By now many of us have been informed of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A mass of manmade waste that lies between North America and Japan in the North Pacific Gyre. The discovery of its existence by Captain Charles Moore in the late 90s has acted as a harsh reality to the role our society plays within the natural environment.
Because petroleum-based plastics are non-biodegradable, any plastic that enters the ocean stays there, continually breaking into smaller pieces until it is ingested by marine life or deposited on the shore. In a 1998 survey, 89% of the litter observed floating on the ocean surface in the North Pacific was plastic. In the Central Pacific Gyre, a research organisation in 2002 founded by Captain Charles Moore found six kilos of plastic for every kilo of plankton near the surface. By 2008, that figure had risen to 45 to one. Moore stating “It (the Garbage Patch) has to be burned into the consciousness of humanity that the ocean is now a plastic wasteland”.
One such person taking upon the responsibility of our marine waste is Tim Silverwood. Not content with just reading and hearing about it Tim visited the site in 2011 which prompted an incredible new chapter in his life. Having studied environmental management in conservation at university, Silverwood says his true “connection with the ocean is actually from being a surfer”. He feels the major problem with marine debris is that the plastics are now resembling a food source. “There are so many animals interacting with plastic that it is a part of the ocean system now, and it needs to be recognised as a component of the food chain.”
Silverwood spends a lot of time promoting Take 3 (www.take3.org.au), an initiative that encourages people to take three pieces of plastic every time they visit a beach or waterway. “A concept of devolving the responsibility back onto everyone”.
Silverwood and his mother have also started Rechusable (www.rechusable.com) to offer alternatives to packaging. “It’s about people recognising that the simplest thing they can do every day is refuse disposable plastics and packaging. It gives people tools to tackle the challenge of living a day plastic-free, which is difficult, but also very rewarding.”
For more both Moore and Silverwood have conducted TED talks. Silverwood (linked here) gives a stark representation that links close to the Australian marine waste story with a presentation that many of our readers will relate too