Marcus Eriksen, A Tablespoon of Plastic

Posted by — April 8, 2011 7:18 am

A Tablespoon of Marine Debris

How many spoons full of plastic pollution does it take fill a gyre?

29.01S, 101.50W

High Speed Trawl #20 filled a tablespoon with a kaleidoscope of plastic confetti, like what you might see swirling in a Christmas snow globe. There’s no way to know exactly where it came from, which country of origin or responsibility. No company logo, nothing identifying who owns it. Sun and waves, over months and years, has reduced the plastic detritus of terrestrial communities to unrecognizable bits and pieces.

The high speed trawl is 14cm wide, and is towed at 5-7 knots for 50 nautical miles skimming the surface. This represents 12,964 square meters, roughly a little less than three soccer fields. There are millions of soccer fields of ocean in the South Pacific Gyre, and tens of millions more worldwide. 2/3rds of the globe is ocean, and now infused with a broth of synthetic chemistry that wasn’t here 50 years ago. The ocean will clean itself if we manage land-based activities responsibly. We believe that in time the islands in the gyres, those natural nets that sieve the sea, like Hawaii, Bermuda, and Easter Island, will be the likely resting place for most of this junk. The ocean will regurgitate plastic pollution, if we stop adding more. The CONSUMER can refuse the system that uses plastic, a “No-Away” material, to make “Throw Away” disposable products and packaging. Your BUSINESS can become a “Zero Waste” facility, where conscious choices are made about the full lifecycle of what you buy and sell, like water filters rather than water bottles, or take-back programs for your products. The plastics INDUSTRY can take responsibility by supporting legislation that benefits communities rather than shareholders, like deposits on plastic bottles or supporting Extended Producer Responsibility bills.

Everyone owns a tablespoon of plastic pollution in the ocean. What can you do to end your future contribution?

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