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.
"We need to move away from a linear plastics economy, where we take, make and dispose of plastic, and towards a circular system where we keep plastic in the economy and out of the natural environment," the pact website reads.
Specifically, the pact sets out four targets to meet by that date:
- Ensure that 100 percent of packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.
- Eliminate "unnecessary or problematic" single-use plastic packaging.
- Make sure that 70 percent of packaging is actually recycled or composted.
- Source 30 percent of packaging from recycled plastic.
The pact stands to make a difference, since major brands responsible for 80 percent of the UK's supermarket packaging—among them Coca-Cola, Nestlé and major UK grocery store Sainsbury's—have all signed on.
The pact is an initiative of WRAP, which seeks to work with businesses, governments and communities to use resources more sustainably.
It comes a week after the UK government overall has stepped up to fight plastic pollution in major ways. On April 18, the government announced plans to ban plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton-swabs containing plastic. On April 15, Prime Minister Theresa May pledged £61.4 million towards a Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance that seeks to rid the oceans of plastic pollution.
Individual UK companies have also taken a stand. For example, Costa, the country's largest coffee chain, pledged April 18 to recycle as many plastic-lined coffee cups as it sells.
But this new pact marks the first time businesses have united around such a goal.
"That is what makes the UK Plastics pact unique. It unites everybody, business and organization with a will to act on plastic pollution. We will never have a better time to act, and together we can," Wrap CEO Marcus Gover told The Independent.
Chile is expected to follow the pact's example later this year, The Independent reported.
However, environmental groups warned that, while the pact is encouraging, it won't be enough if government plans don't provide sufficient mechanisms to ensure companies honor their pledges.
Environmentalists have criticized May's 25-year environment plan, which seeks to eliminate plastic waste by 2042, among other goals, for not outlining any new laws to ensure its benchmarks are attained.
"The Plastic Pact is certainly a move in the right direction, however government measures are also needed to ensure everyone plays their part, and that these targets are actually met," Greenpeace UK senior oceans campaigner Louise Edge told The Independent.
7 Ways to Launch Your Own Anti-Plastics Movement https://t.co/pMyR5nK3Kr @HealTheBay @PlasticPollutes @SaveOurShores— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1515408609.0
- Two Major Food Companies Announce War on Packaging Waste ›
- U.S. Plastics Pact Vows to Make All Plastic Packaging Recyclable by 2025 - EcoWatch ›
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.
Parley Ocean Plastic™ is an upcycled material made by Parley for the Oceans, and organization dedicated to raising awareness about environmental threats to the oceans and designing products that help protect these precious ecosystems. Their products are made from plastic washed up on beaches or in coastal communities and then converted into technical fibers that can be used to make shoes or clothing, like the jerseys MLS players will wear this weekend.
Show us how you're making the planet a cleaner place & you could win an adidas Parley jersey of your choice.… https://t.co/87f9l7ybqD— Major League Soccer (@Major League Soccer)1524081644.0
"Creating change and playing soccer feels very similar. You strategize, you dive into the game and give everything you have. That's why you never truly lose. You just get better and better. And suddenly victory is yours, as if it is the most normal thing in life," Parley for the Oceans founder Cyrill Gutsch said in the Adidas release.
Parley has designed other innovative products in addition to the Earth Day jerseys, which fans of either soccer or the oceans can purchase from Adidas or the MLS store. On March 31, it released a special version of the Adidas Originals NMD_CS1 design. Parley also partnered with Soma to design a reusable water bottle with a sleeve made of the equivalent of two plastic bottles washed up on remote islands or coastal towns. A limited run of the bottles will be available from more than 5,000 Starbucks in the U.S. and Canada.
Parley's innovative products form the "R" of its A.I.R. strategy for combating plastic pollution—"Avoid plastic whenever possible," "Intercept plastic waste" and "Redesign the plastic economy," according to the Parley website.
"Plastic is a design flaw. We cannot fix it overnight, but we can all take steps to create change," Gutch said in a statement about the Soma collaboration.
This weekend's games will not be the first time that Adidas, MLS and Parley have worked together on behalf of the world's oceans. Last year, New York City FC, Orlando City SC, LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC wore the special jerseys. Parley and Adidas first launched their partnership in 2015.
The MLS, like other sports organizations, has made an effort in recent years to champion the environment. It has been a member of the Green Sports Alliance since 2013 and its MLS WORKS Greener Goals initiative works to reduce the league's carbon footprint and promote environmental causes.
"We're proud to support Parley for the Oceans and encourage the soccer community to create a cleaner, healthier environment," MLS chief administrative and social responsibility officer JoAnn Neale said in the Adidas release.
Artist Gives New Life to #Flint's Empty Water Bottles by Turning Them Into Clothing https://t.co/16SFvF1B3V @MarkRuffalo @MMFlint @JimCarrey— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1509474830.0
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
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.
The researchers estimated there are about 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 metric tons, the equivalent of 500 Jumbo Jets, are currently afloat in the area. That's largest accumulation zone for ocean plastics on Earth.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains up to 16 times more plastic than previously estimated.The Ocean Cleanup
The study is the result of a three-year mapping effort conducted by an international team of scientists affiliated with Dutch non-profit The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, six universities and an aerial sensor company.
According to a press release provided to EcoWatch, to analyze the full extent of the GPGP, the team conducted a comprehensive sampling effort by crossing the debris field with 30 vessels simultaneously, supplemented by two aircraft surveys. The fleet collected a total of 1.2 million plastic samples, while the aerial sensors scanned more than 300 square kilometers of ocean surface.
About 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 metric tons are currently afloat in the area. The Ocean Cleanup
The results showed that 92 percent of the mass was represented by larger objects—such as
discarded fishing nets several meters in size—and 8 percent consisted of microplastics smaller than 5 millimeters in size.
"We were surprised by the amount of large plastic objects we encountered," said Dr. Julia Reisser, chief scientist of the expeditions in a statement. "We used to think most of the debris consists of small fragments, but this new analysis shines a new light on the scope of the debris."
The team found that plastic pollution levels within the garbage patch have grown exponentially since measurements began in the 1970s.
Ocean Plastic Projected to Triple Within Seven Years https://t.co/vlK2Wm6myn @Oceana @PlasticPollutes @WWF… https://t.co/cgxX2WZufn— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1521643385.0
"This plastic accumulation rate inside the GPGP, which was greater than in the surrounding waters, indicates that the inflow of plastic into the patch continues to exceed the outflow," said Laurent Lebreton, lead author of the study.
The Ocean Cleanup team is preparing to launch its highly anticipated cleanup system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch this summer with the goal of collecting 50 percent of the trash in five years.
"To be able to solve a problem, we believe it is essential to first understand it," said Boyan Slat, founder of The Ocean Cleanup and co-author of the study. "These results provide us with key data to develop and test our cleanup technology, but it also underlines the urgency of dealing with the plastic pollution problem. Since the results indicate that the amount of hazardous microplastics is set to increase more than tenfold if left to fragment, the time to start is now."
Slat, who shot to fame five years ago with claims that his invention could clean up the seas, explains the methodology and results of the new study in the video below:
- Adidas Sold a Million Shoes Made of Ocean Plastic ›
- Ocean Plastic Projected to Triple Within Seven Years ›
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!"
Manta Point is a cleaning and feeding station for Manta rays just off the shores of Nusa Penida in Indonesia. It attracts the creatures all year round, but the video shows a single ray in the background.
"Surprise, surprise, there weren't many mantas there at the cleaning station today," Horner observed. "They mostly decided not to bother."
While the plastic trash was carried away by currents the next day, Horner noted the problem doesn't simply go away.
"Plastic doesn't really [break down] ... it just breaks apart into smaller and smaller pieces," he wrote. They become microplastics that become "coated in yummy algae that fish, turtles, etc., etc. love to eat. So these small/tiny pieces of plastic will be eaten even more, entering the food chain, along with the toxins they contain and have absorbed. That food chain, obviously leads up to us."
Horner said the overuse of plastics, unnecessary packaging and single-use items needs to be reduced or eliminated. He also advocates for proper disposal and recycling of the material.
Plastic pollution is a worldwide epidemic but it's the worst in Asia, where there are few collection and recovery systems. The worst countries at present are China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. These five countries are responsible for up to 60 percent of the marine plastic entering our oceans, according to Stemming the Tide, a study from the Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.
These 5 Countries Account for 60% of Plastic Pollution in Oceans http://t.co/HIlwiSnefr @HealTheBay @savingoceans— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1445036123.0
Indonesia itself produces about 130,000 tons of plastic and solid waste per day, the Guardian noted, but only half reaches landfills. The remaining trash is either illegally burned or dumped into the country's waters. But last year, the Indonesian government announced it will pledge $1 billion a year to curb ocean waste in its aim to reduce marine waste by 70 percent by 2025.
Experts project that by 2025, plastic consumption in Asia will increase by an astonishing 80 percent to surpass 200 million tons. And unless steps are taken to manage this waste properly, in ten short years the ocean could contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish.
The good news is that many local and international governments are stepping up to curb plastic waste. Earlier this month, Taiwan's Environmental Protection Agency proposed an ambitious 12-year timeline to eliminate four types of single-use plastics—takeaway beverage cups, drinking straws, shopping bags and disposable tableware—by 2030. Chile prohibits the sale of single-use plastic bags in 102 coastal villages and towns. Kenya introduced a serious law that slaps a fine or even a jail sentence on anyone who manufactures, sells or even carries a plastic bag. Scotland has also announced plans to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds as well as plastic straws.
Also, let's not forget that we can all do our part in reducing our plastic footprint.
This latest round of funding brings The Ocean Cleanup's total funding since 2013 to $31.5 million and allows the startup to initiate large-scale trials of its cleanup technology in the Pacific Ocean later this year.
"Our mission is to rid the world's oceans of plastic, and this support is a major leap forward towards achieving this goal," Boyan Slat, the 22-year-old founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, said. "Thanks to the generous support of these funders, the day we'll be returning that first batch of plastic to shore is now in sight."
The young inventor and entrepreneur has been widely praised for his 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 claims to be the "largest cleanup in history." The team boasts that one passive system could theoretically remove about half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 10 years.
According to the announcement, San Francisco-based philanthropists Marc and Lynne Benioff and an anonymous donor made "significant" contributions to the latest funding round. Other high-profile donors include the Julius Baer Foundation, Royal DSM and Silicon Valley entrepreneur/investor Peter Thiel.
"Lynne and I are thrilled to support The Ocean Cleanup's important goal of eliminating plastic in our oceans," said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce. "With Boyan's innovative leadership, I believe The Ocean Cleanup will have an incredibly positive impact on the future of our oceans. I hope other leaders will join us in supporting these efforts."
The Ocean Cleanup plans to launch its first experimental cleanup system in Pacific waters later this year, a step considered the "most important milestone on the road to the full-scale cleanup of the world's oceans."
More details on the project will be shared on May 11 at 2 p.m. EST at the "Werkspoorkathedraal" in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The event will also be live-streamed.
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.
Incredibly, this discovery was all down to chance.
Scientist and amateur beekeeper Federica Bertocchini of Spain's IBBTEC institute had picked out a number of the parasitic caterpillars from her beehives and placed them into a plastic bag. She later discovered that the bag was full of holes because the waxworms had eaten their way out.
She decided to study the caterpillars further, enlisting researchers from the University of Cambridge's department of biochemistry to find out how good these little bugs were at eating plastic.
For their study, the team exposed around a hundred wax worms to a plastic bag from a UK supermarket. Remarkably, holes started to appear after just 40 minutes. After 12 hours, there was a reduction in plastic mass of 92 milligrams from the bag.
To test whether it was just the chewing mechanism of the caterpillars degrading the plastic, the team then mashed up some of the worms and smeared the paste onto polyethylene bags. The bags also degraded with similar results.
This implies that the chemicals in the caterpillar's body could be responsible for breaking down polyethylene.
"The caterpillar produces something that breaks the chemical bond, perhaps in its salivary glands or a symbiotic bacteria in its gut," Cambridge's Paolo Bombelli, first author of the study, said. "The next steps for us will be to try and identify the molecular processes in this reaction and see if we can isolate the enzyme responsible."
The team published their study in the journal Current Biology.
"If a single enzyme is responsible for this chemical process, its reproduction on a large scale using biotechnological methods should be achievable," Bombelli said.
Largely utilized in packaging, polyethylene represents about 40 percent of total demand for plastic products, including the trillion plastic bags used every year worldwide. As Bombelli said, "this discovery could be an important tool for helping to get rid of the polyethylene plastic waste accumulated in landfill sites and oceans."
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.
After it was put down, University of Bergen researchers analyzed the whale's stomach and determined that the various non-biodegradable objects were likely the cause of death.
According to NRK, large quantities of small plastic as well as candy wrappers and plastic bread bags were found in addition to the 30 plastic bags. The items had packaging and labels in Danish and English.
University of Bergen associate professor Terje Lislevand told the Associated Press that the whale's intestine "had no food, only some remnants of a squid's head in addition to a thin fat layer."
Securing the skeleton of a Cuvier's beaked whale stranded on Sotra, Norway. The stomach tragically filled with pla… https://t.co/axYC4peuqx— Terje Lislevand (@Terje Lislevand)1486075734.0
Lislevand also told Norwegian publication Bergens Tidende that the whale was likely in pain due to its clogged stomach.
"The plastic was like a big ball in the stomach and filled it almost completely," he said.
The whale might have mistakenly ingested the plastic bags thinking it was squid, its preferred source of food.
Lislevand remarked that the animal was one of the first Cuvier's beaked whales to be spotted near Norway.
EcoWatch has documented many instances of whales suffering and even dying because of plastic waste. But ocean plastic is not just a problem for whales. Fish, seabirds, turtles and many other marine creatures are choking from the 8 million metric tons of plastic garbage that enters our oceans every year.
Unfortunately, if consumers do not reduce their use of plastic and plastic-intensive goods, the problem will only get worse. A widely reported study found that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 if the world continues to consume and dump this form of non-biodegradable waste at current rates.
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.
Michigan Bans Local Plastic Bag Bans https://t.co/8KCCuqIDvq @Plastic_Bag_Ban @SaveOurShores— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1483152906.0
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."
6 Plastic Bag Bans Making a Huge Difference https://t.co/vQvL1nWS5H @greenpeaceusa @Greenpeace @GreenpeaceUK @PlasticPollutes @acousteau— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1470331456.0
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."
Find Out Who's Behind Banning Plastic Bag Bans http://t.co/l4vQ05aXdO @Plastic_Bag_Ban @SaveOurShores— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1445119829.0
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.
How California Became America’s First State to Ban Plastic Bags https://t.co/XL2ICijwpE @Plastic_Bag_Ban @5gyres— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481683510.0
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."
Four days until the start of the Aerial Expedition. Here’s how we will be measuring plastic from the sky:… https://t.co/bZrS7gO5m0— The Ocean Cleanup (@The Ocean Cleanup)1474470716.0
"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.
Boyan Slat to Deploy 'Longest Floating Structure in World History' to Clean #OceanPlastic http://t.co/PZPLwJJA1E http://t.co/6fOvqaaEIH— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1433256834.0
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.
Tragic: 2 critically endangered right #whales die due to discarded fishing gear. https://t.co/mJHBX6cg5Z— Heal the Bay (@Heal the Bay)1475197232.0
Full deployment of the Ocean Cleanup system is scheduled for 2020.
England has cut its plastic bag use by 85 percent ever since a 5 pence (7 cent) charge was introduced last October, according to government figures.
England's plastic bag usage has dropped significantly ever since a 5p levy was introduced last year. Flickr
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that 6 billion fewer plastic bags were taken home by shoppers in England. The levy also resulted in a £29 million ($38 million) donated to charity and other good causes thanks to the charge.
"This is the equivalent to the weight of roughly 300 blue whales, 300,000 sea turtles or three million pelicans," DEFRA said about the eliminated bags.
People will take 6 billion fewer single-use plastic bags this year #reusebags https://t.co/lbWcBaMG4V https://t.co/u9dovKEPez— Defra UK (@Defra UK)1469909717.0
To arrive at the 6 billion figure, officials calculated that the seven main retailers in England (Asda, Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer, Morrison's, Sainsbury's, Tesco and Waitrose) passed out 7.6 billion bags in 2014. However, after the 5 pence charge was enacted, the retailers handed out just over half a billion bags in the first six months.
According to the Guardian, the bag fee was introduced to help reduce litter and protect wildlife. The idea also came about because English consumers were steadily using more and more bags every year, as you can see in the chart below.
Plastic bag use set to plummet 90% in England since 5p charge started https://t.co/CDzE98uXvD https://t.co/Xi5WZSlWFM— Jess Shankleman (@Jess Shankleman)1469874878.0
Environment Minister Therese Coffey said taking 6 billion plastic bags out of circulation is "fantastic news for all of us."
"It will mean our precious marine life is safer, our communities are cleaner and future generations won't be saddled with mountains of plastic," she added.
Incidentally, England is the last member of the UK to adopt the scheme—Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had already been charging for bags for years. Wales, for instance, stopped giving out free plastic bags back in 2011, cutting usage by 71 percent between 2011 and 2014, WalesOnline reported.
The publication noted that Northern Ireland has had a bag tax since April 2013 with the the number of bags issued by supermarkets falling from 190 million to 30 million in 2014. Scotland's similar legislation in 2014 slashed plastic bag usage by 80 percent.
Government bans or fees on these single-use items are clearly working, and they come at a crucial time for our oceans. A startling report from earlier this year warned that if plastic pollution continues at the current rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
Morocco Bans Plastic Bags - EcoWatch https://t.co/rsXO8fJsf9 @SaveOurShores @Plastic_Bag_Ban— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1469670906.0
"Around eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into oceans each year, posing a serious threat to our natural and marine environment—experts estimate that plastic is ingested by 31 species of marine mammals and more than 100 species of sea birds," DEFRA said.
"It shows small actions can make the biggest difference, but we must not be complacent as there is always more we can all do to reduce waste and recycle what we use," Coffey noted.
We can all do our part in slashing or eliminating our plastic footprint.
"The plummeting plastic bag use demonstrates the huge benefits just a small change in our everyday habits can make. It means less damaging plastic finding its inevitable way into our waterways and countryside. This is a massive boon for nature and wildlife," Andrew Pendleton of Friends of the Earth told the Guardian.
"With attention now turning to the millions of non-recyclable coffee cups that go to landfill and to oversized boxes and excess packaging as a by-product of online shopping, the government and forward-thinking businesses have a golden chance to cut waste and reduce resource use in a sensible way that consumers welcome," he added.
4 Billion @Starbucks ToGo Cups Thrown Away Each Year; Will Recyclable Cup Reduce This?https://t.co/NgclArGMcv @PlasticPollutes @storyofstuff— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1469204447.0
A plastic bag ban went into effect this month in Morocco, the second-largest plastic bag consumer after the U.S. But, officials say, its going to take some time for shops and retailers to get used to the new law.
Morocco bans the use of plastic bags https://t.co/S9512Yf1lU https://t.co/RWjTu61oLo— The Ocean Project (@The Ocean Project)1468696212.0
Morocco's ban on the production and use of plastic bags went into effect July 1 after the plastic ban bill was passed by parliament in October 2015. As the July 1 deadline approached, shop owners scrambled to find and collect reusable bags. Green campaigners, AlJazeera reported, say consumers may need years to fully comply with the ban.
"It's a big cultural shift with that type of broader law," Jennie Romer, a New York-based lawyer," told AlJazeera. "As long as the government has the motivation to really enforce that. There is a lot of potential. The government entity that is implementing it has to be completely on board in order to make that really happen in practice."
Morocco uses about 3 billion plastic bags a year, according to the Moroccan Industry Ministry. The U.S. uses about 100 billion a year, according to the Earth Policy Institute, and 1 trillion are used globally per year.
Morocco is currently using 3 billion plastic bags a year. That’s soon to be over, as Morocco is joining countries... https://t.co/G6tJF3OE5W— GEI (@GEI)1468683725.0
The North African country has been working on banning plastic bags for years. A ban of the production and use of black plastic bags was put in place in 2009, but the bags were still being produced.
This time around, officials hope to prevent that situation by providing alternate solutions. Moulay Hafid Elalamy, industry minister and initiator of the bill, tweeted that bags made of paper and fabric will be made widely available.
Yassine Zegzouti, president of Mawarid, said changing consumer habits will be the toughest part.
"The formal sector will need four to five years to comply with the new law," Zegzouti said. "But the use of plastic bags is anchored in [consumer] habit. All actors need to change these habits to not have any damage in the future."
Morocco is ranked one of the world's greenest countries, along with Costa Rica, Bhutan and Ethiopia. The country's biggest achievements come in cracking down on carbon emissions and production of solar power. It is considered a green leader among developing nations.