our world of plastics

National Geographic June 2018 front cover: Planet or Plastic?

National Geographic June 2018 front cover: Planet or Plastic?

It's been a week of World Environment Day and World Ocean Day, and the one issue that's paramount: plastics.

Plastic pollution is an epic problem, and it's a human-made problem. I don't want to focus too much on the negatives (and there are many!), instead I'd like to showcase a few projects that are innovatively tackling the issue by thinking outside the box, while also acknowledging it's through our collective and daily efforts to recycle, reuse and refuse the use of plastics that's crucial in dealing with the mammoth task of cleaning up our environment, so that its safer, healthier and plastic-free.

Because the shocking fact is this: plastic doesn't disappear once it's made. It also degrades into smaller pieces to become microplastics. And the insidious reality is that these microplastics are in our water systems and even if you can't see it, it's now been proven that microplastics are in the water you bathe in, the water you drink, and in the food you eat that's sourced from the ocean and streams. 

Plastic isn't a problem that's 'out there', it's very much become a problem that impacts on human health and well being. 

So, here are some wonderful projects that are dealing with the problem head-on:

1. The Seabin Project

Developed by two Western Australian surfers and ocean lovers, Andrew Turtin and Peter Ceglinski, the Seabin Project began its life as a Kickstarter campaign that's become a small business operating globally. The 'Seabin' is what's termed as a 'floating debris intervention device', and is installed at marinas, yacht clubs or in areas of calm water. It's basically a bin construction that collects and sifts pollution debris from the water. The company also focuses on education and scientific development with a simple aim: pollution free oceans for future generations. Check out this wonderful invention here: www.seabinproject.com

2. The Ocean Cleanup

This major project and organisation is the brainchild of Boyan Slat (CEO), and was developed to create technologies to extract plastic pollution from the oceans and to prevent further plastic entering the oceans. One of its major aims is to tackle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located between Hawaii and California, which is roughly double the size of Texas. It's a floating island of debris, mostly plastics. The Ocean Cleanup technology is described as 'a passive system' that aims to close the source and clean it up through a pipe and net system that isolates the garbage so it can be removed from the ocean, taken to land, and then sorted for recycling. The first clean-up system is scheduled to be deployed mid-2018, and you can check out this amazing project here:  www.theoceancleanup.com

3. Endangered Waves App

Surfers and ocean lovers have long been environmentalists. Basically, their playground is the water and beaches and coastal environments, and any pollution becomes obvious when you're walking, swimming and surfing in it. I became aware of this app through big wave surfer Greg Long who promoted it through his IG account. It's a simple and brilliant solution to turn that horrible feeling of seeing pollution, yet not knowing how to fix the problem, into action. The app was developed by the Save the Waves Coalition in California (@savethewavescoalition & https://www.savethewaves.org) and it basically lets you take a picture of the problem, select the type of threat, geo-tag the location, and upload the information. It will then be sent to the organisations that can best deal with the issue. You can download the app on IOS or Android or visit the Save the Waves website.

4. Finisterre

Cold water surf company Finisterre has just put out a range of surf gear and leisure wear made from microplastics. The campaign's motto of 'Stand Together. Take Action.' is to highlight the issue of microplastic pollution through education and working with scientists and conservationists to find innovative ways to clean it up and upcycle it so that it has another life, one that's sustainable. Check out the video, 'Beneath The Surface' about the project, or visit the website: www.finisterre.com