A Remote Pacific Island Awash in Tons of Trash

Source: The New York Times

A survey of uninhabited Henderson Island in the South Pacific estimated that about 17.6 tons of debris had washed ashore, endangering wildlife and blighting beaches.

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Trash on East Beach, Henderson Island, in the South Pacific Ocean. A new study estimated that the white sand beaches were littered with 17.6 tons of debris, deposited there by ocean currents. Credit Jennifer Lavers/Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, via European Pressphoto Agency

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Trillions of Plastic Bits, Swept Up by Current, Are Littering Arctic Waters

Source: The New York Times

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A photo collage of plastic fragments found in the Arctic Ocean by the research team. A study published Wednesday shows a major ocean current is carrying trillions of bits of plastic from the North Atlantic to the Greenland and Barents seas, and leaving them there. Credit Andres Cozar

The world’s oceans are littered with trillions of pieces of plastic — bottles, bags, toys, fishing nets and more, mostly in tiny particles — and now this seaborne junk is making its way into the Arctic.

In a study published Wednesday in Science Advances, a group of researchers from the University of Cádiz in Spain and several other institutions show that a major ocean current is carrying bits of plastic, mainly from the North Atlantic, to the Greenland and Barents seas, and leaving them there — in surface waters, in sea ice and possibly on the ocean floor.

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Marine Pollution included Indonesia pledges $1bn a year to curb ocean waste under UN Clean Seas

2000Indonesia has pledged up to $1bn a year to dramatically reduce the amount of plastic and other waste products polluting its waters. The announcement was made by Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs at last week’s 2017 World Oceans Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali.

Pandjaitan told delegates at the conference that Indonesia would achieve a 70% reduction in marine waste within eight years. He proposed developing new industries that use biodegradable materials such as cassava and seaweed to produce plastic alternatives. Other measures could include a nationwide tax on plastic bags as well as a sustained public education campaign.

The World Bank estimates that each of Indonesia’s 250 million inhabitants is responsible for between 0.8 and 1kg of plastic waste per annum. Only China dumps more waste in the ocean, according to a 2015 report in the journal Science.

The world’s second biggest plastic polluter also boasts the world’s highest levels of marine biodiversity. Indonesia lies at the heart of the Coral Triangle; its incredibly rich coral reef ecosystems support crucial fisheries, provide food security for millions and are a growing draw for tourists.

Plastic pollution is just one of the threats to these ecosystems services, but it’s a serious one. A recent study suggests that by 2050, there could be more plastic than biomass in the world’s oceans. Plastics have entered the marine food chain and are already reaching our dinner plates.

Indonesia’s commitment is part of the UN’s new Clean Seas campaign, which aims to tackle consumer plastics through a range of actions – from cutting down on single use plastics such as shopping bags and coffee cups to pressuring firms to cut down on plastic packaging. Nine countries have already joined Indonesia in signing up to the campaign, including Uruguay, which will impose a tax on single use plastic bags and Costa Rica, which is promising better waste management and education.

Indonesia’s target of a 70% reduction by 2025 is ambitious. Across the country’s 17,000 islands there is poor public understanding of the problems created by plastic waste.

During rainy season, thousands of tonnes of rubbish discarded in rivers and waterways washes up on Indonesia’s shores. Heavy machinery is often brought in to clear the tourist beaches of Bali and local communities and non-profits are constantly organising large scale beach clean ups.Companies produce small scale products such as single use shampoo packets and confectionery that are popular in communities where cash flow pressures and habit prevent more sustainable consumption. Add poor waste management infrastructure and the scale of the challenge comes into sharp focus.

Last year, a tax on single use plastic bags was trialed in 23 cities across Indonesia. While the government reported a big reduction in plastic bag use, there was significant resistance both from consumers and industry, according to Siti Nurbaya, Indonesia’s minister for the environment. This is delaying a bill to impose a nationwide tax of not less than Rp.200 (1p) per plastic bag.

Environmentalists will be hoping that the promised funding effectively channels resources and expertise into public awareness and education programmes, improvements in waste management, pressure on industry and initiatives that encourage alternatives to plastic packaging. The UN Clean Seas campaign reminds us all, however, that plastic pollution is a problems we can all address with some very simple changes in behaviour.

 

Further information

Guardian News Article 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/the-coral-triangle/2017/mar/02/indonesia-pledges-us1-billion-a-year-to-curb-ocean-waste

UN Clean Seas

https://oceanconference.un.org/commitments/?id=13900

UN Marine Pollution Online Discussion

http://www.oceanactionhub.org/marine-pollution-discussion

In the run up to the Ocean Conference in June, this blog series explores issues related to oceans, seas, marine resources and the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14, “Life below water”.

 

Researchers find Growing Piles of Trash and Plastic on the Arctic Seabed

By Dr. Magdalena A K Muir, Advisory Board Member, Climate and Global Change; and Researcher, Arctic Institute of North America (Canada/US) and Arctic Research Centre (AU, Denmark)

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A study tracking an area west of Svalbard found more litter than ever in the Arctic—in some cases at densities rivaling developed areas far to the south—and that the increased trash density was correlated to more ship traffic.

The Arctic’s growing tourism and shipping industry might not just bring more cash: it could bring more trash.

That’s according to a team of German scientists who report in the online scientific journal, Deep Sea Research Part 1: Oceanographic Research Papers, that more garbage sits on the Arctic seabed than ever before, and it’s linked to areas that have seen a boom in vessel traffic as Arctic ice recedes.

The report’s conclusions are drawn from photographs they collected between 2002 and 2014 that show trash resting on the ocean floor west of the High Arctic island of Svalbard.

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Scientists Mine K. Tekman, Thomas Krumpen and Melanie Bergman say the high levels of trash density are “surprising,” considering “the remote location [of the field stations].”

So how much more waste? One of two research locations between Greenland and Svalbard reached a “mean annual litter density,” or ALD, of 6,566 items per square kilometre in 2014, or slightly less than the 6,620 per sq. km. average for an area of the seabed near Lisbon—capital of Portugal—with a population well over half a million.

Those figures are a projected average, using an algorithm agreed upon by the academic community—actually there are only 89 pieces of trash catalogued in 7,058 photos taken across about 28,161 square metres. But when compared with ship activity in the region, the data showed “significant positive correlations” between trash density and ship counts, according to the report.

“The increase in tourism and fishing vessel sightings west off Svalbard showed the strongest increase among maritime traffic information,” the report notes, adding that rough counts by coast guard vessels of ships in the area more than doubled between 2002 and 2014, from 47 sightings to 102.

Shifting norms for Arctic sea ice, which continues to set new record lows during the winter, allow more ships to travel further north in open water and areas of thin ice.

Thin ice can then deposit trash across the High Arctic when it melts in the summer, the report speculated.

“The receding sea ice coverage associated with global change has opened hitherto largely inaccessible environments to humans and the impacts of tourism, industrial activities including shipping and fisheries, all of which are potential sources of marine litter,” the report says.

Some of the items documented in the study include rope, fabric, glass, cardboard, pottery, timber and plastic.

And the trash isn’t just for decoration: 50 of the 89 catalogued trash items were interacting with organisms on the seafloor, such as sponges, stalked sea lilies, anemone and shrimp.

If that’s the case, then more seafloor trash is a trend Nunavut may have to look forward to in the coming years as the Arctic’s yearly sea ice extents continue to shrink and more ships routinely navigate through the Northwest Passage.

As Nunavut continues to develop regulations for its growing tourism industry, more ships—such as the record setting 1,000-passenger Crystal Serenity cruise ship—have navigated through the passage each year.

And most of those ships will be passing through Lancaster Sound, between Baffin Island and Devon Island, at some point in their journeys, potentially impacting a major marine polynya that was at the centre of a series of relinquished oil permits by Shell Canada last summer.

“Our findings indicate that the Arctic faces a pollution problem and that it is spreading in the North,” the report said.

“Considering the importance of the Arctic region for global climate and ecosystem health, identifying the changes in [human caused] stress and its direct or indirect sources provide future information for future projections to regulate human activities.”

 

Reference

http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article/65674researchers_find_growing_piles_of_trash_on_the_arctic_seabed/

 

More information

Paper: Marine litter on deep Arctic seafloor continues to increase and spreads to the North at the HAUSGARTEN observatory. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S096706371630200X

 

‘Great Pacific garbage patch’ far bigger than imagined, aerial survey shows

Source: The Guardian

 

The vast patch of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean is far worse than previously thought, with an aerial survey finding a much larger mass of fishing nets, plastic containers and other discarded items than imagined.

A reconnaissance flight taken in a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft found a vast clump of mainly plastic waste at the northern edge of what is known as the “great Pacific garbage patch”, located between Hawaii and California.

The density of rubbish was several times higher than the Ocean Cleanup, a foundation part-funded by the Dutch government to rid the oceans of plastics, expected to find even at the heart of the patch, where most of the waste is concentrated.

“Normally when you do an aerial survey of dolphins or whales, you make a sighting and record it,” said Boyan Slat, the founder of the Ocean Cleanup.

“That was the plan for this survey. But then we opened the door and we saw the debris everywhere. Every half second you see something. So we had to take snapshots – it was impossible to record everything. It was bizarre to see that much garbage in what should be pristine ocean.”

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Milliken underlines its commitment to the environment by partnering with Healthy Seas

Leading designer and manufacturer of floor coverings, Milliken, has joined ‘Healthy Seas, a Journey from Waste to Wear’. Healthy Seas aims to recover discarded fishing nets from the seas and to regenerate them into high-quality ECONYL® yarn, which is subsequently turned into brand-new products such as Milliken carpets.

Alison Kitchingman, Director of Marketing and Design at Milliken said: “In line with our commitment to making a positive impact on workplace health, wellbeing and the environment we are delighted to now be a part of the Healthy Seas initiative. Joining enables us to demonstrate our support publically to this amazing project as well as contributing to future clean-up operations. Milliken’s journey towards sustainability is always evolving and we are proud to continually challenge ourselves not only to improve, but also to be transparent and fully accountable to all our stakeholders and communities.

 

Healthy Seas is an international initiative that recovers abandoned fishing nets that pollute our seas and coasts and thanks to the ECONYL ® Regeneration System the contained nylon is regenerated into high-quality yarn which is then turned into brand new sustainable textiles. According to a joint report by the FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation) and UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), an estimated 640,000 tonnes of fishing nets are left in our oceans each year, accounting for one-tenth of all marine litter. These nets, sometimes called “ghost fishing nets”, can often be found on and around shipwrecks. The nets remain in the marine ecosystem for hundreds of years. Many marine animals including whales, turtles and birds are captured and killed in the ghostnets, and this has a negative effect on marine ecosystems.

 

We are extremely proud to have Milliken on board”, said Maria Giovanna Sandrini, member of the Healthy Seas Steering Committee. “Thanks to the support of partners like Milliken, Healthy Seas has the possibility to grow and reach its goals such as raising awareness about the problem of marine litter and possible solutions.

 

For many years Milliken has been using ECONYL® 100% regenerated nylon to make their carpet tiles. Milliken now offers over 500 designs and colour options made with ECONYL® fiber. In 2016 Milliken launched its own Global Annual Sustainability Report, to provide complete transparency and accountability to all its stakeholders and communities.

 

Milliken has been a leader in environmental sustainability for more than a century. In fact, Milliken’s first recycling policy was established in 1900, and we began investing in renewable energy in 1912. By 1960, Milliken had formal policies in place to protect natural resources. Sustainability is at the core of Milliken’s philosophy to ‘do good’ for the world. With our unique combination of resources – passionate and talented associates around the world, unparalleled technological capabilities, and unique insights into what constitutes meaningful design – we are able to create revolutionary products and practices that improve productivity, preserve resources, and make the world a better place.” Jim McCallum, President of the global Milliken Floor Covering Division.

 

www.healthyseas.org