November 4 , 9:00 am – 11:00 am SAST
Join us for our beach cleanup opposite Hard Rock Cafe in Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa. Hotland Org says, “Let’s do more to heal than to harm, to educate than to destroy.”
Join us for our beach cleanup opposite Hard Rock Cafe in Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa. Hotland Org says, “Let’s do more to heal than to harm, to educate than to destroy.”
How can we stop plastic from polluting our most beautiful natural places? From trails to beaches, parks to playgrounds, and even protected areas—plastic is impacting the world’s most revered landscapes.
Join the conversation to hear about efforts to truly honor nature by keeping plastic pollution out of it, including the campaign to urge U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Haaland to eliminate the sale and use of single-use plastics in U.S. national parks.
DATE: Wed., August 25
TIME: 2-3 pm PT | 5-6 pm ET
Click here to convert to your timezone.
Lara Levison, Senior Director, Federal Policy, OCEANA
Sarah Barmeyer, Senior Managing Director, Conservation Programs, National Parks Conservation Association
By Dianna Cohen, CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition
We recently returned from the beautiful island country of Palau, located in the western Pacific Ocean, where Plastic Pollution Coalition co-hosted an expedition with Oceanic Society, Drifters Project, and Heirs to Our Oceans with support from Mission Blue, to work together with local Palauans to explore potential solutions to plastic pollution.
The Plastic Pollution Forum, hosted by Heirs to Our Oceans, was held at the end of the week, where representatives from three local high schools came together with visiting Heirs from the U.S., business leaders, educators, and elected officials to brainstorm solutions. Dr. Sylvia Earle was a special guest speaker at the Youth Forum and spoke to the great beauty of Palau as a mighty island country in the vast blue still unexplored Pacific Ocean.
The students were able to set some benchmarks for ways to reduce plastic pollution that they want to see come to fruition within the next year. One idea was to take a look at each of their own school’s plastic footprint and ways to reduce it.
Palau has a long history of advocating for the environment. The Rock Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Marine Protected Area, and the country banned single-use plastic bags last year. Over the summer, Palau’s President Tommy Remengesau signed an executive order banning single-use plastics from all government offices and agencies. In early November, Palau became the first country to ban harmful sunscreens that are toxic to coral reefs.
“Palau was surprisingly clear of plastic in the water—nothing like the amounts we saw and removed in Indonesia in 2016,” said Pamela Longobardi of Drifters Project and a PPC Support Artist Ally. “Several reasons could account for this: it’s a much smaller island chain, and Palau has made immense conservation steps in creating the vast marine sanctuary around it, which in turn has perhaps made the population more environmentally conscious.”
As part of the expedition, our groups participated in a beach cleanup and brand audit hosted by Heirs to Our Oceans with local Palauan students and business leaders. A fascinating find, in addition to the 77 single-use plastic cups labeled Aqua by Danone, was an old Coca-Cola bottle cap extolling it’s “quality product.” (Coca-cola was the number one plastic polluting company identified in the recent #breakfreefromplastic global cleanup and brand audit.)
As Pam noted, we found most of the plastic pollution in the forested shores and mangroves of the islands, which unfortunately makes it less visible and therefore less likely to be cleared.
“The brand audit showed identifiable names on the items,” said Wayne Sentman of Oceanic Society. “It was also interesting to see that one of the items we frequently see in Indonesia beach clean ups—single-use servings of water labeled Aqua and produced by Danone were also abundant on the beaches of Palau. We wonder if this plastic has a local source or has washed up in Palau from Indonesia.”
Pam led a “forensic beach cleaning” training with the group, which was followed by plastic retrieval of material from hundred-meter ropes and nets down to micro-scale plastic, then sorting, counting, removing colored material for the creation of the art piece, and finally loading the bags onto the boats for transport.
“One of the most meaningful parts of the trip for me was working with the Palauan Heirs and citizens on a new version of the State of Koror flag made out of ocean plastic collected in a mass beach cleaning on a remote island,” said Pam. “We worked in the Public Works woodshop where dozens of kids from local high schools, park rangers, public works employees, local artists, and expedition guests all stopped by to contribute to its construction. The completed work was presented at the Plastic Pollution forum in the State House of Koror, where it will be permanently displayed. For me, it signified Palau’s commitment to becoming a Plastic Free Island. It was also shown to the President of Palau and the UN Ambassador of Palau, who were both very excited by the work.”
Wayne was similarly encouraged by the community and Palauan Heirs to Our Oceans members. “Over our time there it became obvious to us all that many of the young woman and men we worked with and got to know are destined to become leaders in their community. As a group, they were already organizing successful efforts to reduce single-use plastics in local stores and schools, and in general promoting awareness about the importance of protecting their marine environment.”
In addition to being inspired by the youth, we appreciated the opportunity to speak with the President Remengesau and his ministers about the plastic pollution reduction achievements the country has made so far and to brainstorm ideas together as Palau prepares to host the Our Ocean conference 2020.
We commend the Palauan government, the local Heirs, and business and community leaders and members for their great work and commitment to protect their environment, and we look forward to continued partnership toward a world free of plastic pollution.
Learn more about Plastic-Free Islands.
By Bridget Cunningham
A beach vacation in Jamaica in January. Warm weather, blue water, sunshine. Escaping the New England cold to go see some fabulous music from some of our favorite bands. Paradise. It was as great as it sounds. We stayed a lovely resort in Trelawny, Jamaica. The resort was staffed with people who catered to the guests, and there were lots of luxuries including endless amounts of food, daily room cleaning, and the cleaning and raking the beach in front of the resort every morning.
But what I didn’t realize is that there is no escaping the real world. Many of the things that worry and frustrate me here at home, like inequities in the world, consumption, and trash and plastic piling up, were present in Jamaica. And, just like here at home, they were disguised or hidden from view. Until they weren’t.
It wasn’t until our last full day on the Island that the real world crept in and became apparent. The night before, after the bands finished playing, they announced that there would be a beach clean-up the next morning. I remember thinking that I couldn’t imagine that there was much to clean up, given the daily cleaning of the beach. But of course, both David, my other half, and I participated in the clean-up. Probably a dozen or so people joined the trash-gathering effort. We each took a trash bag and spread out up and down the beach and past the immediate beach area in front of the resort. I don’t think that anyone spent more than 45 minutes gathering trash. But everyone came back with overflowing bags containing everything from plastic food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, shards of plastic, plastic cosmetic and beauty product containers, plastic straws, and flip-flops. There were massive amounts of flip-flops and massive amounts of plastic straws. The straws are particularly insidious because they begin to shred and fray into strips of disintegrating plastic that are even hard to pick up. Pretty horrifying.
What I didn’t know was that gathering the trash was just the beginning of our work. We then we began the process of inventorying all the refuse. The purpose behind inventorying the types of trash and plastic, and the brand names of the products, is to identify large-scale single-use plastic producers and apply pressure on them to seek packaging forms that are alternative to single-use plastic.
I have a 20+ year background in the consumer packaged goods world, working for companies like The Coca-Cola Company and L’Oreal. So, I have fairly deep knowledge across the food and beverage and beauty industries of what companies own which brands. I was able to contribute to the inventorying efforts by categorizing packaging forms by the companies that produced the products. I was surprised to discover that, although much of what we collected and inventoried was produced by the usual suspects—Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Unilever, etc., a lot of the plastic and packaging was not just from Jamaica, but that much of it had traveled through the Caribbean waters to Jamaica from other islands.
It was a long day, and gratifying in its own way. We made a small dent in the plastic pollution situation in a little town on a little island, and maybe gathered further support and evidence to put in front of some of the largest single-use plastic producers that they must seek alternatives to their current business models.
Or so we thought. Immediately after the last song of the night, the skies opened up and the rain and winds raged for the rest of the night. We woke the next morning to continued teeming rain and wind. The beach in front of the resort was completely covered with huge piles of seaweed, massive numbers of plastic beverage bottles, and dozens of tires. We couldn’t believe the amount of trash that had accumulated over night, and we wondered where it all came from and how far it had traveled. Further proof that the world is inundated with single-use plastic bottles, food wrappers, and on and on. And that we must find ways to eliminate it at the source vs. continuing to produce it, only to have to dispose of it. Or have it end up in the ocean and on the world’s beaches.
So now what? I returned home to my life more enlightened. But it is a life that still has too much single-use plastic in it. I continue to worry about it, and I continue to contribute to the problem. I am certainly more aware and less accepting of it. I hope that organizations like Plastic Pollution Coalition can help to provide me with tools and guidance to make some necessary changes in my life so that I can at least contribute less to what is a vast, overwhelming global problem.
Bridget Cunningham had 20+ year progressive career in Consumer Packaged Goods as Human Resources leader and business partner. She has worked at The Coca-Cola Company (Soft Drink), L’Oreal USA (Beauty), Playtex Products (Feminine Care, Sun Screen, Baby and Infant Care), The Sun Products Corporation (Laundry and Homecare) and Henkel North America—Consumer Goods (Laundry and Homecare).
In June of 2018, Bridget and her business partner, Simone Wan, launched a new business, IN:Total Wellness. IN:Total Wellness is a pioneering alternative medicine company specializing in all-natural, delicious herbal effervescent drink mixes that use sustainable, powerful, plant-based ingredients and effervescent technology to treat common ailments, including pain, anxiety and sleeplessness.
Learn how to do a brand audit during your next cleanup using this toolkit from Break Free From Plastic.
Join the community of people tracking plastic pollution all over the world. Litterati helps you identify, map, and collect plastic pollution.
by Dr. Sandra Curtis
Cigarette butts continue to be the number one item collected in shoreline cleanups worldwide. The numbers are dramatic.
“. . . As in previous years, cigarette butts—which contain plastic filters—topped the list at approximately 2.4 million collected,” said Nicholas Mallos, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas® program. “Over the years, we have seen plastics creeping into the top-ten list, displacing items like rope, beverage cans, and paper bags. But this is the first year that all ten of the top-ten items collected are made of plastic. Given that plastic production is rising, this could be the start of a long and troubling trend.”
The European Environment Agency (EEA) released new data about litter found specifically on Europe’s beaches. Based on nearly 700,000 collected items, disposable plastics are the biggest contributor to marine litter, with cigarette butts and filters being the most commonly found individual items.
Cigarette filters are made of non-biodegradable cellulose acetate from cutting, forming, and polishing sheets of plastic. Trillions of these add-ons to cigarettes (4.5 trillion) are discarded annually. The environmental toxicity of cigarette butts on fish has been demonstrated. The butts take up to 15 years to disintegrate. Similar to the fiberglass insulation used in attics, the filters keep fingers cool while smokers efficiently deliver nicotine to their brain and heart within three seconds.
Where did cigarette butts come from? Curiously, filters were invented by the tobacco industry as a ploy to improve the damning research on the hazardous health effects of smoking. Responding to evidence of a link between lung diseases and smoking in the 1950’s, the tobacco companies began promoting filtered cigarettes as a “safer” alternative.
In 1952, the Kent Micronite cigarettes had a filter that sucked particles out of the smoke but the Micronite contained asbestos fibers that were far more dangerous than tobacco smoke. Philip Morris promised that an antifreeze chemical (diethylene glycol) in the mouthpiece would take “the FEAR out of smoking.” And DuPont scientists tried to trap harmful particles with new fabrics, including Dacron, the same polyester that allowed for wrinkle-free pantsuits.
By the 1960s, filtered cigarettes dominated the market, however, since the nicotine delivery of these filtered cigarettes was less, smokers began inhaling longer and deeper to get the same nicotine hit.
An accompanying change in lung cancer diagnoses from smoking developed with the advent of filters. The incidence of adenocarcinoma (AC) increased much more rapidly than squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in both men and women. The reason for this increase is due to the filter’s ventilation action by: 1) altering tobacco combustion, thereby increasing smoke toxicants; 2) allowing for elasticity of use so that smokers inhale more smoke to maintain their nicotine intake; and 3) causing a false perception of lower health risk from “lighter” smoke.
A similar marketing ploy has been used by the tobacco companies to promote e-cigarettes, publicizing them as a means to safer smoking.
A similar marketing ploy has been used by the tobacco companies to promote e-cigarettes, publicizing them as a means to safer smoking. This past Feb., the first study documenting the long-term health damage from e-cigarettes was released. The results showed that smoking these supposedly safer alternatives actually double the risk of heart attacks with daily use.
“E-cigarettes are widely promoted as a smoking cessation aid, but for most people, they actually make it harder to quit smoking, so most people end up as so-called ‘dual users’ who keep smoking while using e-cigarettes,” said pioneering tobacco researcher, Dr. Stanton Glantz. “The new study shows that the risks compound. Someone who continues to smoke daily while using e-cigarettes daily has an increased risk of a heart attack by a factor of five.
Instead of getting smokers to switch from conventional cigarettes to e-cigarettes or quitting altogether as had been the hope of some scientists and policymakers, e-cigarettes have been reducing the likelihood that people will quit smoking, while expanding the nicotine market by attracting more youth to start.
Use by high school and middle-school students is on the rise. “Vaping” is now the most popular form of tobacco use among teenagers in the U.S. E-cigarette use rose by 900 percent among high school students from 2011 to 2015. In 2016, over 2 million middle and high school students had tried e-cigarettes. For those aged 18 to 24 years, 40 percent of vapers had not been smokers before using the device. The U. S. Surgeon General issued a specific report on youth and e-cigarettes in 2016.
From an environmental perspective, e-cigarettes are not yet showing up in quantities like cigarette butts during beach cleanups. Last year Ocean Conservancy showed 4 data points in their annual survey – 2 from the U. S. and 2 from the U.K. Nick Mallos, Director, Trash Free Seas® Program recently shared his opinion that “we’ll see more and more of these devices in years to come as folk’s transition from traditional cigarettes to e-distribution.” He noted they can track them during this year’s Cleanup and preliminary data would be available later in Nov./Dec.
Several components of e-cigarettes are plastic and designed to be disposable, like the cartomizer that comes preloaded with e-liquid. The cartomizer consists of a metal or plastic casing which houses a single of dual coil atomizer wrapped in a generous roll of polyfill (more plastic) material that absorbs the e-liquid. Cartomizers were originally designed as disposables but can be refilled and used several times. For financial reasons, most companies discourage refilling. Other parts to the e-cigarette are either plastic, glass, or metal which will eventually end up in the waste stream.
Recent research warns that e-cigarettes are a potential source of exposure to toxic metals like Chromium (Cr), Nickel (Ni) and Lead (Pb) as well as other metals that are toxic when inhaled – Magnesium (Mn) and Zinc (Zn).
Given the statistics of increased use, and more research studies being conducted, it is highly likely that growing health challenges and environmental impacts from e-cigarettes will surface.
The art installation ‘Vita Sensa Plastica’ (Live Plastic Free) created in collaboration by Dianna Cohen, artist and co-founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition, and Alvaro Soler-Arpa, a PPC Artist Ambassador, opened on Friday, June 29 at club La Macchia on Macchiatonda Beach in Capalbio located in southern Tuscany, Italy.
The opening reception was attended by 300 guests and inspired conversations around plastic pollution, the impact as well as solutions and alternatives. Club La Macchia switched from bio-plastic to paper straws for the event and committed to serving paper straws moving forward.
Cohen and Soler-Arpa worked together over the course of five days to build and install the sculpture, using plastic gathered on Macchiatonda beach by the World Wildlife Fund’s beach cleanups. The installation was created on a sand dune about 100 yards from the shoreline, with trails of found plastic dug into the sand leading up to the main piece.
“In this piece we attempt to express suffering,” explained Cohen, “with these animal skulls reaching up and out and crying to the sky. We are suffocating in plastic and consumption, and we have a plastic pollution blindness.”
Nadja Romain, the curator of the installation and the founder Art, Action, Change, said: “Art transcends thinking and logic. It holds the power to change our mindset allowing us to create new ways of seeing the world and living in it. It’s fantastic that La Macchia, a private member club in Italy is pioneering and using its position by the sea and its network to raise awareness about the pollution of the sea to stop the epidemic of plastic pollution.”
“We have done our best to find an artistic way to express how plastic is contaminating the world,” said Alvaro Soler-Arpa about the installation and process. “We have experienced firsthand that many Italians are not yet aware of the problem but are interested in the issue and looking forward to learning more about it.”
Dianna Cohen is a Los Angeles based visual artist, who has shown her work internationally at galleries, foundations, and museums. She uses plastic in her artwork to make a visual and social impact. With plastic bags as her primary material for the past 27 years, Cohen explores its materiality through modifications and the material’s relationship to culture, media, toxicity, and the world at large.
Cohen invited Catalan artist Alvaro Soler-Arpa to collaborate based on some ideas they had shared within their respective bodies of work. Soler-Arpa’s previous work includes Vida Tóxica (Toxic Life), which featured imaginary contemporary creatures composed of assorted animal bones, wire, and plastic waste. His “contemporary dinosaurs” draw a strong parallel to fossil fuels, the common denominator between plastic pollution and climate change.