Feeling inspired from seeing all the #trashtag content on social media over the past month, but don’t know where to start? We have just the solution! But first, some backstory…
Why plastic pollution in our oceans is important
Did you know that 91% of plastic pollution isn’t recycled?(1) That means that only nine percent of plastic ever made has been recycled!
How many times have you heard “It’s unfathomable for the human mind to comprehend how gigantic our universe truly is”? Well, bad news. In 2017, it was discovered that there are 51 trillion microplastic particles in the ocean today — which is 500 times more than the number of stars in our galaxy.(2)
In 2010 alone, 8 million metric tons of plastic entered our ocean.(3) This is another hard to comprehend number, so to put this one into perspective, that’s the equivalent of dumping one dumpster full of trash into the ocean every single minute.
Most of you have probably read that China, America’s largest plastic importer, restricted their imports in 2014, and as of 2016 have suspended imports. This has lead to a 219% increase in plastic exports from the U.S. to Indonesia, a heavily populated country with poor waste management. People here, including children, become “waste pickers”,(4) sorting through rivers for pieces of plastic trash they can sell - while the very large majority of these plastics continue thru on to the waterways and out to the sea.
Unfortunately, this isn’t just an aesthetic issue. A study done over the course of 6 years in Hawaii (5) discovered that sometimes up to 50% of certain species of fish had plastic debris in their stomach. Many plastics are known to absorb things like pesticides or metals from sea-water. This is concerning because in lab animals, phthalate (found in plastic packaging) exposure has been found to be associated with numerous reproductive health and developmental problems. (6)
Okay, okay. What do I do about it?
Cloud City Development teamed up with 5 Gyres to make an app for documenting trash pickup. 5 Gyres is an incredible company, whose Gulf War veteran founder floated, for three months, from Los Angeles to Hawaii on a raft made of thousands of plastic bottles.(7)
Users will take to the streets, preferably in large groups, and start picking up trash - but more importantly documenting the trash as they go. The data collection web app is named TrashBlitz.
While this may seem like a small-scale effort, as 5 Gyres has already proved the potential is massive! In 2012 they visited Lake Erie and found that despite not being on a coastline, it had more plastic by count than any ocean surveyed. Most plastics were microbeads, which at the time were very popular in facial scrubs and soaps. After finding this small data at a local level, they teamed up with Surfrider, Story of Stuff, Clean Water Action and many others - and then passed a bill in California banning microbeads which soon passed at a federal level!(8)
5 Gyres hopes to take that massive amount of data from TrashBlitz and hold an open-forum discussion at their Solutions Summit, figuring out how best to move forward and introduce similar laws to the microbeads one they helped pass in 2015.
Cool! How do I use TrashBlitz?
As of this moment, TrashBlitz is a group activity happening only in the L.A. area. However, this summer we plan on launching it so anyone can create their own TrashBlitz!
Not in the L.A. area? That’s fine too! Keep your eyes peeled this summer for a public release of the web app, and in the meanwhile why not post a couple #trashtags on your favorite social media platform or even donate to 5 Gyres to help them continue the wonderful work that they do!
Happy Earth Day!