At a time when our 24 hour news cycle broadcasts little joy, the enthusiasm of the volunteers who came to do nothing but pick up other people’s trash and garbage, shed a certain kind of light to blot out all the negative headlines of the day. At our locale, most volunteers were locals— some partnered with a friend or family, and some represented local groups. Visitors from Livermore and San Jose, (both cities about 200 miles north of San Simeon) also joined in the effort to keep our wastes from slipping into the Pacific Ocean.
The Ocean Cleanup, which has raised $35 million in donations to fund the project, including from Salesforce.com chief executive Marc Benioff and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, will deploy 60 free-floating barriers in the Pacific Ocean by 2020.
And our planet’s modifier is in trouble. It’s a Neptune 911 crisis. What can we do to combat our ocean’s struggle with marine debris, hypoxia and acidification? The answers are found in university labs, recognized in world organizations, and ignored by feckless politicians and leaders.
The study, which took a “citizen science” approach to data collection, is the first of its kind in Switzerland. More than 150 trained volunteers participated. In total, they examined 95,971 pieces of litter collected on the shores of Swiss rivers and lakes.
Prevention starts when consumers refuse to use plastic, or lawmakers try to ban it bag by bag. Also following the adage of reduce, reuse, and recycle what you don’t refuse. But much of the trash that comes ashore appears to come from foreign places or as the detritus from industries notorious for ocean litter.
“Given their pervasive and persistent nature, microplastics have become a global environmental concern and a potential risk to human populations,” said Rachel Hurley from the University of Manchester and colleagues in their report, published in Nature Geoscience.