Archive for Disposal of Waste
We are pleased to announce that LMV Productions have been working on a 30 minute version of Plastic Shores especially for the classroom environment. The work would not have been possible without the help of South Wiltshire Agenda 21, who already have every secondary school in the county lined up to receive a DVD of the film. Plastic Shores is a documentary about the effects of plastic pollution on the world’s oceans and was launched in March 2012 at the United Nations. It has since been screened in 12 countries and translated into five languages (a sixth, Japanese, is pending). However, at 56 minutes, it was slightly too long for a classroom slot at the average school, particularly if the teacher wanted to galvanise some kind of debate on the subject of marine debris. Agenda 21, with the help of Barchester Green Investments, CPRE Wiltshire, and the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, sponsored the shortening of the film, which is nearing completion. It is hoped that we can get a copy to every school in the country! Stop back for more information shortly.
www.treehugger.com 3rd January 2012
The city of Concord (pop. 18,000) in the north-eastern state of Massachusetts in the US has become the first city to ban plastic water bottles. The ban, organised over the course of three years by 84 year-old resident Jean Hill, has been signed off by the state attorney general and applies to all water sold in a plastic bottle of 1 litre or less. It kicked into place on the 1st January. The first offence comes with a warning, the second a $25 fine and any after that a fine of $50. ”I hope other towns will follow,” Hill said. “I feel bottled water is a waste of money.” According to NBC News, the bottled water industry is considering a legal challenge. ”This ban deprives residents of the option to choose their choice of beverage and visitors, who come to this birthplace of American independence, a basic freedom gifted to them by the actions in this town more than 200 years ago,” the Virginia-based International Bottled Water Association stated, noting Concord’s place in U.S. history. “It will also deprive the town of needed tax revenue and harm local businesses that rely on bottled water sales.”
At the beginning of January, the Cayman Prep and High School in the Cayman Islands held a screening of ‘Plastic Shores‘ for marine science A-level students. Organised by Verity Redrup, who LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke met when he was based on the islands, the screening was part of a course aimed to raise greater awareness of the problems affecting the world’s oceans. Following the screening, several students (Emma Boyd-Moss, Victoria Tweedie, Aaron Mackay, Aaron Farrington, Tatiana Stewart and Nicola Sharringhausen, pictured above) went out and organised a cleanup of Smith Cove, and area regularly used for marine science lessons. The amount of marine debris they picked up was impressive and goes to show how much wider marine science should be taught in schools around the world.
This Sunday 13th January, ‘Plastic Shores‘ (our documentary on the effects of plastic pollution on the marine environment) will be screened at Hamburg’s Design Museum (Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe) as part of their ‘Plastic Garbage Project’. The screening will take the number of countries the film has been shown in to 10: Belgium, UK, France, Spain, Austria, USA, India, Australia, the Cayman Islands, and now Germany. With Portugal (a screening at the Zoomarine Algarve) and Taiwan to be added soon it looks like there will be a few more coming! It is fantastic that the topic of marine debris is being talked about on such a wide scale.
www.marketplace.org 28th December 2012
Quoted from source:
‘The British company Unilever announced this week that it will remove tiny plastic beads from its soap products by 2015. It’s Unilever’s latest move toward sustainability, and it might also be good business, according to analysts. The personal care industry calls these bits of plastic “microbeads.” “They range in size from almost microscopic so you can hardly see them to something a little bit bigger — maybe the size of a pinhead,” said Angela Griffiths, a research director with UL Environment. “They’re very, very small.” Companies like Unilever have increasingly used plastic beads in soaps to improve their exfoliating properties, Griffiths said. The problem is they go down the drain, sneak past water treatment plants, and end up in the ocean. Girffiths added: “There are a few studies out there that microbeads may be finding their way into the aquatic environment. So I think Unilever is taking the precautionary approach, and that’s a good thing.” Even some in the business world are praising the move. Pablo Zuanic follows Unilever for the U.K. investment bank Liberum Capital. “It makes good business sense,” he said. “And I think it’s good for the world.” The analyst said the microbeads announcement falls in line with a bigger strategy at Unilever, where an environmental message has become an important part of the marketing strategy. The company is hoping to influence its competition, Zuanic said. “They say if they achieve their sustainability targets, and no one else follows they will have failed,” he explained. “So their objective is that other organizations, nonprofits as well as the competition will eventually follow.” Plus, Zuanic said if Unilever is the leader on issues like this it may attract money from investment funds looking to back companies with sustainable business models.’
LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke has recently been in local news on the Cayman Islands in an article about plastic pollution. The 15th September was International Coastal Clean Up Day and volunteers in Cayman collected 98 garbage bags full of waste of just six miles of coastline. They weighed in at almost 700kg. Natasha Were from the Cayman Compass wrote an in-depth article on plastic pollution as a result and Ed is quoted describing the problem, which is on a global scale. LMV Productions last film, Plastic Shores, was partly filmed in Cayman and we managed to get a good feel for the problem of marine debris there. Unfortunately for the islands, a lot of the waste that washes up on Cayman beaches (for example, on North Shore as seen in the picture above) is from further East in the Caribbean, particularly from countries with less stringent waste disposal policies such as Haiti and Jamaica. Ed is currently on island hoping to put together a film promoting the beautiful marine environment there through eco-tourism.
‘Plastic Shores‘, our documentary on plastic pollution in the oceans, has recently been accepted for the Green Up Film Festival, the first online festival for the green economy. With backers such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN RIC (where we premiered Plastic Shores in March), Oxfam, and the International Polar Foundation, it looks to be a great success. There is a public vote on the films that have been entered so please take a few moments out of your day to vote for Plastic Shores. Our trailer is above and a short film featuring Megan Lamson and Stacey Breining of the Hawaii Wildlife Fund on Big Island is below, with animations from the talented Alice Dunseath. The whole film is available to view for free for the duration of the festival.
www.nytimes.com 15th October 2012
Quoted from source:
‘Sometime in the next few months, a single-engine Cessna will fly from Sydney to London. Converted to be able to carry extra amounts of fuel, the small plane will take 10 days for its journey, making 10 or so stops along the way. What will make this journey special is not the route or the identity of the pilot — a 41-year-old British insurance industry executive who lives in Australia — but the fuel that the aircraft will be using: diesel processed from discarded plastic trash. “I’m not some larger-than-life character, I’m just a normal bloke,” the pilot, Jeremy Rowsell, said by phone. “It’s not about me — the story is the fuel.”
The fuel in question will come from Cynar, a British company that has developed a technology that makes diesel out of so-called end-of-life plastics — material that cannot be reused and would otherwise end up in landfills. Batches of the fuel will be prepositioned along the 17,000-kilometer, or 10,500-mile, route. “The idea is to fly the whole route on plastic fuel alone and to prove that this technology works,” Mr. Rowsell said. “I’m a kind of carrier pigeon, carrying a message.” The message of the project is twofold: to highlight the issue of plastic pollution and to publicize the possibility of using plastic trash as a valuable fuel resource. As Mr. Rowsell put it: “We have a whole bunch of waste kicking about. So instead of sending it to the landfill, let’s use it.”
LMV was recently contacted by a newspaper in the Caribbean asking about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). For those of you who haven’t heard of this before the GPGP is an area of calm water within the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre where trash, particularly plastic, accumulates. People immediately presume, upon hearing this, that the GPGP is a floating island of plastic but this image is misleading. In reality, as Emily Penn from Pangaea Explorations described to us in our documentary ‘Plastic Shores‘, it would be hard to tell you were crossing the patch at all. The plastic breaks down into microplastics that float around in the water column. Furthermore, around 70% of plastic waste sinks causing unknown consequences on the seafloor. We have all heard of, however, the problems plastics cause to marine life (for example, the affects it has on the albatross populations on Midway Atoll).
The journalist from the Caribbean asked whether the GPGP was the only garbage patch in the world. This is a common misconception as the patch in the North Pacific is the one that has been studied most since its ‘discovery’ by Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Institute in 1997. In reality though, the truth is far more depressing. There are 11 gyres in the world’s oceans of which the five largest (in the North and South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Oceans) have documented garbage patches. Research into these patches can be found on the 5 Gyres website. However, plastic pollution is not limited to here, with the UN stating that there is not a beach in the world that is not contaminated by plastic pollution. Recently, plastic marine debris has been recorded in the Arctic.
Unfortunately, although there are many innovative ideas on how to collect marine plastics (such as the recent Drone 1-001-1), none are realistic. The areas of water we are talking about are gigantic and, although concentrations of plastic can be dense, the financial and logistical problems of trawling the surface water for plastic waste makes a solution hard to come by. So, right now, the best thing we can do as individuals is stop more plastic getting out there. We can do this very simply by reducing the amount we use, reusing what we do use, and recycling what we can’t reuse. These 3Rs are explained more thoroughly in Beth Terry’s ‘Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too’, sold on the Plastic Shores website.
www.independent.co.uk 21st September 2012
A recent poll put together by the “Break the Bag Habit” coalition has shown that 75% of adults would try to reduce their use of new plastic bags if there were a 5p charge on them. The poll of 1,752 English adults comes as statistics show disposable plastic bag use went up 5% last year, the second annual rise in a row, to 8 billion across the UK. However, in Wales where a 5p charge has already been introduced numbers have dropped significantly. Northern Ireland is about to bring its own levy and Scotland is consulting on doing the same. England, as yet, has no plans to follow suit although the poll shows 54% of those surveyed think the country should follow the rest of the UK. The “Break the Bag Habit” Coalition is a partnership of the Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewage, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Keep Britain Tidy set up to tackle the rising use of single-use bags. Plastic bags are a hazard in the environment and take a long time to break down. Large numbers find their way into the oceans where they become one of the more visible side of marine debris. Turtles, for example, can mistake them for jellyfish and then die from ingesting them.
A couple of weeks back LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke was offered the opportunity to interview Tanya Streeter, the women’s world record holder for “No Limits Apnea” diving. In August 2002, Tanya dived to a depth of 160 metres (525 feet) on one single breath of air, securing her the world freediving record. Although this depth has since been trumped by Herbert Nitsch (with a depth of 214m), Tanya still holds the women’s record.
More recently, Tanya has been working on ‘Plastic Oceans‘, a fantastic documentary due for release in 2013 about the problems of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. LMV had the pleasure of meeting and working with the Plastic Oceans team (minus Tanya unfortunately) in Hawaii during the 5th International Marine Debris Conference. We interviewed Tanya after filming for ‘Plastic Oceans’ was finished and she assured us it was not to be missed. Watch our interview in the link above and the trailer for ‘Plastic Oceans’ below.
One of the memorable bits about filming Plastic Shores was our visit to Big Island, Hawaii where we filmed the plastic pollution on Kamilo Beach. Two members of the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Megan Lamson and Stacey Breining, showed LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke around the coastline and explained how the problem was. Although this journey occupies a chunk of the full-length Plastic Shores, we liked it so much we thought we would put together a short film of it too, alongside the fantastic animations of Alice Dunseath. Find the video above.
www.bbc.co.uk 21st August 2012
Quoted from source:
‘Beach goers have been urged to take their rubbish home with them after 23 tonnes had to be collected off Brighton beach over the weekend. Brighton and Hove City Council said despite installing 60 extra litter bins the beachfront was left covered with rubbish. It has also employed 20 extra seasonal staff to cope with the increase in litter. Councillor Ollie Sykes said the the level of litter was “astonishing”. ”Last weekend [it] was wonderful that so many people came, but very depressing that the beaches looked so awful at the end of it,” he said. ”The beaches looked like landfill sites. They [the beach goers] wouldn’t do this to their own streets and their own back gardens.” He said the 23 tonnes figure only included litter left on the beach and not rubbish that had been placed in the bins. ”If someone leaves litter on the beach then other people do as well,” he added.’
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has organised the world’s first symposium dedicated to how animal welfare is affected by entanglement in marine debris. Arranged between the 4th to the 6th of December this year in Miami, Florida, the symposium differs from other marine debris conferences as it looks specifically at the problem from an animal welfare perspective. Marine debris, particularly plastic pollution, causes numerous problems in the world’s oceans, several of which cause the death of aquatic species. The UN has estimated that around 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds die every year because of entanglement and ingestion of marine debris, although accurate figures are impossible to calculate. A commonly cited example of how this happens is with turtles mistaking floating plastic bags for jellyfish. The bag then either suffocates the turtle, or causes its stomach to produce excessive amounts of digestive gases so that the creature ends up floating to the sea’s surface, unable to dive for food thereby dying of starvation.
www.guardian.co.uk 14th August 2012
The European Union has made radical changes to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, the world’s first comprehensive e-waste legislation introduced in 2003. The original legislation placed “producer responsibility” ‘on manufacturers that made them legally and financially responsible for the safe collection and disposal of old equipment’. However problems persisted with the export of e-waste to countries outside the EU for scrap. The updated directive ‘will impose a series of ambitious new e-waste recovery and recycling targets on the IT and electronics industry while also introducing stringent new penalties for companies and member states who fail to comply with the rules…new targets will require member states to collect 45 per cent of electronic equipment sold for approved recycling or disposal from 2016, rising to 65 per cent of equipment sold or 85 per cent of electronic waste generated by 2019, depending on which goal member states choose to adopt’. EU member states have until February 14 2014 to transcribe the new EU directive into their national e-waste laws.
It has now been several months since Plastic Shores, LMV’s film on plastic waste in the oceans, has been released and screenings continue to be organised around the world. Most of our most prominent showings have been at large inter-governmental and governmental organisations such as the UN, the European Commission, and the US House of Congress. However, increasingly we are now showing at educational and private events. Our screenings during August include the Annual Back2School Festival in St. Augustine, Florida (USA), The Clipperton Project at Glasgow Sculpture Studios (Scotland), and the 7th International Film Festival – Voices from the Waters (Bangalore, India). We hope that there will be many more to come!
A couple of days ago, LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke added his name to a letter sent to the editor of the Daily Telegraph by Greener Upon Thames, an environmental charity that hosted the first UK screening of Plastic Shores. The letter called for a reduction of plastic bags used during the 2012 Olympics and other signatories included Zac Goldsmith MP, Sir David Attenborough, Dame Vivienne Westwood, and Jeff Bridges. Already Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) has stated it will not use disposable plastic bags in its shops but there are many other stores that still need to follow suit.
www.tgdaily.com 16th July 2012
Quoted from source:
“Drones have been a hot topic in the media lately. Whether they’re for surveillance or combat, the idea of drones patrolling our airspace is one that’s not taken lightly by the public. As we struggle to work out the ethics and legalities of military drones, it’s important to remember that not all autonomous robots are designed for violence or espionage. Many of us enjoy the work of drones in our daily lives, like the Roomba vacuum, BUFO pool cleaner, or Bosch Indego autonomous lawn mower…The Marine Drone concept created by Elie Ahovi and his team of collaborators is a perfect example of a way drone technology can have a positive impact on our world. Unlike the drones that have been causing so much controversy, this robot is designed to operate underwater, and instead of seeking out enemy targets, it will search for and destroy something equally sinister–ocean garbage. Horrified by the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and its identical twins forming in oceans all over the world, Ahovi and his classmates from the French International School of Design decided to come up with a simple-yet-sophisticated solution. As this review points out, the Marine Drone would patrol the oceans autonomously, sucking plastic bottles and garbage into its maw like a butterfly net. Powered by water-proof batteries, the Drone would employ an electric motor to move silently through the water. Like these pollution-seeking robot fish, the Drone’s sonic emitter would send out an irritating signal to deter aquatic life, ensuring that only trash goes into the net. When it’s collection area is full of junk, the Drone would dock with a nearby mothership, where a crew would crane the garbage up for disposal.”
Guest editorial by Elizabeth Odegaard, University of Washington 1st June 2012
SEATTLE, Washington – Located in the eastern part of the state of Washington, near the city of Richland, is the Hanford facility. The 586 square miles that comprise Hanford make up the most contaminated and radioactive site in the western hemisphere. Hanford was built out of the Manhattan Project during the nuclear arms race in WWII as the ideal location for producing the plutonium for an atomic bomb. Making it an ideal site was its close proximity to the cooling waters of the Columbia River and its relative isolation from major cities. So, in 1942, families, farmers, and three Native American tribes were evicted from their own land to make room for the construction of the Hanford facility. Because of the extreme secrecy and security of the project, those that were evicted had no idea why, other than that it was in the name of “the war effort”. And the site itself was virtually impenetrable by anyone that didn’t work there. By 1944 plutonium production was underway at Hanford and in 1945 the atomic bomb containing plutonium from Hanford was dropped on Nagasaki. The effects of Hanford are global, not only in terms of the devastation caused by the atomic bomb, but because of the far-reaching implications of what is now one of the most radioactive and contaminated sites in the world. At the time the facility was built, the future implications that a nuclear processing plant would have on the environment were not considered, but current generations are now dealing with the consequences of the short-sighted decision. This area of Washington is currently home to fruit orchards, farm and agriculture land, and recreational sports and camping which means that contamination and radiation have direct effects on the health of the region.
The history of Hanford is rife with tension; political, economic, and surrounding the health and safety of people and the environment. Hanford is currently managed under the Tri-Party Agreement which includes the United States Department of Energy, The United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the Washington Department of Ecology. The tension and in-fighting over the distribution of money, and the power to make decisions, is endless. Coupled with the secrecy, distrust, and denial that has long been characteristic of Hanford, an effective clean-up process has so far been impossible. Each of these stake-holders is working toward different expectations of clean-up, under different budget constraints, and answering to different federal and state administrations. As a provision under the Tri-Party agreement, the Yakima nation represents the loudest Native American voice in the clean-up of Hanford but this has so far done little to truly further clean-up and speak for their specific rights. Many people, within each of these organizations, would agree that because of conflicting ideas of clean-up and pressures from outside forces, true collaboration is more or less impossible to achieve.
Plutonium production at Hanford continued until 1989 when the era of clean-up began. However, the challenge of clean-up is staggering. So far, only 2% of the radioactivity at Hanford has been immobilized. One of the biggest challenges is the 53 million gallons of nuclear waste stored in 177 underground tanks. A third of these tanks have leaked more than one million gallons of radioactive waste into the soil and groundwater that feeds into the Columbia River, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest. The method of “disposal” used so far at Hanford includes the dumping of waste into miles of poorly designed trenches on the site. The future of waste management at Hanford looks to the operation of a Vitrification Plant that will immobilize the waste in the form of glass, encapsulating it in a secure cylinder that can then be ‘safely’ stored. However, the design and construction of the plant has been inefficient, slow-going, and expensive, and won’t even begin operations for what is estimated to be at least another ten years. Hanford is now the most expensive clean-up program and the largest public works project in the United States.
Plutonium is a man-made element with a half-life of over 24,000 years. This means that once it enters the body, through inhalation, consumption of contaminated food/water, or exposure to the skin, it doesn’t leave. The radioactive waste produced during the processing of plutonium is extremely dangerous, as plutonium is not only a carcinogen but also a mutagenic, it poses a serious health risk with long-term consequences for generations to come. In addition to the plutonium waste, other toxic chemicals, like chromium, tritium, uranium, strontium-90, and tetrachloride, have already contaminated the groundwater at Hanford, and threaten the Columbia River. Workers at Hanford, during both production and clean-up, as well as those living ‘down-wind’ from the facility, and people who use the Columbia River for recreational purposes, all face the continued dangers of potential exposure or contamination by an endless list of toxic chemicals. There are countless cases of people with cancers, thyroid diseases, and other illnesses because of radiation exposure or chemical contamination at Hanford.
Safe levels of radiation and chemical exposure are based on a “reference man” a statistical starting point that realistically only represents a small portion of the population; and the portion least at risk because it is based on a healthy, young, white male. Children have at least a three times greater risk of cancer than adults, and women are more vulnerable than men. The federal standard of ‘safe exposure’ from the Department of Energy is the least stringent and allows for 3 deaths out of every 10,000 people due to radiation exposure. The Washington State standard is 1 death per 100,000 people. These competing standards further reflect the challenge of collaboration and the problem of disjointed leadership perspectives at Hanford.
Hanford, though in many ways seemingly isolated from the rest of the world, has the potential to continue to have relatively unseen, but far-reaching effects. An earthquake or a chemical reaction at the facility has the potential to cause a massive radiation release, contaminating the air and waters of the Columbia River. As the biggest river in the Pacific Northwest, contamination of the Columbia would easily impact the Pacific Ocean and the marine and human life that relies on it for survival. Through the bio-accumulation of contamination, would likely perpetuate the exposure to humans and animals over great distances. Already, the river water along the shore of the facility has been tested and shown to have contaminants at levels greater than 1,500 times the drinking water standard. This poses a major threat to the health of the people and animals in contact with the river. This means that effective and thorough clean-up is necessary in order to prevent even more contamination in the future.
Though there is much contention surrounding Hanford, everyone can agree that it needs to be cleaned up; the disagreement is as to how that should be done. Hanford was built behind curtains of secrecy and justified with a vehement sense of patriotism. These qualities have made it extremely difficult to enact changes in clean-up policy and standards of health and safety as Whistleblowers are harassed and treated vilely; and the “good ol’ boy’s” club makes it virtually impossible to speak out against the ‘way things are’ at Hanford. The political willpower of the 1940’s that built Hanford, and constructed nuclear weapons, stands in great contrast to the current apathy and lack of collaboration on the part of the federal and state government and the stake holders there. Many organizations are working hard toward a collaborative clean-up effort with federal and state programs, and give voices to those that are affected by Hanford.
If you would like to learn more about Hanford and the clean-up effort please explore some of the resources below.
Hanford Challenge: A non-profit organization working on a collaborative clean-up of Hanford
The United States Department of Ecology: One of the Tri-Party stake holders
Physicians for Social Responsibility: A non-profit organization working on environmental and social concerns related to Hanford
Heart of America Northwest: A citizen’s group that works in pursuit of Hanford clean-up
www.latimes.com 24th May 2012
Los Angeles, California, became the largest city in the USA to ban single-use plastic bags at supermarket checkouts. In a city that has previously used 12 billion plastic bags a year (with only 5% of these being recycled), the decision the City Council is a huge victory for environmental campaigners trying to combat plastic pollution in the region’s landfills, waterways and ocean. The Council voted 13 to 1 to phase out bags over the next 16 months in the city’s 7,500 stores. California leads the way in the country with plastic bag bans. San Francisco was the first in 2007 and since then San Jose, Santa Monica, and Long Beach have all jumped on the wagon. The bans vary in wording with some silent on the contentious issue of paper bags (a long-held argument of plastic-bag manufacturers is that plastic bags reduce the amount of trees needed for paper bags) although the LA City Council has stipulated there should be a charge of 10c per paper bag. This, according to Jennie R. Romer of plasticbaglaws.org, has resulted in a 94% reduction of their use (a similar figure to the drop experienced in Rep. of Ireland when the country introduced a fee on plastic bags). Oakland, next to San Francisco, had less success with their ban after they were successfully sued because of it. It will however be included in Alameda County’s ban starting next year.
Because of the limited budget we had for ‘Plastic Shores‘, it was very difficult for us to attain footage of animals being affected by plastic pollution. For several examples, we had to make do with photographs kindly provided by photographers posting on the Marine Photobank (e.g.: see the picture below of a dead albatross by Claire Fackler). However, some of most shocking footage was provided by Paul Nicholas from Christmas Island, Australia. We first saw Paul’s footage of turtle hatchlings making their way across plastic debris on Great Beach from Tim Silverwood, founder of the Australian NGO Take 3.
Paul replied pretty much as soon as we got in contact with him. He very kindly said we could use his footage for free and it sets the tone for the horrible ways marine debris can disrupt the normal lives of aquatic creatures. We cannot thank Paul enough for his charitable contribution to Plastic Shores. Most of the plastics that wash up on Christmas Island do not originate in Australia but from the northern countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and those around the Indian Ocean and are perfect examples of how one country’s waste can affect others a long distance away. We wish Mr Nicholas all the best in promoting this important issue.
The idea of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and along its shorelines doesn’t exactly conjure up the most beautiful of images. As Alice Dunseath proved though, through animation, it can be made visually appealing. However, we also needed to create a visual identity around our film Plastic Shores, one that could be used in promoting it as well as defining its graphic structure. Our music writer, Howard Tamarisk (who blog entry is to come), suggested we get in touch with Patrick Fry to do this and his advice did not let us down. Just like with Alice, Patrick had the difficult task of creating a set of graphics that represented plastic pollution in an appealing way. The minimalist design he came up with perfectly suited what we were looking for and it went on to be used in everything from the film’s poster to the font used in the interviewees’ title banners to the invitations for various screenings (above). In our opinion the small icons together with the smooth, almost childlike font represented the simplicity and mass productivity of industrial plastic manufacture. When these icons are seen floating around in water (below), their obvious man-made quality makes them alien looking.
Patrick also teamed up with Arnau Millet, another animator, to create an animation sequence that describes the effects of plastic chemicals on the human body. We didn’t want anything too repulsive for this and the two of them put together another creatively simple design that clearly outlined what internal organs were affected by chemicals like BPA, phthalates, and PCB (see below).
When LMV first arrived in the USA to start filming for Plastic Shores in March 2011, the first thing we did was attend the San Francisco Green Film Festival. It was a great event, which held the premier of Bag It, a film very similar to Plastic Shores in theme but done in a very different way. In fact, several interviewees in Bag It are also in our film such as Professor Fred vom Saal and Andy Keller. We met Andy (above on board with 5 Gyres) for the first time at the festival. He runs a company called ChicoBag, based in the nearby city of Chico, which makes innovative reusable bags made out of recycled plastic (below). Andy came up with the idea on a trip to his local landfill where he saw multitudes of single-use plastic bags flying around in the wind. ChicoBag now sells in over 80 different countries, including the UK.
Andy Keller was actually the first interview we held for Plastic Shores, underneath the Coit Tower in central San Francisco. He brought along another one of his creations, the Bag Monster, which was made to raise awareness of the amount of plastic bags US citizens use. It consists of 500 bags, the amount an average American uses in a year, tied to a jumpsuit creating a hilarious monster outfit (below) that is toured around the US in a herd. Andy was kind enough to give LMV one to take back to the UK. We hope to bring it out (and maybe make more) for one of our big public showings.
“People get it and they’re like ‘oh’,” said Andy. “Most people don’t keep their bags long enough to know how many bags they actually use in a year so this is a very awakening moment for most people when they see what a bag monster looks like. And to realise that maybe they are actually a bag monster themselves.” On several occasions Andy has managed to gather hundreds of Bag Monsters together to campaign for plastic bag reductions, which has made him somewhat of a target to large corporate bodies with vested interests in the disposable plastic industry.
Andy donated some fantastic footage to Plastic Shores, which features in the section about reducing our use of disposable plastics, and we can’t thank him enough for his help.
Plastic Shores is based across the USA and the UK but there were two main beaches we explored for plastic pollution. The first was Kamilo Point in Hawaii, where we were taken around by the Hawaii Wildlife Fund. The second was Porthtowan in Cornwall (above). Both these shorelines provided the small pieces of plastic used in the animation sequences put together by Alice Dunseath for the film.
We found out about Porthtowan through Chris Hines MBE, the founder of UK-based charity called Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), who Plastic Shores’ director Ed Scott-Clarke met at a lecture hosted by Selfridge’s department store for their Project Ocean campaign. Chris (above) was one of the interviewees for the film and told us all about SAS’s work in almost single-handedly changing the way the UK and the EU think about sewage. In Chris’ words though, “What we dealt with was the continuous crude raw discharges that had been inherited from Victorian times. And those are gone now…then, all those panty-liners and condoms that we used to see, and we saw a lot of them, they have been replaced by an ever-increasing amount of marine debris, marine litter. All kinds of pieces of plastic from plastic bags, to sheets of plastic, to broken down pieces of plastic bottles, to mermaid’s tears. And I’ve been seeing more and more of it.”
Chris put us in touch with his former colleagues (he has now left SAS and set up a new organisation called A Grain of Sand) at the SAS HQ in St. Agnes, Cornwall, including Andy Cummins (above, right). Andy, also an interviewee in Plastic Shores, took us down to Porthtowan beach, a beautiful spot near Truro. What was amazing about the beach was that, unless you were looking very closely, the majority of the plastic pollution was almost invisible to the eye. When we leant down close though, we could see that there were an infinite amount of small pieces of plastic in the sand. Andy explained about the ‘Blue Flag’ initiative put together by the Foundation for Environmental Education. “To get a Blue Flag…you go to the dirtiest part of the beach and you pick a 10cm by 10cm area…and there shouldn’t be 10 pieces of small plastic in there.” In the area Andy chose on Porthtowan, by far not the worst spot on the beach, he counted almost a 100 pieces. “The scale of this litter is phenomenal,” he said shaking his head.
Surfers Against Sewage does fantastic work around the UK in raising awareness for the state of our coastlines and waterways. With their previous successes in tackling sewage discharges by taking on EU legislation and tackling the big water corporations, one can’t help but feel optimistic that they are now fighting to clear our seas of plastic pollution. We thank them for all the help they have given us.
The problem of marine debris first entered the public consciousness in the USA, when Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation sailed across the North Pacific Garbage Patch in the 1990s. Since then, most research on the phenomena of garbage patches have taken place in the North Pacific (although organisations such as 5 Gyres, to be written about next, are researching other gyres in the world). Right in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as it is known, sits Hawaii, the southernmost and westernmost state of the US. It was here that the 5th International Marine Debris Conference took place, where LMV filmed in March 2011.
After the conference, LMV flew to the largest Hawaiian island, Big Island, to film what is commonly thought of as one of the world’s worst shorelines for plastic pollution, Kamilo Beach. We had met the Hawaii Wildlife Fund‘s Megan Lamson at the 5IMDC and she kindly organised for us to go to Kamilo with herself and another HWF member Stacey Breining. Kamilo is a stretch of coastline on the southeast corner of Big Island and its beaches receive a lot of plastic debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Prior to our trip down there, we interviewed Noni Sanford (pictured above), a beach cleanup volunteer who was among the first to start picking up the debris from the beach in the mid 80s. She said she was shocked about the amount of trash there was compared to the pristine coasts of when she first went down there in the 1950s. ‘It was 8-10ft deep in spots. We’d bring home some stuff but there was such a small amount of stuff we could pick up, it was really kind of defeating.’
When LMV went down to Kamilo with Megan and Stacey, thankfully, it wasn’t as bad, but that is solely down to the hard work of people like Noni and the HWF. What was shocking was the amount of micro-plastics in the sand. Megan explained that the average size of the plastic on the beach was decreasing over time, mostly due to frequent beach cleanups. But the smaller the pieces the harder they are to pick up. The HWF had devised a sieve-like flotation device that filtered the micro-plastics out of the sand. It was a long process though and it showed the dedication of the HWF team in protecting their shores. The problem was what to do with the plastic they took away with them. ‘We take the derelict fishing nets to the Waimea Transfer Station…until we have enough to fill up a 40ft maxi-container. They then ship it to Oahu, to H-Power plant where they burn it for electricity.’ Explained Stacey. ‘And then all the other trash goes to landfill. Unfortunately there isn’t any other option for us.’
The scale of the plastic pollution at Kamilo was vast and thanks to Megan and Stacey from the HWF we managed to collect some fascinating footage of just how extensive the problem of marine debris is in Hawaii. It is a pivotal sequence in Plastic Shores and the film would be lacking without it. We wish them every success in the future.
Continuing with our theme in the run up to the launch of Plastic Shores on the 4th May, next up is the truly incredible work of Alice Dunseath at Voodoodog Productions. There are some phenomena when talking about marine debris that are very hard to explain visually. We knew this at LMV when we started production so we asked around for a good animator. We got it in the form of Alice. Our remit was a difficult one. We needed animations that described how the major currents of the world’s oceans worked, how plastic circulated in those currents, and how this plastic entered the food chain. Not happy to make things simple, we also asked if this could be done using micro-plastics we collected on the beaches of Hawaii and Cornwall. The stop-frame animation Alice came up with was beyond what we could have possible imagined and forms, we think, the central point to the entire film (see some of the stills from the animation sequences below). In fact, it is so good we plan to make it into its own short film to release at film festivals. Although we feel slightly bad for the interns at Voodoodog whose task it was to separate the micro-plastics into different colours, the work Alice and the rest of the team put into creating the sequences ensures that they will be our first port of call for our next film (details not being released quite yet!).
In the run up to the main launch of Plastic Shores in London on the 4th May, we wanted to write a little about the various organisations that have helped us out along the way. One group that doesn’t actually feature directly in the film but were instrumental in securing us most of our footage of landfill and recycling centres is the Carymoor Environmental Trust. LMV was put in touch with Juliet Lawn at the Trust through a mutual friend and we were introduced to representatives of Viridor, who own and run the nearby Dimmer landfill site. Carymoor are an environmental education and nature conservation charity who have established over 100 acres of diverse habitats over capped landfill in east Somerset. This gives schools and community groups a unique opportunity to study what happens to our waste and how we can manage it after it has been disposed of, particularly in relation to land restoration. In some of the habitat areas the Trust had set up, it was almost impossible to tell the bustling life of flora and fauna (see below) hid beneath them 26 metres of rubbish. Carymoor operates out of a beautiful sustainably built eco-centre (pictured above) that generates most of its energy through solar and wind. A grey water unit also ensures much of the water from the building is reused. It was through Juliet that LMV was given permission by Viridor to film the Dimmer Landfill Site, which features prominently in Plastic Shores. Viridor then went on to allow us to visit and film their recycling factory in Ford, West Sussex.
Interestingly, a recent BBC article in March of this year states that since introducing entry fees, Somerset landfill sites have experienced half a million fewer visits since April 2011 than normal. However, there has appeared to be a rise in the number of reported cases of fly-tipping in the same period.
LMV have just been asked to show Plastic Shores at the United Nations Information Service in Vienna on the 11th June (offices shown above). Although we are holding off organising too many showings of our film, a documentary about the effects of plastic pollution on the marine environment, until after our launch towards the end of April, we have happily agreed. The film was kindly passed on by the UN RIC after a successful showing in Brussels on the 22nd March for World Water Day. More details are to follow.