Kiwis Schocked After International Ocean Plastic Clean Up
17 October 2018
Kiwis Part of International Ocean Plastic Clean Up left “Devastated” by Experience
New Zealanders formed part of an international team to clean up an ocean of plastic in the Caribbean Sea and educate local school children say more needs to be done at home to protect our marine environment as well.
Shannon Zaloum was one of two Kiwis who joined 300 representatives from environmental NGOs, local youth and executives from 45 countries who travelled to the once idyllic island of Roatán to remove plastic waste from the coast line.
Floating off the shores of Roatán is a giant mass of plastic waste which stretches for several kilometres. It is thought that the plastic originated from the mouth of Guatemala's Motagua River, washed down during the rainy season. Much of the rubbish washes ashore and becomes lodged in among the debris.
Zaloum from SodaStream NZ, says over a 48 hour period more than eight tonnes of plastic waste was collected - the equivalent amount to what is being dropped into the world’s oceans every 30 seconds.
“There were dozens of different types of discarded plastic products in the waste stream including toothbrushes, medicine containers, moisturisers, shoes and even Christmas decorations.
“We also picked up more than 160,000 Coke and other single use plastic bottles.
“Plastics are not biodegradable and when they enter the ocean they simply break down into smaller pieces until they turn into microparticles. These microparticles are naturally ingested by fish. It is estimated that 90 percent of seabirds have ingested plastic microparticles.
“Unfortunately, we also know the waters around NZ are not immune to this issue. The whole experience for us was devastating, it was really emotional and I found myself close to tears. The scale of what we faced was just something I hadn’t even imagined,” she says.
“We need to take the learnings from our trip and make sure we also educate our school children about the impact of microplastics in our marine ecosystem.
Zaloum says that rains due in the next week will likely bring another wave of rubbish from the river into the ocean.
Zaloum says SodaStream has funded the development of new prototype technology which is designed to clean plastic waste from open waters and is on standby in the Caribbean waiting for the next surge of plastic waste to wash downstream to the ocean.
Using a design inspired by oil spill containment systems, the 300 metre long floating device is connected to two boats. Dubbed the ‘Holy Turtle’ by its makers, it is towed by two marine vessels along kilometers of open waters. The contraption is uniquely engineered to capture floating waste while its large vent holes act to protect wildlife.
Zaloum says SodaStream’s Roatán initiative was inspired by a video filmed by Caroline Powers last year highlighting underwater photography of a floating trash patch off the Caribbean coast of Roatán.
Moved by the disturbing video, SodaStream CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, himself an experienced skipper and naval officer, lead a search for a solution to clean up this floating waste.
“We can’t clean up all the plastic waste on the planet, but we each need to do whatever we can. The most important thing is to commit ourselves to stop using single-use plastic,” he says.
The four-day mission to Honduras included participation of children from seven local schools who not only worked together with the company’s executives during the clean-up, but also received educational sessions from environmental experts to become ambassadors for the environment within their community.
“More than 8 million tons of plastic goes into the ocean every year. This plastic doesn't disappear. It breaks up into tiny particles, floats in the ocean, endangers marine life and ends up in our food chain”
“We must all put our hands together to reduce the use of single-use plastic and commit ourselves to changing our habits and go reusable,” says Birnbaum.
The plastic pollution collected by the new technology will be used to create an exhibition to raise awareness and educate consumers around the world toward reducing consumption of single use plastic in all forms including plastic cups, straws, bags and bottles.
High res images can be found here