As rescuers continue to frantically search for disappeared Malaysian Airline Flight MH370 a thousand miles or so west of Perth, Australia, one thing has become very apparent: The Indian Ocean is full of millions of tons of plastic. Did you know that 3.5 million pieces of plastic enter the oceans 24/7, 365 or the equivalent of 20 million tons a year?
There's six times more plastic than phytoplankton in all oceans, and according to the UN Environmental Programme a minimum of 46,000 floating pieces of plastic for every square kilometer of Earth's oceans in their entirety. Photo credit: hipmomsgogreen.com
Most plastics entering our oceans breakdown into 'microplastic' or diminutive pieces that resemble confetti, and sealife mistake those microplastics for food. So now millions of seabirds, tens of thousands of sea turtles and billions of fish are filled with pieces of plastic. By the way, microplastics act as powerful sponges for oceanic toxins such as: DDT, methyl-mercury, BPA, phalates, PCBs and flame-retardants. What we do to the oceans we do to ourselves. Clearly, the safety of seafood is in dire jeopardy.
Approximately 15 percent of the plastic in the oceans comes from ships and/or offshore platforms; the rest is blown, washed off the land or intentionally dumped. Photo credit: projectgreenbag.com
The World Society for Protection of Animals reported that the bigger pieces of plastic ensnare and entangle between 57,000 and 135,000 whales each year. Single-use, disposable plastic bags look like jellyfish and sea turtles that unsuspectingly eat them die from septicemia or blood poisoning because it blocks their digestive system. For those of us who work on the sea, these nightmares are becoming all too familiar.
Captain Paul Watson and Earth Dr Reese Halter outside Le Pain Quotidien in West Hollywood, California. Photo credit: Lisa Agabian, Sea Shepherd USA.
Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of having lunch with Captain Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and some of his team.
I asked Watson, "What can be done about our suffocating oceans?" He told me that, "Creativity is the key to saving creation from our darker side and the key to a future of ecological harmony between humanity and the diversity of wondrous species we share this planet with."
We both agreed that humans are smashing problem solvers and exquisite toolmakers. I was thrilled to hear that Sea Shepherd was involved in an exciting collaboration called The Vortex Project, which is removing plastics from the oceans and beaches.
Pharrell Williams, owner of Bionic Yarn recently announced at New York Fashion Week RAW for the Oceans, a long-term sustainable collaboration with G-Star RAW that makes something fantastic with ocean plastic.
Watson explained that, "The Vortex Project is a collaboration between eco-material innovator Bionic Yarn, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Parley -- for the Oceans. Using Bionic Yarn's unique fibers made from ocean plastic, denim brand G-Star will produce G-Star's 'RAW for the Oceans', a line of denim with a purpose. The first collection will go on sale August 15 in G-Star RAW stores.
Sea Shepherd is using scientific innovation and awareness-building to mobilize teams around the globe to help clean up oceans and beaches.
Recycling, enhancing and reusing plastics for yarn and other elements in consumer products is smart and it is an excellent business model. There is no waste in nature. In order for 7.2 billion people to live on our planet we require a 'closed loop' economy, whereby companies and consumers are rewarded for reducing waste and safeguarding our environment. The Vortex Project is all about harmonizing the human economy with marine ecosystem health.
Did you know that four percent of the entire world supply or about 3.4 million barrels of oil, each day, are used to make plastics? Photo credit: inhabitots.com
Let me remind you, irrespective of where you live on Earth, three out of every four breaths of air come from our oceans. Please reduce your dependence upon plastics. Buy a half dozen, organic cotton bags, shop with them and refuse to use single-use, disposable plastic bags.
Not only did we share lots of laughter at lunch, but also I came away knowing that Captain Paul Watson is providing global leadership, helping to heal the seas at a pivotal time in the history of the human race.
Earth Dr Reese Halter is a broadcaster, biologist, educator and author of upcoming book Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save Our Oceans.