Guest Blog by Executive Director at 5 Gyres Institute: Making a Positive Impact on Marine Plastic Pollution

February's theme is 'what is the role of events in creating responsible consumption and production in the world? It is therefore important to acknowledge where our excess production is being dumped and the damage it is causing to the environment. The executive Director of the 5 Gyres Institute discusses this topic further in relation to Marine Plastic Pollution.

Making a Positive Impact on Marine Plastic Pollution by Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, Executive Director of The 5 Gyres Institute

Want to create a more sustainable event? Make it #plasticfree.

5 Gyres has become the world’s leading researcher on ocean plastic pollution. We’ve sailed more than 50,000 miles around the world on research expeditions. Our data has been used to inform policy at the United Nations, the World Bank—and even Congress.

 Photo by Sergio Izquierdo for 5 Gyres 

Photo by Sergio Izquierdo for 5 Gyres 

Our 2013 paper on plastic microbead pollution in the Great Lakes inspired a two-year collaborative campaign that culminated in a federal ban on microbeads, which President Obama signed into law last year.

In 2014, we convened eight scientists around the world to publish the first global estimate of plastic pollution in our oceans: 5.25 trillion particles weighing in at 270,000 tons of “plastic smog” worldwide. A full 80% of that marine plastic pollution comes from land.

Ocean plastic pollution isn’t a tidy little “island” that we can sweep up with sexy water filtration systems. And it isn’t a shocking statistic that predicts the date when we will suddenly have more plastic in the ocean than fish.

 Photo by Sergio Izquierdo for 5 Gyres

Photo by Sergio Izquierdo for 5 Gyres

It’s the reality that today, more than 600 species are endangered or killed by marine plastic pollution. And that first world countries are exporting their plastic trash to places like India, where people—often children—pick through it for more valuable pieces, while the remainder is incinerated or swept out to sea.

It’s hard truth that microplastics in the ocean wreak havoc on an ecosystem that is dependent on phytoplankton, which produce 70% of the earth’s oxygen and sequester 40% of its carbon. That the longer these substances are in the ocean, the more toxic flame retardants and phthalates they absorb, and the more endocrine disrupting chemicals they leach—until a tiny piece of microplastic can be one million times more toxic than the water around it. And that fish are eating these microplastics—and we’re eating the fish.

 Photo by Stiv Wilson for 5 Gyres 

Photo by Stiv Wilson for 5 Gyres 

We need to change the way we design, produce and recover plastic products.

What can you do today? Go #plasticfree by refusing the top five sources of single-use plastic: bags, bottles, to go containers, cups and straws. Plan events that instead depend on reusable dishware and cutlery, with bamboo or paper straws at the bar. Think long- instead of short-term.

Become part of the solution.

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