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In a historic move, more than 40 UK companies have signed up to fight plastic pollution as part of the UK Plastics Pact, The Independent reported Wednesday.

The pact, which officially launches today, is a groundbreaking alliance of companies, non-governmental organizations and governments working to transform packaging in the UK by 2025.

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Major League Soccer (MLS) is scoring a goal against plastic pollution this Earth Day, with help from a unique, eco-friendly product.

All 23 MLS teams playing Earth Day weekend, from Friday, April 20 to Sunday April 22, will wear special Adidas jerseys made from Parley Ocean Plastic™, an Adidas press release announced April 10.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Plastic samples collected from the Great Pacific garbage patch. The Ocean Cleanup

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) floating off the coast of California now measures 1.6 million square kilometers (about 1 million square miles), according to a startling new study. To put that into perspective, the clump of trash is about the size of three Frances, or twice the size of Texas.

Not only that, the analysis, published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, also revealed that the massive Pacific trash vortex contains up to 16 times more plastic than previous estimates—and could rapidly get worse.

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Rich Horner / Facebook

British diver Rich Horner posted footage of his plastic-infested swim off Bali's Manta Point on Saturday.

"The ocean currents brought us in a lovely gift of a slick of jellyfish, plankton, leaves, branches, fronds, sticks, etc.... Oh, and some plastic," Horner wrote on Facebook. "Some plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic sheets, plastic buckets, plastic sachets, plastic straws, plastic baskets, plastic bags, more plastic bags, plastic, plastic, so much plastic!"

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The Ocean Cleanup—the ambitious Dutch venture devoted to ridding the world's oceans of plasticsannounced this week that it has raised $21.7 million in donations since last November.

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Plastic biodegraded by 10 worms in 30 minutes. Photo credit: César Hernández

A research team discovered that the caterpillars of the greater wax moth—considered a pest in Europe because it eats the beeswax from honeycombs—also has the ability to biodegrade polyethylene, the same material used in whale-choking, landfill-clogging plastic shopping bags.

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Adidas's Parley Ultraboost.

Adidas is getting serious about ocean plastic, turning the pollution "from threat into thread."

The sportswear giant, along with partner Parley for the Oceans, has released three new models of its shoes made from marine debris—the Ultraboost, Ultraboost X and Ultraboost Uncaged.

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Norwegian zoologists have discovered some 30 plastic bags and other marine debris inside the stomach of a malnourished 20-foot Cuvier's beaked whale.

The whale was an adult male that weighed about 2 tons. Local authorities were forced to euthanize the distressed animal on Jan. 28 after repeatedly stranding itself off the shallow waters of Sotra, an island near Norway's southwestern coast.

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Did you know that nearly a month, India's National Capital Region—a massive swath of land that includes the nation's capital territory, Delhi—outlawed disposable plastic? On Jan. 1, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) enacted a ban on one-time use items such as plastic grocery bags and cups for the region's 54 million inhabitants, the world's second largest urban agglomeration.

The initiative puts America's local and state plastic bag bans to shame, not to mention our bans on plastic bag bans.

The Delhi government was ordered to "take steps for storage and use of plastic materials with effect from January 1, 2017."

As Fast Company reports, three waste-to-energy plants in Delhi were singled out for the air pollution they caused from burning plastic waste:

"Delhi's three main trash dumps—Okhla, Gazipur and Bhalswa—are 'a depiction of mess that can be created for environment and health of people of Delhi,' said India's National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairperson Swatanter Kumar at the tribunal.

"Delhi uses waste-to-energy plants to produce electricity, and when those plants burn plastic waste, they spew pollution into the air. And if it isn't burned, the plastic ends up clogging the Yamuna, the second largest tributary river of the Ganges."

The plants will be fined around $7,300 for each act of non-compliance.

Many have questioned how easy it will be to enforce such an order. Shopkeepers and street vendors found themselves unprepared and even unaware of the ban.

"Instead of targeting us, the authorities should stop the factories that make these items," an unnamed stationery shop owner in Meherchand Market told The Hindu. "We have already started keeping cloth bags instead of plastic ones, but we haven't been able to fully stop using plastic as customers ask for it."

Environmentalists, however, have applauded the ban.

"These plastic materials end up clogging drains and some make their way into the Yamuna. There are several studies that prove how dangerous this is. The order of the NGT was much needed, but its implementation will be key," forestry and wildlife expert Manoj Misra told the same publication.

India's latest plastic ban cannot come soon enough. A 2015 study ranked India as the 12th biggest plastic polluter in the world, but expected it to bump up to No. 5 as its economy grows.

Another state has officially banned plastic bag bans—yes, you read that correctly. It is now illegal for local governments in Michigan to enact ordinances that ban or place fees on plastic bags or disposable containers used by stores and restaurants.

One-time usage, plastic bags are a major cause of plastic pollution. Flickr

The bill was signed Wednesday afternoon by Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, as Gov. Rick Snyder is out of the state for the holidays.

Other states that have banned local plastic bag ordinances include Wisconsin, Idaho, Florida and Arizona.

As MLive.com noted, Michigan's new mandate affects Washtenaw County, which wanted to start charging 10 cents for paper and plastic grocery bags in 2017.

Michigan House Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, spoke against the bill on the House floor.

"This is a bill that attacks local control," he said.

Jennifer Rigterink of the Michigan Municipal League, which opposed the bill, agreed.

"So, if it's important to a community to look at plastic bags or containers and how that's affecting their community they kind of have their hands tied now and aren't able to do anything about it," Rigterink said during an interview with Michigan Radio.

Washtenaw County Commissioner Jennifer Eyer added that the law "[puts] the priorities of business over the concerns about the environment, and doing what's good for the environment."

Despite the opposition, the Republican-sponsored bill passed 52-46 in the House and 25-12 in the Senate. Both chambers are controlled by the GOP. The approved law takes effect in 90 days.

The bill was supported by the Michigan Restaurant Association, which believes that local bans creates a burdensome patchwork of bag laws for retailers.

"With many of our members owning and operating locations across the state, preventing a patchwork approach of additional regulations is imperative to avoid added complexities as it related to day-to-day business operations," Robert O'Meara, the association's vice president of Government Affairs, told MLive.com.

In a post for EcoWatch last year, environmental advocate Laura Turner Seydel warned that outside forces are behind these bans on plastic bag bans.

"Powerful and large special interest lobbying groups are behind these 'ban bans' as well as litigation aimed at already existing bans," she wrote. "Outside interests are funding these efforts to dissuade and dismantle local level legislation. Primary among them is the Progressive Bag Affiliates, funded by the largest plastic bag manufacturers in the country and the American Chemistry Council."

Turner Seydel noted in her post that Americans go through an estimated 100 billion plastic bags annually and at least 12 million barrels of oil are used per year to manufacture them. These one-time-use items are notorious for killing wildlife and polluting our environment.

Still, a number counties and even entire countries are putting their concern for the environment before their convenience and have banned these non-biodegradable menaces.

This past November, California became the first state to impose a statewide plastic bag ban despite heavy opposition from bag makers working with the American Legislative Exchange Council that tried to pass statewide bans on local bag bans.

And, in September, France became the first country to ban plastic silverware, plates and cups.

Boyan Slat, the 22-year-old Dutch inventor and CEO behind The Ocean Cleanup, announced today preliminary results of the organization's latest major research mission, the Aerial Expedition, the first-ever aerial survey of an ocean garbage patch.

Boyan Slat next to Ocean Force One, which will help accurately quantify the ocean's biggest and most harmful debris—discarded fishing gear called ghost nets.The Ocean Cleanup

"One of the things that we are already able to share is right at the edge of [the Great Pacific Garbage Patch], we came across more objects than we were expecting to find in the center of the garbage patch," Slat said at a press conference at Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, California.

"During a period of just two and a half hours, our crew observed more than a thousand large objects of plastic floating underneath this aircraft," he continued. "Although we still need to get a detailed analysis of the results, it's really quite safe to say that it's worse than we thought. Again, this underlines the urgency of why we need to clean it up and that we really need to take care of the plastic that's already out there in the ocean."

The Ocean Cleanup's Aerial Expedition aims to accurately measure a particularly large and harmful type of marine debris known as ghost nets. The Ocean Cleanup crew determined that quantifying such objects will help resolve the "last piece of our puzzle" following last year's Mega Expedition, a 30-day reconnaissance mission that produced the first high-resolution map of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but came short in determining just how much plastic was in the ocean, especially larger items.

Items the crew spotted from yesterday's first test flight included ghost nets, discarded fishing gear, buoys, crates and other unidentifiable objects. The Ocean Cleanup

"We discovered that the conventional method of measuring ocean plastic, using nets of less than a meter (3 ft) wide, was inaccurate because it seriously underestimated the total amount of plastic. The reason for this is simple: the larger the objects, the rarer they are by count," the Ocean Cleanup team said.

So, instead of using boats to count ocean plastic, the team turned to planes. To conduct their aerial survey, a C130 Hercules aircraft was fitted with state-of-art sensors from Teledyne Optech, whose Coastal Zone Mapping and Imaging Lidar (CZMIL) can detect objects at oceanic depths of tens of meters. This technology can also provide researchers with a weight estimate by registering the size of the found objects.

The aircraft, dubbed Ocean Force One, is scheduled to make several flights from Sept. 26 to Oct. 7. These low-speed, low-altitude flights will inspect an estimated 6,000 square kilometers of the ocean, more than 300 times the area explored at the Mega Expedition.

Yesterday, mission crew completed the first of two test flights above Moffett Airfield to calibrate the aircraft's ocean plastic sensors and familiarize themselves with the survey protocol. The aircraft flew along the Northern boundary of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the plastic accumulation zone between Hawaii and California.

The Aerial Expedition's findings will be combined with the data collected on the Mega Expedition, resulting in a study expected to be published in early 2017.

In the video below, Slat gives a tour of the aircraft and the concept behind the mission:

"In order to solve the plastic pollution problem, it is essential to understand its dimensions," Julia Reisser, oceanographer and expedition leader, wrote in a blog post. "Knowing how much and what kind of plastic has accumulated in the ocean garbage patches is especially important. This determines the design of cleanup systems, the logistics of hauling plastic back to shore, the methods for recycling plastic and the costs of the cleanup."

Following the test flights, a team of 10 researchers, three sensor technicians and seven navigation personnel will participate on two long flights flying at a low airspeed of 140 knots and an altitude of 400 meters as it maps the garbage patch, according to Reisser.

"Four experienced observers will scour the ocean surface from the aircraft's open paratroop doors, while two computer operators log the data," Reisser wrote. "The pilots and navigator will also search for ocean plastic from their seats in the cockpit, where another computer operator will log their sightings."

"The carbon emissions generated by the aircraft will be offset through clean energy compensation," the team pointed out.

The visual survey is the final major research mission before the actual start of Slat's ambitious ocean cleanup effort. "This is really the last reconnaissance step before we start the real cleanup," he said at today's press conference.

At the young age of 17, the aerospace engineering student made headlines and inspired people around the world after coming up with a plastic-capturing concept that involves a massive static platform and long floating barriers that passively corrals plastics with wind and ocean currents.

The Ocean Cleanup, headquartered in Delft, The Netherlands now employs approximately 50 engineers and researchers.

In June, the Ocean Cleanup deployed a 100-meter clean-up boom, nicknamed Boomy McBoomface, in the North Sea in The Netherlands.

Inspecting the prototype in August.The Ocean Cleanup Facebook

The organization said that the next milestone for The Ocean Cleanup after the Aerial Expedition will be its Pacific Pilot, which is scheduled for launch in the second half of 2017.

The Ocean Cleanup's mission is to rid the world's oceans of plastic, a scourge that severely pollutes and damages ocean ecosystems and economies. About 8 million tons of plastic enters the oceans each year.

At today's press conference, Slat warned that large pieces of plastic can "crumble down into those small microplastics ... and that has a tremendous environmental impact if it ends up in the food chain." He also noted that ghost nets can be harmful because they can cause entanglements of aquatic life as well as ship propellors.

Full deployment of the Ocean Cleanup system is scheduled for 2020.

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