Master Divers Life Contest Blog by David Howlett

We are pleased to present our second Master Divers Life contest blog by contestant David Howlett

TURNING THE TIDE ON PLASTIC POLLUTION

 

Posted on June 18th, 2018

By David Howlett

Welcome to my blog, my mission is to dive into the current epidemic of plastic waste to highlight how we are contaminating the seas, choking our aquatic wildlife and poisoning ourselves! Hopefully we can use this information to create something that can turn the tide on plastic pollution.

Living in the UK has taught me that unless you have taken part in beach or tidal river clean ups, your only contact with plastic pollution besides avoiding plasters at the leisure centre is likely through the news or social media. Therefore I need to start by raising everyone’s awareness so that we can perhaps create some empathy; so what’s the big problem with plastic waste?

  1. THE SCALE

The Scale

 

Source: https://www.sas.org.uk/our-work/plastic-pollution/plastic-pollution-facts-figures/

  1. THE SUFFERING CAUSED

The Suffering Caused

 

Sources: https://www.sas.org.uk/our-work/plastic-pollution/plastic-pollution-facts-figures/ http://awesomeocean.com/whales/plastic-trash-beached-whales-stomach/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozBE-ZPw18c&t=166s

THE ALBATROSS TRAGEDY

Albatros Chick

Chris Jordan’s film ‘Midway’ captures the plight of Laysen Albatross as they are plagued by ingesting our plastic waste. Parent Albatross are feeding their chicks brightly colored plastics such as bottle caps as they swoop down to find food for their young. These birds live on the Midway Islands thousands of miles away from any significant landmass; if it wasn’t for Chris Jordan’s efforts we would still be blind to the problem.

Albatros with cap

 

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsJqMmuFWO4&t=387s

‘MIDWAY’ TRAILER BY CHRIS JORDAN

“Do we really need to package something that takes five minutes to eat in a material that takes hundreds of years to break down?” asks Vegar Ottesen

Eclectus

The Laysan Albatross tragedy particularly shook me having grown up with endangered species of parrot including varieties of Cockatoo, Caiques and Eclectus. It’s an absolute travesty that items I use every day are ending up in the bellies of such intelligent creatures.

WHO’S CHAMPIONING THE CLEAN UP?

Plastic pollution has been headline news for the best part of 5 years now, Sky has invested £25 million into their Ocean Rescue Campaign, and the Daily Mail got behind the Micro-Bead Ban and recently backed a Deposit Return Scheme on plastic bottles. The common approach has been to implement the 3 Rs:

The 3 R's

THE UNFLUSHABLES

The Unflushables

City to Sea, a UK charity was setup on the principle that 7% of plastics polluting the ocean comes from people’s homes, particularly their toilet. Their mission is to stop the general public from flushing the natural world down the pan; which is a respectable goal considering that 3 in 10 adults flush away single use plastic products (Marine Conservation Society).

The team discovered that millions of plastic stemmed cotton buds are being flushed away each year; these pass straight through the sewer filters into the ocean. They determined that influencing 9 supermarket executives would be easier than changing the behavior of 50 million adults in the UK. In 2016 their #SwitchTheStick petition secured the signatures of over 150,000 consumers. They used this consumer power to bombard supermarket Christmas campaigns on social media, calling for retailers to switch to paper stem buds. These efforts were a success, in December 2017 all 9 UK retailers made the switch; stopping 320 tons of disposable plastic at source each year.

Source: https://www.citytosea.org.uk/

I PROPOSE WE #CAPTHEBOTTLE

Plastic Bottles

Data Source: https://www.banthebottle.net/articles/8-most-common-types-of-garbage-found-in-the-ocean/

It is time to focus on the number one single use plastic product polluting our seas and cap the effect plastic bottle pollution is having on our marine wildlife.

EverBlue

To symbolize their efforts to cap plastic waste, soft drink companies could use the Everblue branded cap. With an aquatic color palette and minimalist logo, the cap would be easily identifiable for consumers following the ‘Choose to Reuse’ movement. A blue hue would enable the cap to blend in with the sea; reducing the likelihood of it being seen and eaten by animals such as the Laysan Albatross.

WHAT WOULD IT BE MADE FROM?

The cap would be made from a Bioplastic such as PHA providing a host of benefits:

  1. Bioplastics are 100% degradable and just as resistant / versatile.
  • A shorter lifespan will reduce the likelihood of the bottle cap being ingested by animals.
  • The quicker the caps degrade, the faster the bottle will fill with water and sink to the sea floor. There they will be buried in sand where they can degrade safely, out of reach from marine wildlife.
  1. They reduce carbon footprint & energy consumption during production.
  2. They do not contain non-degradable contaminates or additives that are harmful to health; such as phthalates or bisphenol A.
  3. They are safe to use for packaging food and beverages.

 

Source: https://www.activesustainability.com/environment/what-are-bioplastics/

WHY NOT USE PHA FOR THE BOTTLES THEMSELVES?

Biopolymers such as PHA are not suitable for blow moulding due to low melt strength and thermal stability. Although this can be resolved by blending in another bioplastic (e.g. Ecovio), it makes the process extremely expensive.

 Source: http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/publications/Documents/1436/20121436.pdf

HOW WOULD THE CAMPAIGN BE MARKETED?

I imagine the Everblue Cap to be marketed using a social media campaign to gain momentum for a petition. Graphic video similar to that seen in the Midway film could be used alongside brutal statistics to shock the audience. If we could leverage enough consumer power then it would give us the spotlight needed to call supermarkets to #CAPTHEBOTTLE.

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