rocks, and other chunks of non-food items in a scoop to seek food, but the impact of man's practices - and products - on the environment is clearly played out in this case.

No one is able to tell at this point if these man-made objects had any play in the whale's death.

A few articles on the matter:

Seattle Times article.

Tacoma News Tribune article.

MSNBC article (gruesome photo warning).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tales From The Dark Side

Internet searches have been verrrry fruitful lately:

This article in a plastics industry web-zine gives us some nice info about polystyrene (“PS”) and plastic bag bans in California. Lotsa nice info in the short article – like, did you know that in Santa Cruz, California, their county supervisors are going forward with a recent recommendation of their own Public Works Department to ban plastic bags outright – AND to levy a 10-cent fee on paper bags that would jump to 25 cents by next year. Nice!

This article from the same plastics industry online tome describes the international plastic bag trade war going on in The Industry – Granny Git Yer Gun, The Commies Are Coming! Apparently the foreigners' bags are being dumped (no pun intended) on our economy. That ain't right - American Companies are the only ones with the proper right to trash America!! :(

While checking on some of the bag manufacturers listed in the trade war article, I went to one of their websites that has a link-button labeled, “The Truth About Plastic Bags” – I couldn’t help it – I CLICKED IT! It took me to a blank page (natch…) – but, I was using the new Google Chrome browser tho, so I found a dusty version of Microsoft’s IE, dropped in the link and found out where they keep all of the truths about plastic bags!

At the TTAPB website you can take a “Plastic Bag IQ Survey” (om*g?), in which you are asked such questions as:

=> Plastic Bags are the most common form of litter YES/NO (answer: NO, it’s cigarette butts)
=> Plastic Bags are the most common form of marine debris YES/NO (I see where this is going…)
=> Plastic bags are toxic YES/NO: ([my] answer: Eat one yourself and find out.)

And this doozy:
=> How did you reach a conclusion that plastic bags are toxic or not? It doesn’t list “I died by eating one” as a choice, but it does give you the option of choosing “Know someone that died from plastic poisoning”. I wonder how often that option is selected...? ;)

I guess the BIG LESSON here is that you shouldn’t delete your old copy of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer from your computer – you just may need it someday to visit limited-capability retro websites to have your IQ “surveyed”.

Have a good 'un!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Free water!

Surfrider’s Rise Above Plastics campaign was originally named, for about 5 minutes, “Ban the Bottle!!!”, because the root rage that initiated the program was centered on those insipid, ubiquitous, clear-plastic, single-use bottles. The larger problem of ALL plastics in the environment quickly widened the scope of the campaign to encompass the entire problem – BUT the bottles remain a failure of both manufacturing ingenuity (unless you profit from selling the d***n things) and ocean health.

From the Of Course It’s A Great Idea folder, a newish org called TAPIT is endeavoring to build, grow and make known a network of retail establishments that allow and encourage you to come by and refill your reusable water bottle. Already in twelve states and the District of Columbia, their website lists the simple particulars for joining the network and advertising the businesses that offer the free water. All that and…aTAPIT iPhone app too, for those moderne guys & gals seeking refills on-the-go.

Best yet – the TAPIT people offer the service for FREE, and the loose set of guidelines (straight tap water, filtered water, free water, nominal-charge water, etc, etc.) are an easy fit for any business that wants to participate.

Take time to check the site for your city, and if it’s not listed, go the extra step to approach your favorite restaurants/shops about joining the network. You could become the TAPIT RAPit Rep for your ‘hood!

Ban The (single-use plastic) Bottle, baaaby!

Friday, April 9, 2010

One Man's Trash...

…is another bird’s ‘treasure’? Check THIS out:

In Portland Oregon (in the midst of a bag ban effort), an American Redtailed Hawk couple has set up their nest (with eggs!) in a fire escape balcony adjacent to one of the local TV news company’s traffic cams. The station, in association with the local Audubon Society, has trained the cameras on the nest, and offers a live cam view of the birds' nesting tasks.

This week, one of the hawks brought a plastic shopping bag trash item up to the perch for use as nesting material. You can check it out in a photo with a bit of narrative or view a slideshow of the action. So far, they haven’t eaten it – so far – but keep your fingers crossed for a healthful familial outcome. ;)

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Time Mag: Perils of Plastic

A new article about “Environmental Toxins” from a special edition of Time Magazine is kicking up some dust in the plastics world this week - and it (re)substantiates one of the main reasons to Rise Above Plastics. It details the poisons (mainly BPA and phthalates) used in making food-grade plastics and how our government and industry control – or don’t control – their eventual "release", as consumer products. It’s a quick read, chock full of great info…and stellar quotes, here are a couple:

If you don't have BPA in your body, you're not living in the modern world.

The dose may still make the poison, but we'll never know unless we test the chemical soup we actually experience in the world — unless, that is, we find the environmentally relevant dose. There's been a tendency to ask the old questions in the old way," says Linda Birnbaum [head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences]. "But if it's dark and you only look for your keys under the lamppost and they're not right there, you'll never find them."

...don't forget the mind-boggling revelations, like this one, either:

If you want to market a new drug, you need to convince the FDA — in multiple tests, over the course of years — that it won't cause serious harm. But if you want to market a new chemical for use in a product — even one that will come into contact with children or pregnant women — it's up to the EPA to prove that it's unsafe, using whatever data are provided by the chemical company…

Read it and you'll find that the current administration in Washington may act to breath life back into the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – a 34 year-old law set that has sat largely dormant since its inception and lacks needed updates that accommodate chemicals that have come into widespread use since then.

Bon app├ętit!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Biodegradable Plastics? (Welcome to Oxymoronville)

Think "Jumbo Shrimp!" or "Military Intelligence"...then consider biodegradable plastics. At this point, it's largely a green-washing feel-good factor, to get the gnarly corn compounds to biodegrade, they have to be mulched under tightly-controlled conditions...the same conditions under which proper bio-degradation of green waste must take place. In a word, they wont break down in a basic landfill - or your yard - any sooner than non-biodegradable plastics would.

It is, however, a start. :) Anyone that understands the degree to which we over-produce corn in this country (google "monoculture of corn"), it serves as another way to dispense with that gov't-subsidized over-production...ya think?

Some municipalities (San Diego, among others) are conducting pilot programs to test the viability of large-scale composting of corn-plastics - but think of the logistics...and of how many real plastic forks end up being tossed into the mulch pile...and come out w/o degrading. Just figuring out which plastic containers are currently accepted for recycle is already too complicated for many of us with good intentions, as the acceptance of those "acceptable" plastics vary from region to region.

That's just "one reporters opinion" - you are free to form your own - take time to read these two articles: one pondering the fine points of bio-plastics and another Mother Jones article about Ramani Narayan, a Michigan State professor of chemical and biochemical engineering who helped develop biodegradable corn-based plastic.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spread the Trash Talk!

Just a Friday quickie to provide a link to Heal The Bay's new "Trashed" website. It's an interactive site that shows causes, effects, facts and other details about plastic pollution in the ocean. HTB wants to raise awareness about the problem and how we can help - "spread the trash talk" as they put it - and they'd love your help.

The site is great for kids (of all ages!) - plus it's got "widgets & banners" that you can dress up your own website/newsletters/blogs and Facebook/MySpace accounts with, in order to help get the word out about the plastic pollution problem that's "trashing" our ocean. The website even provides a way to "trash your friends and family". Hmmm...(raised eyebrow)...could make for an interesting weekend.

Take a moment to visit the 'normal' Heal the Bay website too. They are good friends of ours, do great work...they "get it". ;)

Pau hana!!