How can you help?

I have been asked by quite a few people what can they do to help.

If you are in a position to donate or know of anyone (or a company) that has prizes that might be appropriate for the fundraiser that would be great.  You can leave a message here or contact me on tlread  @  gmail.com

If you would like to help out on the fundraiser night on the 21st that would also be very much appreciated.  I am needing some stage hands to help run the fashion show as well as help out with the raffle and auction.

As for donating cash, that gets tricky.  The online charity systems and PayPal do not support payments for an event like this.  It is different because I had to pay for all the costs up front to the non-profit organisation (Algalita) and normally all payments through donating sites are sent directly to the charity not the fundraiser.

If you want to get together and have a bake sale or other creative event that would be fab!  The more awareness that is raised about this plastic pollution problem the better!

Otherwise, the easiest thing to do is come along to the fundraiser with all your friends 🙂

Thank you!

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Why?

When I have explained to people what I will be doing there is usually one of two responses.  Wow!  That sounds so awesome, what an incredible life changing opportunity! or Why on earth would you want to do that?

There are actually quite a few reasons I want to go.

Over the last 7 years of living on a beach in HK it has become painfully obvious that there is a serious problem in our sea.  Everyday I see evidence of this and it worries me a lot.  I have the opportunity here in HK to do something about this problem.  Yes it is a global issue of significance but I truly believe that I can do my own small part.  Through DB Green (www.dbgreen.org), Discovery Bay’s fabulous environmental group, I have been speaking in schools to kids of all ages about this issue and what each of us can do to make changes in our lives.  In these talks I show photographs of trawl samples from the plastic soup, mammals, fish and birds that have been affected by marine debris and speak about an area I haven’t been to.  I want to go and see it for myself, learn as much as I can from the experts and bring back actual samples of this area and continue to alert people to what we are creating with our disposable and wasteful lives.  HK needs to wake up.  Our throwaway lifestyle is not sustainable.

I also want to see what it is like to live for a month without a mobile phone constantly in reach and to lie on the deck of the boat at night and see nothing but a bazillion stars.

Questions & Answers

I have been asked quite a few questions about the voyage in the last couple of months so I thought I would add them here in case other people wanted to know the same thing.

What is the plastic vortex?

Over to you wiki …  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a gyre of marine litter in the central North Pacific Ocean.  The patch extends over an indeterminate area, with estimates ranging very widely depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to define the affected area.

The Patch is characterized by exceptionally high concentrations of pelagic plastics (that is, near the surface of the ocean), chemical sludge, and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.   Despite its size and density, the patch is not visible from satellite photography, since it consists primarily of suspended particulates in the upper water column. Since plastics break down to ever smaller polymers, concentrations of submerged particles are not visible from space, nor do they appear as a continuous debris field. Instead, the patch is defined as an area in which the mass of plastic debris in the upper water column is significantly higher than average (although what is average??).

If you jump or fall in the water in the plastic vortex will you be able to get out or will you be sucked under?

The plastic vortex isn’t like a plughole in the middle of the ocean with fast moving swirling currents.  The nature of the gyre is that the water is very slow moving and this is what causes the plastic and debris to become trapped in these areas.  Therefore I won’t be sucked under and I will be able to get back onto the boat fairly easily.

I heard the garbage patch is twice the size of Texas or Continental US?

There are 2 gyres in the Pacific ocean (Eastern & Western) that are in constant movement.  The size of the plastic patches is unknown, as large items readily visible from a boat deck are uncommon. Most debris consists of small plastic particles suspended at or just below the surface. Instead, the size of the patch is determined by sampling. Estimates of size range from 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) to more than 15,000,000 square kilometres (5,800,000 sq mi) (0.41% to 8.1% of the size of the Pacific Ocean).  But we shouldn’t get too hung up on size – does it matter? The fact that there is such a huge amount of plastic (estimates of 100 million tonnes!) is what really counts.

Can you walk on it?

No. Unless you can walk on water or soup as the case may be.  The patch is mostly made up of confetti like pieces of plastic.

Are you going to clean up the great Pacific garbage patch?

We will be removing plastic from trawl samples and retrieving some surface debris but the goal of the expedition is not to do a cleanup operation.  There are people researching ways in which it may be possible to in the future but with the size of the area and the nature of the small pieces it is an almost impossible task.

Where does all the plastic come from?

Most of the plastic comes from land based activities.  In the past it was accepted that Marine vessels would dump all their waste at sea but there are stricter guidelines and laws now.  What we do on land has the biggest impact on the rubbish that enters our oceans.

Will the tsunami debris be radioactive?

No it won’t be radioactive as the Fukushima meltdown happened after the tsunami washed the debris out to sea.  There are concerns though that other hazardous waste will be found from laboratories, factories and the like that were completely washed out to sea.

The voyage facts …

The Sea Dragon will be departing from Tokyo on May 30th and sailing east towards Hawaii arriving on the stunning island of Maui on July 1st.

The Sea Dragon team will arc northeast to the Japanese Tsunami Debris Field.  Estimates of tens of thousands of tons of debris washed away from the coastline of Japan on March 11th, 2011 after an earthquake occurred offshore, resulting in the worst tsunami on record in that country. The material infrastructure in a developed country was carried out to sea, including cars, boats, homes and also many victims. One year later we will expect to find the field of floating debris to be half-way across the North Pacific Ocean.   Knowing the precise origin and date of the disaster, will enable studies on how materials degrade, persist and transport invasive organisms in the marine environment.

We will be searching for large debris from the tsunami, but also skimming the ocean surface to better understand the quantity and distribution of plastic pollution throughout the North Pacific Gyre

The goals of the expedition are to study the effects of plastic pollution and marine debris relative to:

  • providing habitat for marine life and its ability to transport invasive species from one continent to another;
  • rates of decomposition of debris;
  • colonization of marine life on, and into, different materials;
  • educating students through the Algalita Ship-2-Shore blog; and
  • spatial distribution of debris along the entire voyage transect

Four organizations; 5 Gyres Institute, Pangaea Explorations, Algalita Marine Research Foundation and the University of Hawaii, will collaborate to travel over 7,000 miles to study the impacts of plastic pollution and tsunami debris in the marine environment.

 A total of 13 people will be on board the ship including four professional crewmembers.  There are participants from Australia, Great Britain, Brazil, Switzerland, the United States and of course Hong Kong.   I will earn my sea legs and rough hands hauling in lines and hoisting sails.  I will have the opportunity to be doing research side-by-side with scientists, taking part in all aspects of the expedition from operating a trawl to collect micro-plastic bits to hauling aboard larger items from the tsunami.  Oh and helping with the cooking & cleaning too!

Um, what is recycled trashion?

Wiki …

Trashion (a portmanteau of “trash” and “fashion”) is a term for art, jewelry, fashion and objects for the home created from used, thrown-out, found and repurposed elements. The term was first coined in New Zealand in 2004 and gained in usage through 2005.

Initially trashion was used to describe art-couture costume usually linked to contests or fashion shows; however, as recycling and ‘green’ fashion become more prevalent, trashion has taken a turn for the more wearable. The term is now widely used in creative circles to describe any wearable item or accessory that is constructed using all or part materials that have been recycled, including clothing that has been thrifted and reconditioned.

Philosophy

Trashion is a philosophy and an ethic encompassing environmentalism and innovation. Making traditional objects out of recycled materials can be trashion, as can making avant-garde fashion from cast-offs or junk. It springs from a desire to make the best use of limited resources. Trashion is similar to upcycling and refashion, although it began with specific fashion aspirations. Like upcycling, trashion generates items that are valued again, but these may be low-cost or high-cost, perhaps depending on the skill of the artist.

Here is a fab link to get your creative juices flowing …

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJbEhmKmhrU

Beach Cleanups

What is the point of cleaning up the rubbish when it is only going to come back on the next tide?

That question has been asked quite often over the years.  And I agree it is frustrating and depressing and hopeless when you think of the scale of the rubbish we remove from each cleanup only to see a significant proportion arrive back on the beach with the next few tides.

Yesterday I went down to the beach we cleaned on our last cleanup event on February 26th – 16 days ago.  I was really sad to see the state it was in but not altogether surprised.  Our last cleanup was very successful too.  To list a few statistics and give you an idea …

100+ people helped out

200+ bags of rubbish was cleared from the beach and surrounding bushes

1500 kg (as a very conservative estimate) of debris was stopped from reentering the sea

100 kg + of ropes and nets was removed from the sand, rocks and trees

I walked along the length of the beach yesterday and was truly shocked at how many plastic water bottles there were.  I collected them all as I walked along the tideline removing the lids as I went – there were 211 lids at the end of the beach.  211 plastic bottles had washed up on the beach in 16 days!

So back to the original question of the cleanups being pointless.  Holding a cleanup is a mobilising act of awareness as much as it is an effort to help clean up our environment.  Of the 100 people on the beach a significant number were kids of all ages.  It was great to see.  They are watching their parents and friends and strangers pick up someone else’s dumped rubbish.  They are seeing that everyone has a part to play in looking after where we live and that we have a responsibility to do it.  Seeing the amount of repetitive waste such as water bottles or styrofoam does have an impact on people and hopefully from seeing this they will be more mindful in daily life & encourage others to be the same.

Our lovely clean beach after the cleanup.  This is Sam Pak Wan near the North Plaza in Discovery Bay.

 And 16 days later.

30 minutes worth of plastic bottles and styrofoam.  My red basket with 211 bottle caps!