Conservation & Science

Monterey Jazz Festival hits a ‘blue note’ for a plastic-free ocean

In the dimly lit Night Club at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, the Gerald Clayton Trio took their Monterey Jazz Festival audience on a musical journey. As Gerald’s fingers danced over the keys, backed by Joe Sanders on bass and Obed Calvaire on drums, minds were set free to roam—down the sticky streets of pre-dawn Manhattan, over spring-green hillsides, into the gray coastal mist.

Then, during a pause in the trio’s Friday-night performance, Gerald held up a stainless steel water bottle and channeled the ocean.

He mentioned his recent visit to the Aquarium, where he’d learned about our initiatives to reduce single-use plastic. “Let’s get rid of water bottles,” he urged the audience. “Plastic straws, no more! If you see me around, I’ll be rockin’ one of these pretty cool [reusable bottles], and I hope you do, too. Keep in mind that we want to keep living on this Earth.”

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Pulling plastic off the shelf

Cheers to a clean ocean! At the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we’re working to reduce plastic pollution by making changes right here at home.

PMNM - Laysan Albatross 2016 Cleanup
An albatross investigates a plastic toothbrush that washed up on its island—and might look like food. Photo by NOAA / David Slater

Single-use plastic may be convenient for a few minutes. But once it’s out of our hands, it adds to a growing global problem that threatens the health of marine wildlife like fish, turtles and seabirds. These animals can become entangled in plastic trash like six-pack rings, plastic bags and abandoned fishing nets. As the plastic pollution breaks apart into smaller pieces called microplastics, many animals mistakenly ingest it—filling their stomachs with toxic trash instead of needed nutrition.

At the Aquarium, we’re tackling ocean plastic pollution through education, business initiatives and science-based policies. We also took a look around and identified the parts of our own operations where we could cut back on single-use plastics. These changes take creative thinking and ongoing conversations with our suppliers, staff and guests. But through trial and error, we’re making progress.

One year ago, we reported on how we’ve reduced single-use plastic in our cafe, restaurant and gift shops. Since then, we’ve challenged ourselves to go further. Next time you visit, you might spot a few upgrades.

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#MyBag #MiBolsa: Take a stand against single-use plastic bags

Ocean plastic pollution is a problem  a big problem – for the health of the ocean and ocean wildlife. In California, we’re making progress by tackling it on several fronts.

Right now, the Legislature is close to passing the nation’s strongest law to eliminate the use of non-biodegradable microbeads in consumer products. In recent years, cities and counties throughout California have banned single-use plastic bags. And in 2014, California enacted a statewide ban on disposable plastic shopping bags, authored by three of the Aquarium’s 2015 Ocean Champion Award winners – Secretary of State (and former state senator) Alex Padilla, State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and State Senator Ricardo Lara.

Green sea turtle trying to eat a plastic bag It seems a jellyfish
Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for a favorite snack, jellyfish.

That law established California as a leader in the fight against the growing tide of ocean plastic pollution. It was supposed to take effect on July 1 – until out-of-state plastic bag companies spent millions of dollars to force the issue onto the November 2016 ballot. Without the law, each year as many as 13 billion plastic bags will be sold in California that would otherwise not be sold. Every bag could potentially make its way to the ocean.

Implementation of a statewide ban on single-use bags has been delayed, but not derailed. Victory over the effort to repeal this law is a top Aquarium priority, as taking steps backward is unacceptable. We’re asking you join us and Say Yes on the referendum to keep this law: Say Yes to a plastic-free ocean. Say Yes to reusable shopping bags. Say Yes to California’s leadership on this critical issue.

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Ocean action: We’re pushing to ban plastic microbeads

When you brush your teeth or wash your face, it’s likely you’re also washing thousands of microbeads—plastic spheres 5 millimeters or smaller—down the drain. Those microbeads are too small to be captured by wastewater treatment plants, so they end up in the ocean. Microbeads are so ubiquitous that estimates suggest billions of them wash down the drain every day.

Few people are aware of the volume of plastic scrubbers in their personal care products, or what effects they’re having on ocean health. While some products like facial scrubs advertise the presence of microbeads by giving them contrasting colors, others don’t make them so obvious. Unless the beads are big enough to feel, one way consumers can check if their products are plastic-free is by scrutinizing the ingredients list for terms like “polyethylene” and “polypropylene.”

Microbeads in care products-5gyresNow there’s a push to ban plastic microbeads from personal care products. Several states have already passed bills to ban or significantly limit their use. Many other states, including California, are currently taking up such bills. California Assembly Bill 888 has passed the state Assembly and is now being considered by state Senate committees. If enacted, it will arguably be the strongest law passed to date against microbead pollution in the United States. Under its provisions, the bill would ban the sale of any non-prescription rinse-off product containing microbeads as of January 1, 2020. The Aquarium has joined the effort to advance this bill.

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