Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Solving the ocean plastic plague

I'm in DC again (frequent flyer miles piling up this year), planning the future of ocean conservation.

A friendly group rapidly found passionate concern over plastics in the ocean, in particular the effects on ocean wildlife like sea turtles. What shall we do?

Two major ideas surfaced.

1. Changing the production and use of plastics to favor less harmful materials, including so-called degradable plastics that break down fairly quickly.

2. Changing people's behavior so that plastics are not discarded carelessly and they don't find their way into the ocean.

The problem with so-called degradable plastics is that they don't actually degrade quickly in important places like the stomach of a sea turtle (yikes).

The problem with eliminating plastic litter is that it's hard to get people to stop littering no matter how much money you have to spend on outreach campaigns.

Sounds nearly insoluble, just like plastics. Which seems more likely to work? Changing the production process so that plastic bags are harmless? Changing people's behavior so that bags never get eaten by ocean animals?

That's today's blogfish question, more to come when the meetings end and blogfish catches a break.


Anonymous said...

I'd say aim for both, as well as try to reduce the amount of petroleum-based plastic packaging that is out there (of which you should be able to attack at different angles, considering where petroleum typically comes from, how much it costs, etc.)

Anonymous said...

The other problem with "so-called degradable plastics" is that the plastics are not really degradable. The corn starch (?) links degrade, but the small bits of plastic are left behind and are increasingly becoming part of our environment. Is this a good thing?

Hodad said...

most plastic can be made from HEMP, i do not stress this enough
as also for other products to replace plastic for bags

India and other countries recycle ALL plastic and use bio-gas, duh?

USA consumers, what a wal mart loving joke

Kevin Zelnio said...

A picture says a thousand words Mark. It is shameful to plastic in the mouth of a sea turtle. My grocery recycles their plastic bags. I also donate my bags to the local thrift stores (i.e. Goodwill, Salvation Army etc.) so they get reused. Of course what the grocery store or the thrift store does with my plastic bags after that I don't know.

I'm going to start using biodegradable garbage from now on and stop reusing grocery bags for the trash can.

Hodad-i never heard of using hemp for bags. Or do you mean just bringing fabric tote bags to the store instead?

Anonymous said...

Another option related to this post would be to design packaging materials that are actually useful, or in this case, part of the product:

Anonymous said...

Plastic can be made from hemp and other plant fibres. No plastic bags yet though.

Anonymous said...

hi blogfish
i'm interested in where you got the photograph of the turtle. i want to use it for a project and i need the rights to use it. drop me a line at forverlove (at) gmail (dot) com