JUNKride Tour Collects Garbage, Raises Awareness

Posted by — June 1, 2009 5:53 pm

As millions head out to the coast this summer to enjoy beautiful clean beaches, one organization will cruise the coast to collect garbage.

The Algalita Marine Research Foundation is two months into its 10-week bike tour to raise awareness about plastic pollution. The project started on April 4, and will go through June 25.

The JUNKride involves AMRF members riding bicycles from Vancouver, Canada to Tijuana, Mexico and collecting trash on the shore along the way. This 2,000-mile stretch of coast will help the AMRF team inspire local governments and organizations to act on keeping our oceans and waterways clean from plastic garbage and other pollutants.

Although many don’t know the AMRF by name, they have heard of the research the organization has done on the North Pacific Gyre, more commonly known as the “great Pacific garbage patch.” Much of the Foundation’s ground-breaking research has brought awareness to this vast stretch of floating trash, invisible to land dwellers.

This glob of trash floats in a windless spot far off the sea shore of the Pacific Ocean, boasting hundreds of miles of plastic garbage. Some have said the patch is larger than the state of Texas and growing. All the discarded plastic is left to bob in the salt water for many years, slowly chipping away into little particles. The AMRF team has already made a number of trips to the oceanic garbage patch to collect samples of plastic debris.

In 2001, a study conducted by the Marine Pollution Bulletin revealed a ratio of six pounds of plastic to every pound of naturally-occurring zooplankton. Zooplankton is an incremental part to the ocean’s food chain, and marine creatures rely on this food source. Because these plastic bits look so similar to zooplankton, many fish eat the plastic instead. (From story, Trashed: across the Pacific Ocean, plastics, plastics, everywhere.)

And the trash far off at sea is not the only problem—plastics washed up at shore commonly become a bird or turtle’s lunch. The Albatross bird has become a symbol of the plastic-awareness movement. Photos on AMRF’s web site reveal a decomposing Albatross carcass, its ribcage loaded with plastic trash.
“Carcass with Plastic” – AMRF

In 2005, the AMRF drafted a strategic plan with a four-year timeline from 2006 to 2010, with a goal to bring disposable plastic to the surface of human consciousness. The first item of the plan plainly states that when it comes to garbage, we’re all in this together, “The health of the marine environment is an international issue about which all humans share a common concern.”

The AMRF’s research and activism helps the public to understand that our addiction to litter affects both land and water environments. A quote on AMRF’s JUNKride web page addresses the real call to action, “The age of disposable plastics must end.”

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