A Belt Made of Plastic Waste Reduces Ocean Pollution

A man and woman stand near a shoreline wearing belts made from plastic waste

Ocean plastic is one of the biggest environmental problems our oceans face. One company works to keep plastic from entering the oceans. That company is For Purpose Recycling (FPR), which launched a belt made from certified recycled plastic. Every time a customer buys a belt, the company estimates that 10 kilograms of plastic waste are prevented from entering the oceans.

FPR describes itself as a company comprised of environmental managers, recycling engineers, and action takers. The funds raised by the sale of every belt, which fully launches on June 15, 2021, will go towards waste collection, recycling infrastructure, income opportunities, and other support for Indonesian coastal communities. 

“Many of us live outside the realm of choice. In some countries, the only access to safe drinking water is bottled and the only option for waste disposal is dumping it in nature,” Erik Sumarkho, FPR Founder and Director said. “A solution emerges from this problem: stop making virgin plastic, rescue what’s already here, and revive it into new materials.” 

FPR helps reduce plastic waste from entering Indonesian waters

The plastic used to make the belts comes from Indonesia, a country that is the largest archipelagic state in the world. There are over 17,000 islands, 2.3 million square miles of water, and over 56,000 miles of coastline. Indonesia boasts 75 percent of all known marine life, 23 percent of global mangroves, and 11,583 square miles of seagrass. But the country ranks second in the world for dumping plastic waste into the ocean. Out of the eight million tons of plastic dumped into oceans globally, 16 percent comes from Indonesia. 

Indonesians use a million plastic bags per minute. In just one year, the country generated 3.2 million tons of plastic waste, and 1.29 million tons of it end up in the oceans. According to the Wilson Center, only 10 percent of Indonesia’s 6.8 million tons of annual plastic is recycled. Almost half is either burned or dumped. 

FPR conducts what it terms cost-effective waste collection points in Indonesian coastal communities that lack access to basic waste collection services. This gives members of those communities the chance to sell their plastic waste. FPR also provides environmental education and workshops so residents of coastal communities reduce their waste and improve recycling practices. 

“We work in partnership with local non-profit organizations to create income opportunities for people living in coastal communities that help prevent plastic from entering the oceans,” Sumarkho said. “Community members and workers can exchange the plastic waste for cash, healthcare, school fees, and other essentials.”

FPR will collect plastic waste in West Papua 

FPR will begin collecting plastic waste in West Papua, which boasts the archipelago Raja Ampat Islands, an area renowned for coral and marine biodiversity. Raja Ampat has over 1,500 small islands and cays. Unfortunately, the area’s growing ocean plastic and mismanaged waste is a threat. Sorong is the West Papua province capital. It is known as one of Indonesia’s dirtiest cities. A majority of the city’s waste ends up in rivers and washes out to sea, and 10 to 14 percent of that waste is plastic. 

The gigantic problem of global ocean pollution

More than 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually, and at least eight million tons of that plastic wind up in the oceans each year. Plastic comprises 80 percent of all marine waste. Plastic ocean waste poses a threat to marine animals who ingest it or become entangled in it. Plastic gets into the food chain through the animals who ingest it, which becomes a threat to food safety and human health. 

There is not a square mile of surface ocean on earth that is free of plastic waste. The plastic waste in the world’s oceans may increase as the fossil fuel industry plans to increase plastic production by 40 percent over the next decade. A study by The Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ found that plastic ocean waste will increase by almost three times the current amount if nothing is done to stop it.

 Image courtesy of For Purpose Recycling

Investing In Oceans is Good Business

A healthy, thriving ocean vibrant with live. Investing in the Blue Economy pays dividends for the economy, the oceans, and all life on earth.

Taking action to protect the world’s oceans not only has environmental benefits but economic ones, according to a report by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. Investing $2 to $3.7 trillion globally in oceans from 2020 to 2050 would generate $8.2 to $22.8 trillion in net benefits, which implies a rate of return of investment (ROI) of 400 to 615 percent. Sustainable ocean-based investments yield benefits at least five times greater than the costs, the report shows.

For every $1 invested in specific areas of ocean conservation, more is yield in benefits. Consider two areas: mangrove conservation and restoration and decarbonizing international shipping and reducing emissions. Every $1 invested in mangrove conservation and restoration yields a benefit of $3. Every $1 invested in decarbonizing international shipping and reducing emissions to net-zero yields $2 to $5 in benefits. Other benefits include: 

  • Every $1 invested in scaling up global offshore wind production generated benefits of $2 to $17. 
  • Every $1 invested in increasing the production of sustainably sourced fish and seafood yields $10 in benefits.

Investing in the blue economy

A Credit Suisse report found that there is interest among investors in investing in the ocean, or what the report terms the blue economy. However, three in four investors responded to a survey saying they have not assessed their portfolios for their impact on the ocean and 21 percent are completely unaware of ocean exposure and risk in an investment context. Nearly a third of asset owners do not address the sustainable blue economy at all in their current investments. 

There are barriers for investors and asset owners when it comes to investing in the blue economy. For investors, they include a lack of investment-grade projects and no internal expertise. For asset owners, the barriers include not offering any products or raising the topic amongst them. There is good news. The blue economy “is poised for an increase in importance over the coming decade, with over a third of investor respondents seeing it as amongst the most important topics in 2030,” according to the report. And there are already early-stage opportunities.

Companies turning ocean plastic into products

Some companies are already capitalizing on the blue economy by turning ocean plastic into products. One of those companies is Adidas which incorporates ocean plastic into their shoes. Adidas is a founding member of the global network called Parley for the Oceans. The company works with Parley to transform ocean plastic waste for use in its apparel and shoes. All of its Parley products contain ocean plastic collected by partner organizations on shores and coastal areas in the Maldives. 

Method is another company that incorporates ocean plastic into its products. It uses a blend of ocean plastic and post-consumer recycled plastic to package its two-in-one dish and hand soap. The company partnered with local beach clean-up groups and volunteers to collect plastic waste from Hawaiian beaches to use in its plastic bottles. 

Other companies incorporating ocean plastic into their products include 4Ocean which makes a dolphin bracelet made from ocean plastic. The salon professional hair care line Kevin Murphy uses ocean plastic in the plastic bottles that house its products, while Solgaard’s backpacks and fanny packs are made from plastic waste collected from beaches in the Philippines. What all of these companies prove is that there is money to be from caring for the world’s oceans. 

Photo by Ray Aucott on Unsplash

New Rules In California Protect Endangered Whales and Sea Turtles

A breaching whale in the Monterey Bay. A new rule protects endangered whales and sea turtles

In a sea of bad news, we welcome any good news. Out of the golden state, comes that bit of good news we all need. The state of California recently took action to protect sea life. 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Department) released a new rule to reduce the risk of marine life, including endangered whales and sea turtles, becoming entangled in commercial Dungeness crab gear. The new rules went into effect on November 1, 2020, and apply to humpback whales, blue whales, and Pacific leatherback sea turtles.  

lawsuit and severe increases in whale entanglements prompted the state to enact the new rule. The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in 2017 after whale entanglements off the California coast broke records for three years in a row. In 2016, of the 29 cases where the gear could be identified that entangled, 22 were commercial Dungeness crab gear from California. Humpback whales were identified in 17 of the cases and one leatherback sea turtle was found dead and entangled in rock crab gear. The lawsuit led to an agreement in 2019 with the state to end the last two crab seasons before the spring whale migration. 

“It’s good to see California finally taking whale entanglements seriously,” said Kristen Monsell, the Center’s oceans legal director, in a statement. “This new system should reduce the risk crab gear poses to whales and sea turtles. But we’re disappointed that officials didn’t do more to encourage conversion to ropeless gear, which is the only way to truly eliminate the threat of entanglement for these ocean animals.”

The danger of Dungeness crab traps

Fish harvesters catch Dungeness crab with circular steel traps on the seafloor. Bait in the traps attracts the crab and the traps capture them. The thick ropes connected to the commercial Dungeness crab traps entangle whales and sea turtles, injuring and killing them. The ropes cut into the flesh of the whales and turtles, causing them to drown. When whales become entangled in crab gear, they often end up trailing fishing gear behind them, which can sever appendages. Around 75 percent of whale entanglements are fatal. Entangled sea turtles can drown from being anchored to the gear. 

Dungeness crab traps are the most common gear identified in entanglements off the West Coast. The state’s new Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program evaluates the necessity of mitigation measures like shortening the season or closing an area to crab gear to reduce entanglements.

Protecting endangered marine animals

California’s new rules protect endangered marine animals off of the state’s shores. In 1970, the U.S. federal government listed humpback whales as endangered under the Endangered Species Conservation Act, and under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Known for their long flippers, humpback whales are still protected as endangered in four out of the 14 distinct population segments, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The longest animal on earth, the blue whale has a heart the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and weighs up to 200 tons. The loudest animal on earth, the blue whale is louder even than a jet engine. First listed as endangered in 1970, the blue whale is protected by the ESA throughout its range. 

Named for their shells which have a texture more like leather than hard like other turtles, leatherback sea turtles are the largest sea turtle species. Pacific leatherbacks migrate from the Coral Triangle to the California coast. Their global population decreased by 40 percent over the last three generations. All leatherback populations are protected under the ESA. 

The Sea is Confused

A boat sits anchored in Monterey Bay

A Harbormaster’s Reflection on a Life Watching the Sea

From Doc Ricketts to Mack to Dora Flood, Monterey is the stuff of legend, the iconic fishing town hugging the Pacific Coast of central California.

Brought to life by the characters of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, the abundance of Monterey Bay fueled Steinbeck’s imagination. More than just characters in a novel, Monterey is quintessentially a community of people and their relationship with the sea.

Continue reading “The Sea is Confused”