Richard V. Anthony
Zero Waste, United States of America, Albatross Coalition

When will the weight of all fish in the ocean equal the weight of plastic discards in the ocean? These plastic discards in the water impacts birds and sea life around the world.

Just as the canary in the coal mine forewarns of danger, the Laysan or Pacific Albatross provides a way to measure the impact of plastics in the ocean. Known as the sailor’s companion, this once ubiquitous bird is threatened to extinction because of the unintended consequences of our discards that look like food but are not.

The cultural change needed to reverse this trend is to focus the public’s attention to the unintended consequences of single use non-recyclable plastic packages, containers, and products. The plight of the Albatross due to the large amount of plastic debris washing up on Midway Atoll and the Northwest Hawaiian Islands is somewhat like an oil spill. The flow must be stopped, and the residual must be removed.

The Save the Albatross (albatrosscoalition.org) Campaign objective is to motivate identified producers to pay for plastic cleanup on Midway and other US Pacific Islands which are nesting areas for the Laysan and Black-footed Albatross. Bottle caps are one of the most frequent plastic items found in coastal clean ups. There is need to bring the producers these products and packages to the World table to draft Zero Waste responsibility plans for proper management of discarded plastic via redesign for recyclability, buy back purchasing opportunities (closed circle), and recovery campaigns for vagrant plastics on land and sea.

The paper discusses the science and the campaign which includes legislative action to force the redesign to leash the lid, a law suit to fund the cleanup and a public education campaign that includes returning the caps found in costal cleanups back to the producer.

The Pacific Albatross roosts in the middle of the Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Albatross roosts in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on islands of the Midway
Atoll. This Bird is one of the largest and can fly around the artic circle without stopping.
They dive for shrimp and krill.

there is No real data to characterize the quantity of specific plastic products that are ending up in the ocean

While marine debris data reports extensively on the quantity of plastic ending up in the
ocean, there is No real data to characterize the quantity of specific plastic products that
are ending up in the ocean. We don’t know what are the most prevalent human made
plastic products ending up in the ocean. What we do have is nearly 40 years’ worth of
International Coastal Cleanup Data. Bottlecaps and lids are number five on the list of most
often found items.

The Albatross sometime mistake plastic items in the Ocean to be food

The Albatross sometime mistake plastic items in the Ocean to be food. Caps and lids
meet the visual criteria from the air. The Bird cannot pass these items and dies

Bottle caps and lids are found on most beach cleanup sorts.

Bottle caps and lids are found on most beach cleanup sorts.

70-80% of the trash in the oceans is plastic and most of it comes from landbased sources

Leash the Lid campaign is one small step in the list of strategies needed to fight the
tsunami of plastics entering the ocean.

Why is this important?

Because 70-80% of the trash in the oceans is plastic and most of it comes from landbased sources, like trash in urban runoff.
A lot of plastic is entering the marine environment, conservative estimates range from 5-8 million tons of plastic entering oceans each year.

As plastics enter the marine environment, they degrade into smaller and smaller pieces.
So the problem starts out as a macro-plastic issue, but as plastics accumulate and
degrade from photo-degradation and wind and currents causing break-down, they
become micro plastics. UNEP estimates there are nearly 51 trillion pieces of plastic
debris in the world’s oceans today.

Plastics are present throughout the water’s surface, in the water column, and in the
seafloor, They are present in all shapes and sizes.

Therefore they impact all kinds of marine life- 700 species documented. Including- the
filter feeders, like jellyfish and mollusks and baleen whales, marine mammals fish and
others that mistake them for food or become entangled in them.

The sperm whale found in Norway had 20 plastic bags in its stomach. This is not
uncommon.

Seabirds are heavily impacted. 90% of all seabirds have ingested marine plastic

Seabirds are heavily impacted. 90% of all seabirds have ingested marine plastic (Wilcox
et al- Threat of plastic pollution to seabirds)

Recent research provides a clue as to why seabirds are so heavily impacted. Turn out
that Petrels, shearwaters, and albatrosses who spend most of their lives gliding above
the ocean, find their food by sniffing out a sulfur compound called dimethyl sulfide, or
DMS. When krill and small fish munch on algae, DMS is released—acting as a sort of
scent alarm for the birds.

The smell triggers their instinct to forage on ocean animals near the surface. What the
researchers found was that DMS-emitting algae grows on the bits of plastic debris, and
through the course of natural wave movements, it is emitting and mimicking the scent
birds seek out to identify food.

Attracted by the smell, they eat the plastic.

While scientists are conservative and have a hard time proving how much plastic
ingestion is contributing to seabird mortality, seabird populations declined by 67% from
1950 to 2010 (in 60 years). Plastic pollution is certainly a contributing factor.

Proposed Assembly Bill (Stone) Leash the Lid requires the cap to be attached to the beverage or bottle

The first step is to request the manufactures to leash the lid. The second step is to
educate the public as to the problem. Proposed Assembly Bill (Stone) Leash the Lid
requires the cap to be attached to the beverage or bottle. Legislation is part of the
educational process. The inability to get legislation passed due to industry lobbyists will
lead to social media actions and consumer boycotts.

Our goal...

Our goal for ZWIA is to network Zero Waste advocates in an international community that can act on product and packaging policies and discarded material management through sharing and mentoring. Our power, as consumers, is that if we don’t buy the products, manufacturers must change or suffer the loss of customers. Our power as advocates and professionals is that we can show what is possible.

As we always say if you are not for Zero Waste, how much waste are you for?

Take care and be safe.