The program seeks to reduce the amount of plastics making their way into our beach and marine environments though education and outreach efforts. Click here to learn how you can help.
Rise Above Plastics
Recently, we’ve asked the Long Beach City Council about their position on Rise Above Plastics.
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Special report on plastic contamination - CNN.com
Brett Beck was interviewed by Dr. Michael Day for Vital Living 6/22/2009
Oftentimes it seems like a daunting task to try to conserve and not use plastics. It’s so easy to grab a 30-pack of bottled water, or order takeout with six styrofoam containers. But we’ve now reached a critical mass and it’s not just about the environment anymore. Studies are continuing to be released showing the effects of plastics on health. As you’ll read in the interview below, Dr. Marcus Eriksen states the case for the generations to come as we pass the plastic contaminants chemical effects to our progeny.
Walking home from the event I felt the overwhelming desire to do something! Often, it feels daunting for each of us to make a difference and with all the other stresses of life it’s easy to put causes such as conservation on the back burner. How can we as an individual stand up against the tide of those that don’t care and or aren’t educated about the effects of plastics.
But there is a power of one and each of us starting in our lives and homes can set the example for our communities by Reusing, Recycling, and Conserving.
I first interviewed Brett Beck, who I got to know through Facebook – the marvel of social networking. Brett was one of the main organizers for this event, and is also known for his passion for planting trees throughout our urban neighborhoods.
Michael: Tell me what this event is about today.
Brett Beck: For ten years the Algalita research association has been going out to the North Pacific Gyre doing studies. As run off goes into the ocean it cycles with the ocean currents and for lack of a better word there’s a big toilet bowl in the middle of the ocean and there are about seven of them in the world. Here the water circulates in a circular fashion and doesn’t go anywhere else. They found through testing that the North Pacific Gyre is filled with tons and tons of trash and most of it was plastics. Most don’t know that plastics never biodegrade, they photodegrade where they break into very small pieces. So imagine all this trash in the ocean breaking into smaller and smaller pieces. What they’re finding now is that the photoplankton are ingesting mistaking it as food and it’s going up the food chain now.
So Algalita has been researching this and the Surfrider Foundation’s gotten involved through our rise above plastics campaign. Through our grassroots campaign we encourage to not use single use plastics, use reusable water bottles, and try to get laws in place that tax or ban single use plastics. Now Dr. Marcus Eriksen and his wife Anna Cummins built a boat last year out of plastic bottles and sailed from Long Beach to Hawaii to raise awareness. This year they are doing the junk ride, where they are riding from Vancouver to Tijuana and stopping in Long Beach. As well the fire company, sierra club, lifeguards, surfboard shapers, Councilman Delong and Garcia, and a band donated their time, so it’s really come together into quite an event.
Michael: Now the real troubling part is the studies about the health effects the plastic may be having on our health as they become part of our water supply.
Brett: Yeah we really don’t even know yet all they could be happening. There are studies going on right now, looking at plastics relation to diabetes, and childhood obesity. They have just really started to look into it. I know Anna Cummins is getting blood test done on herself right now as we speak.
Gary Delong (from the podium during the plastic debris presentation):
“But, and there’s a huge but, is that we’re not doing very well on the L.A. River. There still isn’t a plan to manage that junk flowing from those upstream cities, and we’re contributing to it as well.”
Marcus Eriksen: “This junk ride in today is wrapping up the third phase carried out by the Algalita Research Center here in Long Beach. The first phase, Anna and I joined Dr. Charles Moore, a long time resident of Long Beach. We sailed to the Pacific Gyre, and collected samples like this jar of this fine particulate plastic waste. Phase 2 we created a junk boat and sailed for 88 days to Hawaii to raise awareness.
Marcus Eriksen: “We figure once you see these jars, you are stuck with a moral decision. Do you do something about it, or do you turn your back and walk away.”
Michael Day: Tell me a little more about the health issues we should be concerned about with the increase of plastic particulate waste?
Marcus Eriksen: “Anna just had her blood sent to a lab in Canada. There they will be testing her blood for flame retardant materials, DDT, PCB’s. What we’re learning from other mammal studies is that they harbor these chemicals in their bodies. With women the best way to get rid of your toxin burden is to pass it on to your child through breast milk and umbilical cord blood. So really looking at is the question are we leaving a toxic legacy. It’s really one of the true costs of our disposable culture and this use of plastics. We are paying in the pre consumer cost of the petroleum it takes to produce the product. A post consumer cost in the pollution and health effects it’s having. I caught a fish halfway to Hawaii I went to filet it to eat it and its belly was filled with plastic.”
In closing in the words of the Jack Johnson song off the Curious George soundtrack we need to ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle’ as well as get involved. Decreasing our toxic load for future generations means eating organic fruits and vegetables, drinking pure water, and taking the necessary supplements prescribed by an expert. See the best detoxifying foods here.
This article was published by LBPOST.com 3/11/2009
On Monday, the Environmental Committee of the Long Beach City Council met and I attended to understand what the City of Long Beach is doing to lead in the issue of plastics and their use, disposal, recycling and proliferation. After almost an entire year of not meeting (the last committee meeting was in April 2008), our City Councilmembers O’Donnell, Lowenthal and Reyes-Uranga reconvened with a short agenda where the issue of single-use bags and the waste and pollution they cause in Long Beach and throughout California was the main topic.
City staff reported on other municipalities and how they are addressing the issue, including San Francisco, which seemed to be the only city that has enacted a ban and hasn’t been sued or unable to enforce the law due to court action brought on by the plastic industry. This was attributed to the fact that San Francisco had passed legislation before the plastics industry was ready. It was also reported that more recently the City of Santa Monica has been working on a plastic bag ban and paper bag fee but is threatened by a lawsuit by the “Save the Plastic Bag Coalition”. Obviously, this isn’t a bunch of grassroot community members banding together for a cause but a plastics industry-funded political action committee. A representative from Heal the Bay explained how the plastic industry changed the debate when a ban on plastic bags came up to how a ban would proliferate the use of paper. So, the discussion now is focused on the ban or tax of all single-use bags.
The City of Long Beach Environmental Committee is now looking at the endorsing Assembly Bill 68 that would put a 25-cent fee on all single-use bags statewide. This bill is currently in Sacramento and is part of a statewide strategy to reduce marine debris adopted by the California Ocean Protection Council. A similar law in Ireland saw a 90% reduction in single-use bags. The city is also considering joining Santa Monica, San Francisco, San Jose, Palo Alto, Manhattan Beach, Pasadena, Encinitas, San Clemente, Marin County and Los Angeles County in a Master Study that could be used by municipalities to produce an EIR. This is just the tip of the plastic iceberg because after we get through the issue of bags, bottles and wrappers can’t be far behind.
Many of us do our best to recycle and bring our own bags and cups but with the convenience of plastic bags, cups, containers, etc., it is extremely hard not to use plastics at least a few times everyday. So our first solution was to just bury the stuff and move on. Most recently we have started recycling programs and done a good job in Long Beach boasting a 69% diversion rate. Unfortunately, recycling has not kept up with the growth in our production and use. Also, because plastics do not biodegrade and last forever every single piece that has been buried, littered, blown away in the wind or whatever for the past 40 years, is still there, in one shape or another. They do start photodegrading that creates a whole new set of issues.
The Environmental Committee is simply at the tip of the issue addressing the issue of single-use bags… and it is an uphill battle. The threat of lawsuits deter swift action and an Environmental Impact Report is now being required to ban plastic bags. During the meeting, the reason behind this was questioned by Councilman O’Donnell as it seems counter-intuitive that plastic bags could possibly be good for the environment.
During the meeting’s public comments, stories of Long Beach residents trying to do their part to clean up the bay were told. Dr. Carole Harris spoke of using her pool net and standing on her dock every weekend pulling plastic trash out to Alamitos Bay. Sarah Michael told of canoeing in Rainbow Harbor and picking up plastic bags in the water and then filling them with trash as she paddled around. Another resident who rode her bike to the meeting has developed a foot trick to scoop up plastic bags as she rides along the street. It was sad commentary, especially when you look at the research conducted by Dr. Marcus Eriksen and the Algalita Marine Research Foundation and see the samples of birds, fish and other wild life that have ingested so much plastic debris that fills their intestines and knowing we are the cause.
Here in Long Beach, grassroots community groups like the local Surfrider Chapter have implemented the national Surfrider campaign called “Rise Above Plastics”. Beth Barnes, past Surfrider Chapter President said, “In the only Surfrider city without waves, we are excited to lead in this effort to start addressing the long term health and environmental issues that single-use plastic bags and products are causing in our oceans. Long Beach can and should be a leader and support the elimination of single-use bags.”
It is important that legislation specific to plastic waste be passed, because as of now legislation is limited to bulk waste management and does not address the special problems posed by photodegradation, in the absence of biodegradation, of plastics and its attendant toxicity for life on earth. Plastics may be releasing pollutants because of their original additive components. Additives like, Nonylphenols, PBDEs, Phthalates, and Bisphenol A (BPA), are added to plastic during production to catalyze monomers into polymers and give it different properties like flexibility, durability and UV resistance. Some of these chemicals are considered hormone-disrupters. Significant human exposure to BPA has been documented, and a number of small epidemiological studies have reported a relationship between blood levels of BPA and abnormalities such as miscarriage, ovarian disease, and obesity in humans. With the acceptance that plastic marine debris is a legislative issue we may actually begin to make changes in what has become a terrible problem.
“California has a proud history and tradition of protecting our ocean. And we have the same kind of proud history and tradition of leading the country in our efforts to make sure that all of our oceans are clean, safe and productive.”
“The base of the marine food chain is being displaced by a non-digestible, non-nutritive component which is actually out-weighing and out-numbering the natural food. That is our core issue.”