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A New Wave of Ocean Plastics Initiatives

Posted by Philip J. on 2/4/2019 to Public Education
A New Wave of Ocean Plastics Initiatives

A major problem in the world today is the amount of plastics that are building up in the ocean. Estimates show that around 18 billion tons of plastics are entering the Earth's ocean on a yearly basis. Not only does this waste enter the ocean, it causes a myriad of problems for the ocean's natural ecosystem. Turtles, coral reefs, seabirds, and whales are all harmed by the presence of plastics that are continually building up in the ocean. Despite recycling programs, the sheer amount of plastics that are building up in oceans continues to grow, but thankfully, there are many initiatives being taking by businesses and corporations to help combat this pressing issue.

One major initiative underway is Loop, a coalition of major brand names including Haagen-Dazs, Tide detergent, and Crest mouthwash. These name brands have banded together to deliver their products to consumers in reusable containers. Once the user has finished their product, they can then send the container back to the company, who will wash it and then repackage it with another portion of the product for sale. This nips the entire recycling and plastics issue right in the bud! Without even having to worry about whether or not the product's packaging gets recycled, it get taken straight back to the source, where it's immediately used again. The inspiration for this project was the fact that many consumer products contain packaging with materials that are hard to recycle, and therefore don't get reused at all. 

Due to the massive amounts of plastics that have been disposed of in the ocean, there's now a conglomerate of plastics that have amassed in the Pacific Ocean, known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." The Ocean Cleanup project has taken it upon themselves to work to cleanup this mass of waste, sending out high-tech ships to inspect and cordon off the area. This acts as a barrier, making it easier to rein in the tons of trash, and eventually to remove it from the water entirely. If the project remains on plan, it's estimated that the up to half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch could be cleaned up in the next five years. 

Plastic filling our oceans is a serious issue that relates directly to another sad seaborne situation -- overfishing. The two issues are intertwined in more ways than one. Over 40% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is ghost fishing gear (commercial fishing gear dumped at sea). In an informative article from our friends at, titled 'Overfishing, Conservation, Sustainability, and Farmed Fish', we discover that overfishing is draining our waters of fish at an unsustainable rate, just like plastic in the oceans.

One grocery store in Brooklyn, the Fillery, is determined to tackle the plastics problem head on, claiming to be zero-waste. The store's founder, Sarah Metz, says that the inspiration for the store came from the fact that only around 14% of plastic packaging is ever recycled, and in thinking about how food packaging contributed to that, decided to open a store that would help to combat that issue. Using Kickstarter to get the project off the ground, the store lets the buyers dispense the dry foods into their own containers, so as to get rid of the need for food packaging at all. As much a project in educating the public about plastic packaging waste as it is about letting consumers help with the problem, the Fillery is a communal space that is pushing the boundaries on what is possible in modern eco-friendly solutions.