This week is Clean Beaches Week, and here at Rubicon we are taking this as an opportunity to celebrate the approximately 372,000 miles of global coastline.
With that said, we’ve spoken at length in the past on the Rubicon blog about the dangers of aspirational recycling and recycling contamination, both of which are contributors to the inundation of our oceans with debris, largely in the form of single-use plastics. I noted recently that a 2015 report by the journal Science estimated that 5-13 million metric tons of plastic waste finds its way into our oceans every year, causing danger to marine wildlife and creating a serious problem for the entire marine ecosystem.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
There is a stretch of water between Hawaii and California called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that represents the largest collection of ocean plastic in existence. At last count, the Patch had grown to 1.6 million square kilometers in size—an area more than twice the size of the state of Texas.
According to data put together by The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization based out of the Netherlands, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest of five such Patches (referred to as “offshore plastic accumulation zones”) floating in our oceans.
The five largest offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s oceans © Copyright The Ocean Cleanup
The mass of plastic collected within the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to be approximately 80,000 tonnes, or the weight of 500 jumbo jets. This tonnage accounts for approximately 1.8 trillion plastic pieces, a count equivalent to 250 pieces of plastic for every human being on earth, with sizes ranging from microplastics 0.05-0.5 cm (0.02-0.2”) in size, to megaplastics, which accounts for any plastic debris longer than 50 cm (19.7”).
Clean Beaches Represent a Clean System
Why are we talking about our oceans on Clean Beaches Week? Simply put, clean beaches are a result of cleaner oceans and rivers. Much of the waste that finds its way into our oceans will eventually wash up on our beaches. They deserve better.
A global environmental movement has developed around the issue of plastic in the world’s oceans. Society is waking up to the harm caused to the health of our oceans and marine life from our over-reliance on single-use plastic material and the short term convenience they provide. Seemingly overnight, the ocean plastics issue has become a proxy for all that seems wrong with our current waste and recycling management system.
In order to keep our beaches clean, this Clean Beaches Week we need to look toward a future where we keep plastics and other recyclables out of our oceans and landfills.
If you have any questions for me or the rest of the Sustainability team about our circular economy initiatives here at Rubicon, please reach out to me any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Rachelson is Vice President of Sustainability at Rubicon. To stay ahead of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations around the world, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us today.