Nonprofit Scoops Up Plastic Pollution From Pacific Ocean
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / December 5, 2019
Speaker 1: 00:00 The great Pacific garbage patch has become a floating symbol and terrible example of pollution on this planet. Ocean voyages Institute founder Mary Crowley is among many trying to do something about it. She recently explained how at a lecture at the San Diego maritime museum as part of coverage from the KPBS climate change desk, Carly spoke via Skype with round table host Mark Sauer. Here's that interview.
Speaker 2: 00:27 Now your organization removed 42 tons of plastic from the Pacific Guyer in June. What does 42 tons of plastic look like?
Speaker 3: 00:35 It's a phenomenal amount of plastic. You know, we filled four big containers full of plastic from what we brought in. It was quite a haul. Lots of netting, lots of consumer plastics. And you know, we've been trying to figure out, because some people say that's a small percentage of what out, what's out there, which is true, but we could figure in a certain way how many whales and dolphins and sea turtles and fish are saved by us removing that amount of plastic. And this coming year in 2020, our goal is to have our expeditions operate with 10 fold is much. So we're looking to bring in over 420 tons because we certainly spotted lots of debris out there. Unfortunately, there's no sort of shortage of debris and we want to do our best to make the ocean a healthier environment for all of us.
Speaker 2: 01:51 Now the Pacific gyres part of the great Pacific garbage patch. Explain what's in it. How big is it roughly? Where is it?
Speaker 3: 01:58 I always say, I don't really like the name great Pacific garbage patch though. That is certainly the name it has because it's really much bigger than a patch. You know, it's an area that starts 500 miles, 600 miles off the coast of California and goes to five, 600 miles off the coast of Asia. Um, Hawaii is very central. There is a particularly dance area of debris distribution that's about halfway between Hawaii and California. And of course this area, this GI or area moves dependent on currents and weather conditions. But you know, the, the area is a huge one and uh, it has been collecting debris, plastics for at least 60 years and as people know, plastic can last for hundreds of years.
Speaker 2: 03:15 And what causes the trash to converge in this area in particular? It's all about currents, right?
Speaker 3: 03:20 Yes. There's four major currents that kind of create this area and feed this area. And we need to both affectively and on a large scale do ocean cleanup globally though the GI are right in our backyard is considered the one that has the most debris. But we have to also change our habit patterns, particularly around throw away plastics and figure out better ways to reuse, recycle, repurpose. Plastic says many people are learning in the news. You know, plastic recycling is a tricky area. You know,
Speaker 2: 04:13 the great solution, we all wish it would be.
Speaker 3: 04:16 Exactly. We have to do more innovation and be very careful about what we use, how we recycle, um, and just make sure the ocean, which you know, everybody sort of has in their mind that rain forest are important because of the air they create. And that is true. But the ocean creates roughly two thirds of our air. And so having a healthy ocean influences everyone's health. And you might imagine that all of this toxic plastic is terrible for ocean creatures and the health of the ocean.
Speaker 2: 05:04 Yeah. Tell us about the impact on the Marine life. It can really be devastating, right?
Speaker 3: 05:08 Absolutely. I, there's figures, you know, I see different figures, different places, but I, I know Sylvia Earle, who I really respect, uses a figure of over 600,000 Marine mammals get killed every year by plastics either becoming entangled in them or ingesting them, you know, big whales that ingest plastics, the plastic gets stuck in their stomach and they starve to death. And I think that happens to lots of the Pologic fish as well, the tunas and the sword, fish, et cetera. And you see all of sad instances of ocean creatures being in tangled in debris
Speaker 2: 06:06 and eventually gets into the human food chain as well. Right?
Speaker 3: 06:09 Absolutely. I mean, I think they're, they're finding lots of plastics in people's systems and uh, some of that probably comes from seafood. Some of it may come from just the way so many things are stored and plastics because plastics have all sorts of nasty chemicals and so they're finding uh, a full range of not so good things and in us.
Speaker 2: 06:40 And uh, this interview is part of our climate change desk coverage. And what role do plastics have in climate change? They're petroleum based to begin with, right?
Speaker 3: 06:50 Absolutely. Another way of viewing the whole issue of plastic garbage in our ocean is it's another form of an oil spill. And uh, there's some interesting work being done by a gentleman from the world bank and a scientist. They were trying to figure out the value of whales, but whales is just one piece of the puzzle. You can't figure out the value of all sorts of Marine life and you could figure out the value of coral reefs. And so part of the value of the sea life and the reefs have to do with the role they play on maintaining temperature on health in terms of of ocean life. And so we need our oceans is part of the climate equation. They play a very important role. And we need to to clean up our oceans, to allow them to continue doing that and to have it be a healthy atmosphere for all of the ocean life. That was ocean voyages Institute founder Mary Crowley, speaking with KPBS at Roundtable host Mark Sauer.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has become a floating symbol of pollution on this planet. Ocean Voyages Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the ocean environment, is one of the groups trying to do something about it.