In the North Pacific Ocean, somewhere between California and China, there is an island made up of things we have abandoned and forgotten. Scraps of water bottles, takeout containers, fishing nets, straws, plastic bags, and the many neglected plastics of our human indulgence. This mosaic of spinning marine debris is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and there is a good chance you've contributed to it!
Most of the pollution in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes in the form of microplastics — small enough to fit on your fingertips. Some microplastics are made to be tiny, often used in cosmetics, facial scrubs, etc. Others are created when larger plastic products, which are not biodegradable, break down into smaller and smaller fragments over time. Because of their size, they are very hard to capture and remove from the ocean and often end up consumed by birds, fish, and creatures of the sea.
I've been interested in imagining ways to use our plastic waste, and discovered these cool organizations that have inspired me!
1. Rabab Luxor
Rabab Luxor is an Egyptian organization that's repurposing plastic in a very mellifluous way. Check out Belle Mama, a song performed entirely with instruments made of trash and discarded plastic!
2. Madiba & Nature
Madiba & Nature is a small organization in Douala, Cameroon that turns plastic waste into eco-friendly canoes. In addition to fighting against pollution, Madiba & Nature use their boats to support fishermen and promote coastal ecotourism. They've also created 30 new jobs in Douala!
Litterati is an app that makes it interesting to pick up litter. Operating as a data collection/citizen science platform, Litterati users take pictures of litter and upload them to the app. The app automatically timestamps, geotags, and identifies the type of object and brand (if possible) of the litter. The data Litterati collects can be used by decision makers around the world to inform government policy and help in accountability, promote sustainable business decisions, and inspire changes in policies and behaviors. The app's founder explains its impact in this TED talk.
4. The Global Ecobrick Alliance
An Ecobrick is a plastic bottle packed tight with used plastic to make a reusable building block! Ecobricks are sturdy and can be used for furniture, garden containers, small buildings, and more! Everything you need on how to make an Ecobrick for your project is here!
The Global Ecobrick Alliance is a network of trainers who build and maintain the infrastructure for Ecobrick movements around the world. These movements sequester plastic and accelerate the global plastic transition.
Bureo is awesome! They are addressing plastic pollution from an often-forgotten angle by doing something about abandoned fishing nets. They collect this lost "ghost gear" from the ocean, clean the nets, recycle them into plastic pellets, and then use them build cool products, which hopefully do not end back up in the ocean...
They are most notably known for their skateboards, but they have partnered with companies like Patagonia, Jenga, and Costa Sunglasses to create a variety of quality products using marine debris.
You can learn more about Bureo's process and impact in this short film.
Did You Know?
The Nashville Public Library Sustainability Committee was formed in 2021 with the goal of educating and engaging staff and patrons on issues relating to environmental sustainability and climate change. The committee also seeks to improve and innovate NPL's facilities and operations by monitoring and reducing solid and non-solid waste, sharing and reusing materials, and incorporating environmentally friendly practices and policies.
And one of the Sustainability Committee members is a blogger as well! For Earth Day in 2022 she put together this great roundup of some of the committee's work. And check out her Earth Day 2023 blog to learn about eco-friendly items in our Library of Things!