We live in a throwaway society, yet instead of going “away” much of our waste has found its way into our oceans, accumulating in swirling vortexes of cigarette lighters, plastic bags and other debris. Birds, mammals and fish easily mistake the plastic particles for plankton and are dying of starvation due to stomachs full of plastic. In addition, plastics absorb poisons which may come back to us full circle unless we increase awareness about these issues and encourage people to do something about it.
Many have heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a gyre of marine litter in the central North Pacific Ocean. Since his discovery of the “floating island of plastic twice the size of Texas”, Captain Charles Moore and his non-profit - Algalita Marine Research Foundation (www.algalita.org) have been doing extensive research into the catastrophic effects of plastic pollution in our world’s oceans. Algalita’s Director of Project Development, Dr. Marcus Eriksen helped raise awareness of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch when he sailed a raft made of junk from Los Angeles to Hawaii (http://www.junkraft.com) and has recently completed Junkride (http://www.junkraft.com/homeJunkRide.html) - a bike ride from Vancouver B.C. to Tijuana stopping in major West Coast cities to spread awareness of plastic pollution in oceans.
Much research has now been done on plastics in the North Pacific Gyre. However, very little is known about plastic pollution in the other four gyres. Dr. Marcus Eriksen has invited me to join his crew on a voyage to the Atlantic Gyre, sailing between Bermuda and the Azore Islands to discover the effects that plastic pollution has had on this un-researched area. While on board I will be keeping a daily journal, taking photographs, and interviewing researchers and scientists, all in an effort to create a lesson plan to teach children and young adults about the problems of plastic pollution in the oceans. Children can then take these lessons home to educate their parents as well.
Why do I care so much?
As a scuba diver, environmentalist, and lover of the ocean, when I first read about the plastic marine pollution, I was instantly determined to help do something about it. Most of what we eat, drink or use in just about any way, comes packaged in plastic – a material designed to last forever, yet used for products that we throw away. Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. In total, Americans generate 10.5 million tons of plastic waste a year, but recycle only about 5% of it. Nearly every piece of plastic ever made still exists today.
Currently, there is six times more plastic than plankton floating in the North Pacific Gyre. The plastic is easily mistaken for plankton, causing dehydration, starvation and death of birds, fish and mammals. In addition, as the plastic particles circulate through the oceans, they act as magnets for toxic chemicals which could be working their way up the food chain right onto our dinner plates.
Clearly, this problem will worsen as long as we continue to live in a plastic “throw away society”. Something needs to be done now and I feel it is very important that children and young adults are made aware of these issues.
How much does it cost?
Your donation will help fund my voyage from Bermuda to the Azores, as well as the cost of plastic sediment analysis, fish tissue sampling, and marine debris density research. We will use a manta trawl to collect 50 surface samples, which will be sorted by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation lab into size and type of plastic. Funding will ultimately help determine the total weight of plastic pollution compared to the area and volume of the sea we sampled.
I plan to pay for the flight to Bermuda and home from the Azores myself, and also plan to buy carbon offsets for my travel. In total, I will need $5,000 to make this dream come true.
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