Inquiries into “Seabird Study Shows Spike in Plastic Ocean Litter”

July 18, 2012

Heyo!

Have you heard about this seabird study that “shows spike in plastic ocean debris?” Check out the Plastics News coverage here.

Intrigued by the statements in the article, specifically that “the new data indicates a substantial increase in plastic pollution over the past few decades,” I reached out to my friends at the Ocean Conservancy: I participated in an Ocean Conservancy panel at a former Sustainable Packaging Coalition meeting, which described the “2012 Trash Index;” it was here that I learned that while plastic production has increased dramatically the last several decades, the amount of plastic ocean debris has remained constant (Giora Proskurowski, http://sciencereview.berkeley.edu/plastic-its-whats-for-dinner/). This implies the majority of plastic ocean debris is the result of unregulated ocean dumping (made illegal in the early 1990s) as opposed to irresponsible disposal or industry management. Phew!

Because the statements in this article were not congruent with my understanding of plastic ocean debris as per the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Index, I seek clarification. To those regards, check out my email below to several contacts at the Ocean Conservancy:

Hello,

My name is Chandler Slavin–we met briefly at a previous SPC/SPF conference after a panel discussion dedicated to describing the Ocean Conservancy’s “2012 Trash Index” (http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/assets/pdf/oti_final.pdf). I hope this email finds you well!

I am writing today in hopes you will share your thoughts re: Stephanie Avery-Gomm’s recently released report, “Northern fulmars as biological monitors of trends of plastic pollution in the eastern North Pacific.” While I haven’t read the report in its entirety, I was able to view the abstract, from which it appears as though most reporters derived their assumptions (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X12001828). After familiarizing myself with the Ocean Conservancy’s “Trash Index” and Giora Proskurowski’s findings that while the production of plastic production has increased, the amount of plastic ocean debris has not, I am at odds with the following assumption published in Plastics News: “Northern fulmars have been used to study pollution since the 1980s. The new data indicate a substantial increase in plastic pollution over the past few decades, according to the report” (http://www.plasticsnews.com/headlines2.html?channel=195&id=25904&sust_id=1342065600). 

Does this report, and its findings, indicate an increase in plastics debris in the ocean?

I really appreciate your time and consideration in these regards. 

Best, 

Chandler

Stay tuned! 

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