Typhoon Mawar has caused us to be delayed further, so our expected departure date now is Thursday 7th June. The Typhoon is projected to track in the exact route we will travel. Having a typhoon chase us was not something that sounds like much fun, so we will leave just after it. At this stage our expected arrival date will remain unchanged as there was a lot of leeway built into the original 32 day timeframe for the trip.
To fill in our time productively we were doing some data collection on one of the nearby beaches yesterday. The 5 Gyre protocols that we were testing will provide a detailed analysis framework that can be used on any beach world wide. There will be data collection sheets available in the near future that can be used to provide a snapshot of the plastic pollution found on each beach.
There were 4 sample areas 5 m wide and the length of the beach (20 m apart). Within this sample area on the shoreline there was a 1m square area that was sieved for micro plastic collection (using a 1mm kitchen sieve). The macro pieces of plastic; greater than 1cm were collected from the 5m wide sample area. The plastic debris collected from the 4 sample areas (micro & macro) was kept separate and labelled.
This is something that I will start up in DB on my return. Collecting data a few times a year from the same place at Sam Pak Wan. From this data collection we will be able to identify the companies that pollute the most, the most common type of debris and over the years the trends. From this we will be able to start targeted campaigns to try and reduce the amount of debris that is ending up on our beaches by getting companies and individuals to change their behavior. I am very excited about this and think it is a real way forward in starting to make changes to HK’s massive plastic pollution problem. I will be looking for a team to help me and am hoping to get some school/student involvement.
There has also been a lot of discussion on the boat about beach cleanups in general. The topic yesterday was about the difficulty there is in separating recyclables from non recyclable plastic. Many cleanups in the US use buckets for collection and then empty them into one central collecting point which would be easier than our current grey bag system that DB Green is using. The buckets they use are obtained from restaurants so there is no cost or extra waste in obtaining new buckets or adding plastic bags. Certainly a topic for further discussion when I return.
Whilst on the topic of recyclables, one other thing I noticed on the streets of Japan was that the recyclables were all put in clear plastic bags waiting for collection which makes identifying and keeping the categories separate possible.
Japan is generally a really clean and tidy country but high tide yesterday brought a huge amount of waste into a corner of the marina. We had been noticing a constant trickle of rubbish flow past the Sea Dragon and seeing it all dumped on the nearby steps made us all stop and look on our way to the beach. There was a lot of big pieces of plastic – bottles, food packaging, shoes, toys, cutlery etc and a lot of tiny pieces of plastic. Broken down pieces of styrofoam, lots of what looked like astro turf and also a lot of BB pellets and nurdles. These nurdles are pre-production plastic pellets and look a lot like fish eggs. They attract and absorb marine pollutants like PCBs, BPA and other hormone disrupting chemicals. They are often consumed by seabirds and fish that mistake them for food. Unfortunately this results in the release of these chemicals into the fat cells of the bird or fish that ate it, not a good thing at all – especially if these fish end up through the food chain on our dining table.
Another item that was very common in the marina and on the beach yesterday was one of my least favorite pieces of plastic. The ‘green grass’ used on sushi trays is a complete waste of resources with no real use. I would love to see this phased out in supermarkets.
Today we lose our onboard internet connection so all future blogs will be considerably shorter and with fewer pictures.
It is very exciting to be onboard the Sea Dragon and in the company of so many enthusiastic plastic people! I am looking forward to getting into proper sea life & research very soon but at the moment it is very pleasant living on a calm still boat.