A Plastic Ocean

A Plastic Ocean

3 April, 2017
The Uncomfortable Truth
How does plastic pollution affect the environment, wildlife, and ourselves?

After five years of filming and postproduction in 20 locations, the 96-minute feature film, A Plastic Ocean, is now screening across the world.

Haven't had a chance to see it yet? The film investigates how plastic is filling up our oceans, choking marine life and coming back through the food chain to make us humans sick.
Roughly 600 kilometres directly east of Australia's Port Macquarie lies an irregularly crescent-shaped volcanic remnant in the Tasman Sea. Lord Howe Island is a stunning world heritage site and about as far south as coral will grow.
Its sandy beaches and sheltered coral reef lagoon appear pristine. Wildlife abounds. Hundreds of petrels catch thermals that race up Mount Gower. And the most heroic of all seabirds, the shearwater, call this island home, returning from their epic around-the-world adventures to the nesting sites in which they were born.
But this island holds a deadly secret. In the forests of endemic kentia palms, small piles of plastic have begun to appear. These man-made plastic items – golf tees, resin pellets, disposable lighters, balloon ties – haven’t come from the island, but from thousands of miles away. So how did they end up in the forests, far from the sea?
As we walk along the beaches in the early morning, another mystery reveals itself. Dozens of young fledgling shearwaters lay dead, with no apparent signs of physical distress. We pick them up and take them back to a small laboratory in the island’s only town. It’s not until scientist Jennifer Lavers performs a necropsy that both mysteries are solved.
The stomach of every bird we cut open is full of plastic. These babies have been unwittingly fed plastic by their parents foraging for food thousands of kilometres away. And they die in great numbers on the beaches and in the waters off the island.
Tragically, this scene is repeated on islands around the world among many different species of sea birds. Lavers has found that between 96 and 100 per cent of all flesh-footed shearwaters contain plastic, as do 65 per cent of all seabird species globally.
This year, more than 300 million tonnes of plastic will be produced. Half of that we consumers will use just once and then throw “away.” But do we stop to wonder where “away” is? What happens to that plastic when we remove it from our personal space?
This was something that I hadn't thought about until a friend, marine biologist and television producer Jo Ruxton, called and asked: “Have you noticed much plastic in the water when you surf and dive?” In fact, over the past few years, no matter where I went I seemed to be finding more and more plastic in the water and on the beaches. Jo told me that she and executive producer Sonjia Norman wanted to investigate the North Pacific Gyre and a floating island of plastic twice as big as Texas – and if it was as bad as it seemed, to make a film about it to raise awareness.
The first expedition found not a floating island but something far more insidious: 46,000 pieces of microplastics for every mile of ocean, begging the question of what exists in the other four gyres that power the world’s oceans, bringing us weather systems, oxygen, food and water.
The results of the expeditions will astound and horrify you. Those dead and dying seabirds we found on Lord Howe Island were just the canaries in the coalmine. We found plastic everywhere: in every ocean, on every beach and in almost every animal we tested. We followed those plastics and the toxins they carry up the food chain… and guess where it ends?
Scientists are now proving that plastic and the toxins they carry are causing endocrine disruption in humans around the world. One study by the U.S. Centre for Disease Control found plastic chemicals in 92.6 per cent of every American tested. Some scientists now say this issue is as urgent as climate change.
A Plastic Ocean also reveals solutions to the problem, including new technologies like pyrogenesis and pyrolysis. But we all need to stop putting plastic into the environment in the first place. Plastic does not occur in nature, and nature is incapable of using it. Our grandparents didn't see this coming, and my generation perpetuated it, so it's up to our children to remedy this disaster so their children will have a future.

Interested in seeing the film? Visit their website and TAKE ACTION

Want to do something to help? Do your part right here in Hong Kong - hkcleanup.org

By: Craig Leeson


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