POLLUTION

POLLUTION

Widespread use of plastics, outside of the military, did not occur until after World War II. The ensuing rapid growth in plastics production is extraordinary, surpassing most other man-made materials. Its largest market is packaging, an application whose growth was accelerated by a global shift from reusable to single-use containers. As a result, the share of plastics in municipal solid waste (by mass) increased from less than 1% in 1960 to, according to the EPAmore than 12.2% by 2018.

The amount of plastic entering the ocean is on the rise: every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics are added to the estimated 150 million metric tons already circulating, affecting 700 species.

The problem with plastic is that it never fully decomposes, and as it degrades, it emits greenhouse gases. These microplastics disrupt the food chain and kill oceanlife

To address the plastic epidemic Boyan Slat, at age 18, founded the Ocean Cleanup to remove plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world. By 2025, the Ocean Cleanup project hopes to cut the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in half.

Ocean pollution also comes in through a number of additional outlets such as sewage, industrial and agricultural runoff, garbage dumping, and chemical spills. Pesticide and fertilizer runoff are creating huge dead zones — oxygen-depleted areas where many marine species struggle to survive. The world’s largest dead zone, located in the Gulf of Mexico, is roughly the size of Connecticut.

CURRENT NEWS

KEY RESOURCES

Pass the BFFP Pollution Act

05/19/21
Surfrider Foundation is working closely with allies in the Capitol to reintroduce bold federal legislation to tackle the plastic pollution crisis.

Breaking the Plastic Wave: Top Findings for Preventing Plastic Pollution

10/01/20
First-of-its-kind modeling analysis describes actions needed to stop plastic from entering the ocean.

Ocean Conservancy: Cleanup Report

11/18/19
Fighting for Trash Free Seas.

4ocean

11/18/19
We’re here to clean the ocean and coastlines while working to stop the inflow of plastic by changing consumption habits.

Parley for the Oceans

11/14/19
Parley for the Oceans addresses major threats towards our oceans, the most important ecosystem of our planet. We believe the power for change lies in the hands of the consumer – given we all have a…

Ocean Cleanup, The

11/13/19
The Ocean Cleanup’s mission is to develop advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic. A full-scale deployment of our systems is estimated to clean up 50 % of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch…

Plastic Pollution Coalition

11/13/19
Plastic Pollution Coalition is a growing global alliance of more than 1,000 organizations, businesses, and thought leaders in 60 countries working toward a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals,…

MORE NEWS

Half of single-use plastic waste produced by just 20 companies

By Reuters  Photo: Agung Parameswara / Getty Images   05/18/21  
Production of single-use plastics is set to grow 30% in the next five years, fueling their contribution to global warming and ocean pollution, researchers said Tuesday as they published a list of companies that manufacture…

You Won’t Believe How Deep in the Ocean Plastic Is Found

By Angelo Young   05/18/21  
In the 1967 coming-of-age rom-com “The Graduate,” a family friend tells recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock (played by a young Dustin Hoffman) that he should pursue a future in the plastics industry. In the scene,…

Delaware River may be dumping more plastic into ocean than any other U.S. waterway

By Andrew S. Lewis   05/17/21  
Each year just over 283,000 pounds of plastic waste are carried by the Delaware River and ultimately dumped in the ocean. That puts the Delaware at the low end of the 1,656 rivers the authors…

Twenty plastic-busting inventions to clean our rivers and seas

By Emma Bryce  Photo: The Ocean Cleanup   05/10/21  
There’s an incomprehensible amount of plastic in the ocean – estimates put the known total at 5 trillion individual pieces, or around 150 million tonnes. An additional 8 million tonnes finds its way into the…

Why Rivers Are The Key To Rapidly Stopping Plastic Pollution

By Boyan Slat   05/06/21  
Close to 700 marine species are now known to be harmed by plastic, of which more than 100 are endangered. Its economic impact on coastal communities is estimated to be up to 19 billion USD…

Ocean Plastic Pollution Flows From More Rivers Than Previously Thought

By Olivia Rosane  Photo: Artur Widak / Getty Images   05/03/21  
A new study published in Science Advances Friday found that 80 percent of the plastic that enters the world's oceans via rivers comes from more than 1,000 waterways. That's as much as 100 times the…
Vox

Why 99% of ocean plastic pollution is “missing”

By Laura Bult   04/27/21  
A lot of the plastic we consume ends up in the ocean due to man-made causes, such as poor waste management practices. Some of it ends up there because of natural disasters. There’s a lot…

‘If we’re not up there cleaning up this threat, nobody is’: Team hauls more than 47 tons of marine debris out of Pacific Ocean

By Elinor Aspegren   04/22/21  
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday that a team of scientists hauled 47.2 tons of marine debris out of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the North Pacific Ocean.

Plastic Bank Celebrates Stopping Its 1 Billionth Bottle of Ocean-Bound Plastic, Partnership With SC Johnson Accounts for Half of the Total

By S C Johnson   04/04/21  
Plastic Bank®, a social enterprise revolutionizing the global supply chain for recycled ocean-bound plastic, announced today it has reached the significant milestone of stopping 1 billion plastic bottles from entering the world’s oceans. Plastic Bank’s…
PEW

Microplastics Are a Big—and Growing—Part of Global Pollution

By Winnie Lou and Margaret Murphy  Photo by Peter Bennett   03/30/21  
Ocean plastic pollution is an urgent and global problem. The Pew Charitable Trusts’ recent report, “Breaking the Plastic Wave,” and accompanying paper in the journal Science, provides the results of an ambitious modeling effort to understand…

Researchers calculate the value of bivalves’ appetite for pollution. It’s huge

By Emma Bryce   03/05/21  
Oysters and clams are some of nature’s most efficient feeders: these shellfish slurp up gallons of water, sieving out food and nutrients as they go, and repurposing some of those raw materials to make their…

A Third of the United States’ Rivers Have Changed Color Since 1984, Satellite Images Reveal

Rasha Aridi  Photo: yooperann via Flickr   01/04/21  
The transformation from blue to shades of yellow and green raises concerns that waterways have been increasingly imperiled since 1984

The Ocean Floor Is Spewing Methane Due to Abandoned Oil and Gas Wells

By Hannah Seo  Photo by Stefan Sauer   12/21/20  
Out on the deck of a research boat, Tara Yacovitch looked out to the water. In the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, the seascape is peppered with lights. And every light is part of…

Battling America’s ‘dirty secret’

By Sarah Kaplan  Photo: Kaci Merriwether-Hawkins   12/17/20  
Climate change raises the risk from failing sewage systems. So Catherine Coleman Flowers is working for a new way to deal with waste.

These Items in Your Home Are Harming America’s Sea Animals

By Catrin Einhorn   11/19/20  
A new report examines how plastic waste affects marine wildlife.

‘More Blue’: An Artwork Shows the Sea Changing During Lockdown

By Nina Siegal  Photo: Territorial Agency   05/27/20  
A data-driven media installation, created to reflect marine conditions around the world, has altered with the slowing human activity.

Microplastic pollution in oceans vastly underestimated – study

By Damian Carrington  Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP via Getty Images   05/22/20  
The abundance of microplastic pollution in the oceans is likely to have been vastly underestimated, according to research that suggests there are at least double the...

Hoovering the ocean

By Hugo Kugiya  Photo: Sandy Huffaker for The Washington Post)   05/13/20  
FRED, a solar-powered catamaran built by the organization Clear Blue Sea, retrieves marked water bottles during a test run in Mission Bay in San Diego. (Sandy Huffaker for The Washington Post)

Activists Find Evidence of Formosa Plant in Texas Still Releasing Plastic Pollution Despite $50 Million Settlement

By Julie Dermansky  Photo by Julie Dermansky   01/18/20  
Wilson described the occasion as “day one of the zero discharge settlement.” As of that date, Formosa could be fined up to $15,000 a day if it were found still discharging nurdles. That would put…

Scientists struggle to save seagrass from coastal pollution

12/23/19  
Efforts to clean up U.S. waterways are helping bring back seagrass beds.

Where plastic outnumbers fish by seven to one

11/13/19  
Plastic is building up in the areas of the ocean where fish feed and grow, according to research.

Baby fish feast on microplastics, and then get eaten

By Matt Simon  Photo: Jonathan Whitney/NOAA Fisheries   11/12/19  
Fish larvae off the coast of Hawaii are mistaking tiny pieces of plastic for prey, an alarming finding with big implications for the oceanic food web....
CNN

He’s doing the ‘dirty work’ to keep plastic out of the ocean

By Kathleen Toner   10/17/19  
Afroz Shah, a lawyer in Mumbai, hasn't had a weekend off in four years. But he hasn't spent this time writing briefs or preparing for court. His mission? Saving the world's oceans from plastic pollution.

These algae tiles scrub toxins and pollution out of wastewater

10/15/19  
Thanks to algae’s natural talent for sucking pollutants and toxins out of water, the tiles offer a passive, accessible way to clean wastewater. ...

The attention on microplastic pollution is welcomed. But scientists can do better.

10/11/19  
In the past few years, microplastics— small pieces of plastic up to 5 millimeters in size—have been getting a lot of attention, but not all studies are created equal.As scientists, we need to strengthen our…

Dead Baby Turtle Found With 104 Pieces of Plastic in Stomach

By Jordan Davidson  Photo: City of Boca Raton / Gumbo Limbo Nature Center   10/07/19  
A baby sea turtle that washed ashore in Boca Raton, Florida last week had 104 pieces of plastic in it stomach. The plastic products ranged from wrappers to balloons to bottle labels to twist ties…

Ocean Cleanup Project Finally Collects Plastic From Great Pacific Garbage Patch

By Michel Martin   10/05/19  
That giant pile of plastic trash in the ocean just got a little smaller. Dutch inventor Boyan Slat's Ocean Cleanup project recently collected its first plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans (2012)

By Charles Moore, Cassandra Phillips.   10/03/19  
The researcher who discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—and remains one of today's key advocates for plastic pollution awareness—inspires a fundamental rethinking of the modern Plastic Age.

Federal ‘Save Our Seas’ bill spurs debate over plastics recycling

By Katie Pyzyk E.A. Crunden  Photo: Brian Yurasits on Unsplash   10/02/19  
A multi-pronged piece of federal legislation known as the "Save Our Seas 2.0 Act" (collectively S.1982) recently made multiple advancements, despite recent opposition. Two bills (S.2260 and S.2372) were passed in their respective U.S. Senate…

California’s chronic water overuse leads to sinking towns, arsenic pollution

09/22/19  
For more than a century farmers in California's Central Valley have been pumping water out of the ground — so much so that the land is slowly sinking, a process known as subsidence. In less…

US drinking water pollution could cause 100,000 cancer cases

By Brian Bienkowski  Photo: Randi Boice/Flickr   09/19/19  
Contaminated drinking water—most of which currently meets legal quality standards—could cause an estimated 100,000 cancer cases in the U.S., according to a new report.The study—which was published today in the journal HeliyonHeliyon and looked at…

Marine plastic pollution hides a neurological toxin in our food

09/07/19  
In the mid-1950s, domesticated cats in Minamata, Japan mysteriously began to convulse and fall into the bay. The people of Minamata took on similar symptoms shortly after, losing their ability to speak, move, and think....

This is what it’s like to swim through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

08/23/19  
Long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte is helping collect scientific samples in a vortex of ocean plastic....

Cleaning up the plastic in the ocean

By Sharyn Alfonsi   08/18/19  
Discarded plastic is piling up around the world and pooling in the ocean. Sharyn Alfonsi reports on the problem's deadly consequences for wildlife and what can be done to stop it

Plastics Found in Rocky Mountain Rain, Arctic and Alps Snow

By Pam Wright   08/15/19  
Two recent studies found microplastics in remote, seemingly pristine settings.

Great Lakes’ latest pollution threat is ‘microplastics’

08/12/19  
Researchers suspect a key source of the microfibers might be clothing fibers washed into the water from household laundry. They are testing other Minnesota lakes to gauge the impact on wildlife....

Pollution prevents spread of invasive fish into the Great Lakes

08/12/19  
A new study shows how toxic waters from Chicago may be preventing the expansion of an invasive fish into the Great Lakes....

Freshwater is getting neglected when it comes to plastic pollution research

08/02/19  
Plastic pollution in lakes and rivers is on the research back burner—that's a problem.That's according to a new study in the journal Water, Air, and Soil Pollution that tallies research on plastics in the oceans…

This Irish teenager may have a solution for a plastic-free ocean

08/02/19  
A teenage boy from Ireland may have found a way to rescue our oceans from plastic pollution....

Environmentalists removed more than 40 tons of trash from the Pacific — and it barely made a dent

07/01/19  
Ocean Voyages Institute cleaned up the floating debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but it probably barely made a dent. It's estimated that 1.15 to 2.41 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each…

40 Tons of Fishing Nets Pulled From Great Pacific Garbage Patch

By Olga R. Rodriguez / AP   06/28/19  
Until recently we didn’t know how much plastic was piling up around us. When we found out, the picture wasn’t pretty

Beach pollution surges after massive wildfires and heavy rains, report finds

By Hannah Fry  Photo: Dania Maxwell   06/27/19  
If there was one upside to the severe drought that plagued California for seven years, it was how the lack of rain and dirty runoff improved beach water quality. But ocean pollution has surged once…

Humans have made 8.3bn tons of plastic since 1950. This is the illustrated story of where it’s gone

By Susie Cagle   06/24/19  
Until recently we didn’t know how much plastic was piling up around us. When we found out, the picture wasn’t pretty

How Enough Floating Plastic Could Change the Sea

By Maria Bolevich   06/17/19  
Many plastics float, block sunlight, and do not degrade—a recipe for altering the physical properties of the water underneath.

G-20 urges ‘voluntary action’ on marine plastic crisis but fails to agree on common approach

By Simon Denyer   06/16/19  
Environment ministers from the Group of 20 on Sunday recognized an urgent need to tackle the marine plastic litter that’s choking the world’s oceans, but failed to agree on concrete measures or targets to phase…

New California Bill Could Revolutionize How the U.S. Tackles Plastic Pollution

By Tara Lohan  Photo: Bo Eide, public domain   06/14/19  
A sweeping “circular economy” bill in the California legislature aims to drastically reduce plastic waste and boost domestic recycling.

New Research Shows Microplastics Have Invaded The Deep Ocean — And The Food Chain

06/06/19  
The largest habitat for life on Earth is the deep ocean. It's home to everything from jellyfish to giant bluefin tuna. But the deep ocean is being invaded by tiny pieces of plastic — plastic…

‘It’s Raining Plastic’: Researchers Find Microscopic Fibers in Colorado Rain Samples

05/23/19  
By Brett WaltonWhen Greg Wetherbee sat in front of the microscope recently, he was looking for fragments of metals or coal, particles that might indicate the source of airborne nitrogen pollution in Rocky Mountain National…

Scientists find 414 million pieces of plastic debris on remote islands. That’s even worse than it sounds.

By Yasemin Saplakoglu   05/21/19  
The amount of plastic pollution previously thought to exist around the world may be a dramatic underestimate — because the vast majority of plastic pollution may actually be below the surface.

Citizens Climate Radio Ep. 35: Plastic pollution and heavy metal

04/29/19  
Citizens Climate Radio Ep. 35: Plastic pollution and heavy metal Citizens’ Climate Radio is a monthly podcast hosted by CCL volunteer Peterson Toscano. Browse all our past episode recaps here, or listen to past episodes…