Conservation & Science

Ringing in the New Year with resolutions to cut plastic

The dawn of a new year is a traditional time to address our excesses—whether it’s too many calories, too much spending or too much screen time. This year, several Monterey Bay communities are ringing in 2019 with newly adopted resolutions to cut back on single-use plastic.

In December 2018, the city of Monterey voted to limit the use of disposable plastic service ware in food establishments throughout the city. Earlier in the month, Santa Cruz County adopted a new law targeting single-use plastic packaging for personal care products in the hospitality industry.

Both laws aim to curtail waste and protect Monterey Bay from plastic pollution. They’re part of a global wave of action, from the local to national levels, to slow the flow of plastic from land to sea.

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A plastic bag floats in the ocean. Photo by Patrick Kelley / Marine Photobank

Our growing plastic problem

Scientists estimate that around 9 million tons of plastic make their way from land to sea every year. That’s like dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute, injuring marine animals that mistake plastic for food or get tangled in it.

If we don’t make changes, scientists say, the rate of ocean plastic pollution will double by 2025. Manufacturers are producing more plastic than ever before, and our ability to recycle it just isn’t keeping up. The Royal Statistical Society recently shined a spotlight on the gap: Its International Statistic of 2018 is 90.5 percentthe proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled.

Governments around the world, from the local to national levels, are addressing the problem through new laws to restrict single-use plastic products, improve waste management and protect the ocean from plastic pollution. In the long term, these actions support a transition away from single-use plastic, toward more ocean-friendly alternatives. Read more…

Champion of a plastic-free ocean earns Paul Walker Youth Award

We’ve proudly shared the story of Shelby O’Neil, a Teen Conservation Leader at the Monterey Bay Aquarium who’s been making a huge different in the campaign to reduce ocean plastic pollution.

Shelby O’Neil receives the Paul Walker Youth Award from Brandon Birtell of the Paul Walker Foundation and Aquarium Chief Operating Officer Cynthia Vernon.

She’s been recognized many times for her work, including as a guest speaker at Dreamforce and at Ocean Heroes panel during the Global Climate Action Summit. She’s one of the first class of Ocean Heroes recognized by the Aquarium, and earned a Girl Scout Gold Award for her work to raise awareness about the problem of single-use plastic – notably plastic straws.

Now 17 and a senior at San Benito High School, she’s the 2018 recipient of the Paul Walker Youth Award, presented to young people who share the late actor’s love of the ocean and his commitment to take an active role in safeguarding ocean health. Through the Paul Walker Foundation created by Paul’s daughter Meadow, Shelby will receive a college scholarship to support her studies, so she can contribute in new ways to ocean and conservation initiatives.

Read more…

Students take the lead to fight ocean plastic pollution

Young ocean advocates in the Monterey Bay region are behind two recent efforts to reduce single-use plastic waste. One is a vision for a month without straws. The other is a ban on plastic straws and utensils in the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

If we take a cue from kids like these, the ocean’s future looks bright.

In April 2018, Carmel food businesses will no longer be permitted to offer plastic straws, cutlery, coffee lids or containers that can’t be recycled or composted. Photo courtesy Our Seas Our Future

Plastic pollution threatens the health of marine wildlife like fish, turtles and seabirds, which often become entangled in plastic trash or eat it by mistake. And the problem is growing quickly: Since people started making plastic in the 1950s, only 9 percent has been recycled, and another 12 percent has been incinerated. The rest, over 4 billion metric tons, has ended up in landfills or in the natural environment—including the ocean.

On October 3, the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea banned its restaurants and food vendors from providing plastic straws and utensils. The idea for the ban stemmed from a group of Carmel River School students, encouraged by fifth grade teacher Niccole Tiffany, who were concerned about plastic pollution in the ocean. The kids took action, attending a City Council meeting and requesting a law banning single-use plastics in the city’s restaurants. One of the students who spoke during the public comment period was Shayla Dutta, age 10.

“I stand for this ban,” she said, “because I stand for the environment.” Read more…

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.”

Read more…

Going to school on plastic pollution

Plastic pollution is everywhere—especially stuff like coffee cup lids and plastic bags, which are used just once before they’re thrown away. You’ve probably come across plastic trash while walking your dog or on your way to the coffee shop. For teachers and students, encounters with plastic trash often happen in the steps between classrooms.

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Students ask questions during a talk on the importance of recycling at the Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit.

Working with Monterey Bay Aquarium, they’re doing something about it. For the last five years, teachers and students enrolled in the Aquarium’s Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit have been on a mission: to be a part of the plastic pollution solution.

The Ocean Plastic Pollution Summit began in 2012, after teachers approached the Aquarium’s Education Department staff, eager to learn more about the conservation issues surrounding single-use plastic. They kept finding plastic litter on and around their school campuses—but instead of seeing an insurmountable problem, they saw a teaching opportunity.

Read more…

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