Plastic Ocean? by Shanti Moorjani

Just when you wanted to feel good about something like Valentines Day or singing with a choir, along comes Jeff Kirschner to remind us all is not well in paradise.   Jeff Kirschner founder of Litterati gave a riveting talk last night at the Arlington Community Church to a very receptive group.

Jeff told us, that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish. Seeing the picture of the dead baby Albatross with its stomach full of plastic pretty much make me feel sick to my stomach. The mother Albatross thought she was feeding her chick real food from the ocean. We have all heard about the Giant Pacific Garbage patch of floating plastic, the size of Texas, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean! Jeff said we need to imagine two tall, huge smoke stacks upside down spewing great amounts of debris (mostly plastic)into the deep currents of the water; a gyre, or soup of plastic.  

Another picture of a fisherman in Indonesia rowing his boat through a lake totally coated in floating plastic was sobering. It reminded me of my brother Clarke's comment on my recent visit to his home in Samut Sakhon, a suburb of Bangkok. He said, "Getting people to pick up litter and recycle would be an impossible task here."

What are we going to do with all this plastic that refuses to disintegrate? It's everywhere. Mr. Kirschner calls it the "plastic pandemic". Unlike other litter, plastic is here to stay, even the 're-cycled into furniture' plastic. After it wears out, then what? It is here to stay. We can do our individual part and pick it up, refuse straws in restaurants (bring your own metal one), don't use little plastic packets of ketchup and such and phase out zip lock baggies.  All these things are especially harmful to wild life. So as People of the Planet we can do our part. It makes a difference. This is where the Litterati app becomes an invaluable tool. Download it on your cell phone and start using it!

Litterati tags litter! What you picked up, where you picked it up and when you picked it up......is the beauty of this app.   You can also take a picture of it. Litterati's data base is vast and world-wide. As Jeff pointed out, usually there is a pattern of concentration of similar litter. He gave the example of a few blocks in Oakland where a school litter pick-up project turn up with hundreds of small unopened packets of ketchup from a local Taco Bell. Through their data they could pin-point the source of the litter. Next, they let the company know what's happening, how bad it is for the environment, and what can they do to alleviate this problem? Taco Bell did make a change by only giving out packets on request. The goal is not to demonize the company, but to inform and push for solutions. Often the establishment is unaware of the problem. A little litter education goes a long way. Things start to change. So, one person picking up litter for a lifetime may not make a dent in reducing litter, but many people picking up litter, entering the what, where, when......and maybe a picture, can produce significant results. You become part of a world-wide community.

Thank you Jeff Kirschner for a thought provoking evening. You are a true Person of the Planet.   Now let's do our part. You can download the app for Litterati onto your cell phone and make a real difference when you pick up that piece of trash. "It's not about what is, it's about what it can become. One piece at a time and every piece counts."