In 11 research expeditions sailing around the world we’ve discovered that 25% of the planet’s surface, largely in the oceans, is covered with a thin film of microplastic waste. Many places on the planet, from isolated beaches to over-populated slums, are awash in plastic pollution. Production and consumption without a plan for recovery is the reason for this mess, and we all recognize that producer responsibilty is the way out.
JUNK raft, made from 15,000 plastic bottles and a Cessina airplane, drifted 2,600 miles in 88 days from California to Hawaii to bring attention to the plague of plastic in the world’s oceans. Visit junkraft.com for more information. Video 1 Video 2
On August 20, 2003 the Bottle Rocket launched from Lake Itasca, Minnesota for a 2000-mile voyage to the Gulf of Mexico. I was making good on a promise I made while sitting in a foxhole near Kuwait City, covered with oil, during the Persian Gulf War. “If we survive this war let’s build a raft like Tom and Huck.” Twelve years later I made good on the promise, 5 months down the Mississippi River on a raft made from 232 2-liter plastic bottles, 1 car seat and two bicycles. Video
In early 2005 the idea to cross the Pacific Ocean on a raft of plastic bottles began to take place. With the help of students from the Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, California, we collected 800 2-liter bottles and made two aluminum pontoons. The boat launched in Santa Barbara and traveled 250 miles along the coast to San Diego. During this voyage, a plastic bottle rafting expedition across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii was decided.
Easter Island Washed Ashore
We organized an expedition to Easter Island from Chile, and found a garbage patch between them. Anna and I walked Anakena Beach on the windward side of Easter Island and collected thousands of fragments of plastic pollution, many brown and discolored by the pollutants they absorb as they cross oceans. Anna is pregnant with our child. Just last year she had her blood tested for synthetic chemicals and found DDT, PCBs, PBDE’s and other man-made hydrocarbons in her body, which she can get rid off through birth and breastfeeding. It’s an appalling legacy. This sculpture is that plastic melted into a mold of her.
1000 Starbucks Plastic Stir Sticks
I only know Brennan in coffee shops, which is where we see each other when he’s in LA or I’m in Portland. He’s a software engineer that built the 5 Gyres website, designing all the swirling trash you see in the sea. He’s teaches me examples of social entrepreneurship he finds on line, and smart design ideas that are game changers. “We can redesign our way out of this, just like we designed our way into it,” he says. The last time he was in LA I made a mold of his profile and cast it with green plastic coffee stir sticks. Thousands of coffee shops multiplied by millions of customers each day, billions of cups of coffee, and if a <1% trickle meets the ocean through waste washing through our watersheds, then it becomes a significant contributor to ocean pollution. A better way exists – a wooden stick, swirl your cup around or use your finger.