OceansLIVE! Talking Trash: A Call to Action transcript
Three people sitting down and talking.

0:50 welcome to day two of Capitol Hill ocean week 2016 here on oceans live
0:56 i'm your host Kate Thompson coming to you live from Capitol Hill ocean talk
1:00 don't forget to be part of our conversation by tweeting us questions
1:03 using hashtag child 2016 or chat us at oceans live . org this morning will be
1:09 turning to one of the biggest and most preventable problems facing the ocean
1:12 today
1:13 marine debris but before I introduce this morning's panelist i want to tell
1:17 you about the highlights from last night's ocean prom
1:20 the National Marine Sanctuary foundation hosted the 14th annual oceans awards
1:24 gala at the ronald reagan building an international trade center in washington
1:28 DC
1:29 many of the oceans most influential leaders such as the Lifetime Achievement
1:33 Award winner and I Noah Thompson came out to celebrate the importance of our
1:37 ocean
1:38 senator maria cantwell was honored with the leadership award and recognition for
1:42 her leadership in the fight for ocean conservation and for her advocacy for
1:46 sustainable fisheries expanding ocean acidification research and increased
1:50 ocean monitoring and science
1:52 the Foundation also honored volunteer of the year captain Scott hickman from the
1:57 flower garden banks national marine sanctuary
1:59 now back to today's panel on marine debris so what happens the litter on the
2:04 street or trash on the beach too often it ends up in the ocean which is filled
2:08 with items that don't belong there
2:10 huge amounts of consumer plastics metal rubber paper
2:14 textiles derelict fishing gear and other lost or discarded items enter the marine
2:18 environment every single day
2:20 joining us to talk today about that enormous and preventable problem is my
2:24 colleague from Noah
2:26 aimie Amy urine amy is the chief scientist for knows marine debris
2:30 program will talk with her about the sources and impacts of marine debris and
2:35 what knowing know is doing about it
2:37 we're also joined by Katie register the executive director of clean Virginia
2:41 waterways which works with long university to improve Virginia's rivers
2:46 and other water resources through citizens stewardship for more than 20
2:50 years now clean Virginia waterways has coordinated the International coastal
2:54 cleanup in Virginia
2:55 thanks ladies so much for joining me today in the studio
2:59 hey everybody here yeah i'm really excited to talk about this crazy problem
3:02 of marine debris
3:04 so I'm going to start us off with a quick question take a look at a picture
3:07 here
3:08 so what do you see and just give me one word of of what what that means to you
3:13 well i would say preventable and i have to say three words surprised but not
3:19 surprised
3:20 yeah right for words haha well you know what I'm just to me I look at that and I
3:28 go
3:29 that could be mine and I you know I'm gonna hold this up right here this right
3:35 here is a toothbrush that you know it's a transportable toothbrush that you
3:41 everybody sees when they go on vacation or a trip they they take this toothbrush
3:45 with them but it hits home because everybody uses a toothbrush every single
3:49 day
3:50 so how does that end up that was at the monument how does that toothbrush end up
3:54 the monument up in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands
3:57 I mean it's just it's crazy to think about that that that albatross right
4:00 there is looking at somebody's toothbrush from who knows where in this
4:04 world so I mean every day we use things such as cans or coffee cups or plastic
4:17 water bottles all of these things can become marine debris
4:23 so those are a few examples but Amy can you tell me a little bit about what
4:28 marine debris is and what and why it's such a big problem right so you kind of
4:32 hit on some of the high points
4:34 k and that is the definition of marine debris tells us that they are the solid
4:39 and persistent man made materials so their manufacturing process materials
4:44 that are intentionally or unintentionally directly or indirectly
4:48 abandoned or discarded into the Great Lakes and the marine environment and as
4:53 you indicated it's an everyday problem and it's a global problem
4:56 it's an everyday problem because as you said everybody across the globe uses
5:01 these products in their everyday life in some capacity right so it's an everyday
5:05 problem
5:06 it's a global problem because there are a lot of people in the world and people
5:09 across the planet are using these products everything
5:12 single day and if they are mismanaged if their waist is mismanaged if the
5:16 recycling is managed they can find their way into the environment into waterways
5:20 and eventually into the ocean
5:23 it's also a global problem in the sense that we are all connected by the ocean
5:27 right the continents are surrounded by water and so something that ends up in
5:31 on a beach end up in the water on a shoreline say in Florida you know could
5:38 find its way up the coast to Virginia could find its way into the Caribbean
5:42 things that wash into the ocean off the coast of Japan could find their way to
5:45 the west coast of the United States due to tides currents you know wind waves on
5:50 the surface and so debris
5:52 Marie connects us in that way it's not necessarily going to be a local problem
5:56 but your local problem we can extend beyond your immediate vicinity right I
6:01 read a book once it was called Moby duck and it-it-it talked about a container
6:06 ship the container was lost off the ship in the middle of the ocean and it was
6:10 carrying rubber duckies
6:12 so you know we all can relate to a rubber ducky and and being in the
6:15 bathtub with rubber ducky
6:17 but what was interesting about the book is it is we are completely
6:21 interconnected it is one ocean that these environmentalists and research
6:26 scientists were tracking these rubber duckies all over the world people were
6:30 finding them everywhere so it doesn't matter if the u.s. is completely clean
6:35 of marine debris and say you know Africa isn't and they have Tom marine debris
6:40 it doesn't matter it goes everywhere find its way it can find his way
6:43 everywhere so I mean at that
6:44 that was pretty impactful book for me to read just to understand how that all
6:48 works but you know speaking of that so where does it come from
6:52 I mean do what I do in my backyard can that go into the ocean oh absolutely i
6:57 mean as you point out trash travels
6:59 it travels from tiny streams two rivers to base to the ocean and most of the
7:05 trash has been documented it comes from inland even though it's called marine
7:10 debris most of it comes from inland
7:13 we're talking about a tennis ball that somebody loses we're talking about a
7:16 cigarette but that was tossed out of a car window
7:19 and in fact there's a group the ocean conservancy does the International
7:24 coastal cleanup were thousands of volunteers pick up debris items and they
7:28 record data and you're looking right now at the top 10 most frequently found
7:34 debris items
7:35 this was collected last year by nearly 800,000 volunteers worldwide notice
7:40 number one cigarette butts
7:42 almost everything on the list after cigarette butts have to do with what we
7:46 eat and what we drink
7:48 so a lot of that's coming from inland however about 20 or so percent comes
7:53 from the marine environment mostly we're talking about things that go fishing
7:58 that's crab pots lobster pots things that are designed to capture animals and
8:04 so when they become derelict or abandoned in the ocean in the coastal
8:09 environments they can be very very deadly to the animals and the wildlife
8:13 that live there
8:14 right right i think we were diving in the Florida Keys just the other day and
8:18 you know the the season for lobstering what had been over for two months and we
8:22 found one on the bottom that was still goes fishing and had like eight lobster
8:26 still in it so easy craving it's no longer attached to its float:right still
8:31 catching and killing animals and then the animal that it get in the trap
8:34 become bait for the next right animals come along right
8:38 so Amy I'm going to ask you a couple Tuffy's back
8:42 so where is all this stuff end up and basically how much I mean can you give
8:48 me a figure like poundage or weight of how much marine debris end up in the
8:52 ocean
8:52 deriving that kind of exact statistic is very difficult for a number of reasons
8:57 but perhaps the largest one is just the vastness of the ocean right it's a huge
9:02 water body and so if you want to try to derive some statistics about how much is
9:06 in the action you have to make sure that your sampling all the different oceanic
9:09 compartments and so when debris finds its way to the coast
9:13 it can become stranded on the shoreline so that's a compartment
9:17 it can find its way into the nearshore surface waters and eventually out to the
9:20 open ocean surface water so it can be on the surface it can possibly sink and
9:25 become vertically distributed in the the water column
9:29 it can completely think to the sea floor right and be laying on the bottom both
9:34 in nearshore environments and debris has been found on in deep submarine canyons
9:38 in the ocean
9:39 it can become buried when it's on the sea floor and also animals take up the
9:44 debris and so in order to try to figure out how much is out there you would have
9:49 to effectively and accurately sample all those different compartments which is a
9:52 very very difficult task
9:54 um what we do know though is study came out last year by researchers at the
9:58 University of Georgia
10:00 they looked at a hundred and ninety-two coastal countries across the globe and
10:04 looked at waste management practices and what they found was that about
10:09 on average eight million metric tons of mismanage plastic waste actually ends up
10:14 in the ocean and out of those a hundred and ninety two countries there were a
10:19 top 20 which contributed to eighty-three percent of that eight million metric
10:23 tons so we have numbers like that where we know how much is entering the ocean
10:27 but once it enters it becomes distributed right again I said the ocean
10:31 is vast and so we do know that there are areas where it tends to accumulate rack
10:36 line on beaches so where vegetation comes up and get stranded is kind of a
10:41 hot spot for marine debris if you will and then also in the open ocean areas
10:45 where currents converge on one another are natural areas of debris accumulation
10:49 and also everyone is probably heard of the North Pacific Garbage Patch well the
10:54 reason
10:55 that debris is accumulating there is because there's an oceanic gyre there
10:59 and what a gyre is a system of rotating currents so they can be clockwise or
11:04 counterclockwise depending on which hemisphere in but think of them as a
11:07 giant expansive slow-moving whirlpool if you will right so they're rotating like
11:12 this and what happens in a whirlpool things get drawn into the middle so they
11:16 tend to be areas of accumulation of debris on
11:19 but even though debris accumulates there you can't just go out and encounter
11:23 sample it or collect it because there tend to be very small particles in the
11:29 gyre so the larger plastic items can break down through UV radiation hitting
11:35 the particles some bacterial action and so a lot of the materials that are in
11:40 those generals are very tiny like this and it's difficult to sample this kind
11:44 of material when it's so small
11:46 the other problem is that the jurors move it so they're slowly rotating but
11:52 depending on wind patterns and the temperature of the water the gyres can
11:55 actually shift within a water body and they can shift as much as a thousand
11:59 miles north or south depending on conditions and so on
12:05 I think I made a good point to indicate that it's not having it you can just go
12:08 with a dip net and then quantify how much is out there
12:11 unfortunately yeah he's shaking your head fortunately
12:14 oh ok well Katie I mean what are the impacts mean all this stuff in the ocean
12:20 and the environment can't be good
12:22 so what are some of the impacts that that are found out there
12:25 the most famous impacts are those on wild animals
12:29 seabirds dolphins sea turtles even whales have been documented to eat
12:34 they ingest the plastic and trash mistaking it for food especially plastic
12:38 bags can look a great deal like a jellyfish and jellyfish are the favorite
12:42 food of many sea turtle species of so ingestion
12:46 but by wildlife is a big issue another big impact is entanglement animals that
12:51 become entangled in nets or fishing line or the ribbons on balloons are usually
12:57 plastic so in addition though to the impacts on wild animals we also impact
13:03 on habitat for example of a plastic bag or a piece of fabric even on a coral
13:08 reef can destroy and kill the living coral
13:12 there are also impacts on human safety and you don't want to be on a boat
13:16 get your prop caught up in a fishing net and burn out your engine so you've got
13:20 safety issues there right
13:23 there's also food chain issues right now there's a concern that some of the
13:27 animals that form the base of the food chain in the oceans like plankton so
13:32 plankton smaller juvenile fish when they ingest marine debris typically smaller
13:36 plastic particles like I indicated earlier larger fish eat the smaller fish
13:40 an even larger fish eat those fish so what we really don't have a good handle
13:44 on right now is how those effects translate up the food chain and then
13:48 eventually to us because there are some species or plastics have been documented
13:52 from their guts and then their species that we eat
13:55 the other concern is that there could be population-level effects for the species
14:00 that do in jest marine debris so not only does it impact individual organisms
14:05 in terms of their biology or their physiology but it can have impacts in
14:09 the next generation so a study came out earlier this year looking at oysters and
14:14 so they found that oysters didn't just tiny micro plastic particles microbeads
14:18 what they found was that it affected the aspects of the reproductive system of
14:23 those oysters so sperm or less motile eggs were smaller
14:28 there weren't as many eggs and also in the next generation of oysters those
14:32 oysters were smaller
14:33 so we're starting to get indication that yes there can be individual level
14:37 impacts but possibly we could be talking about impacts up the hierarchy at the
14:42 population level
14:43 so essentially we are ingesting the plastic that can kind of scary to think
14:48 sir
14:50 so you work for noah and obviously this is such a large problem that that no one
14:57 Congress that we need to create a program
15:00 so can you tell us a little bit about Noah's marine debris program for I do so
15:03 I love to
15:04 so the program is actually established through an act of congress the marine
15:08 debris act in 2006 so this year is our ten-year anniversary which is very
15:12 exciting and the act was real
15:14 rise in 2012 and so what the active is it instituted the program and provided a
15:19 number of mandates that we were to operate under or a number of activities
15:23 that we were supposed to coordinate and and and and handle and so from those
15:28 mandates our program actually developed five pillars coordination emergency
15:33 response prevention through education and outreach removal and research and so
15:39 coordination is a big one we have nine regional coordinators across the United
15:43 States alaska and hawaii and they serve as our eyes and ears on the ground for
15:48 the program because we're here in washington DC at headquarters
15:51 but they also serve as a focal point for folks in that region that are working on
15:55 marine debris issues so they know who they can contact if they have questions
15:58 and they can get people to network that are working on similar issues and things
16:02 of that nature for emergency response in the last 10 years we've actually help to
16:07 respond to four different events the american samoa tsunami the japanese
16:11 tsunami and then hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and so we assist states or
16:16 territories that are impacted by those events and trying to get a handle on
16:21 what washed up
16:23 how much of it where it came from and then prevention remove one research and
16:27 so each year we hold grant competitions for prevention and removal projects and
16:34 so removal projects might include these are larger ticket removal larger ticket
16:39 items so this might be a project where a community has a derelict vessel in there
16:43 harbor and they just been wanting to get rid of it they just haven't had the
16:46 means to do so and then the prevention grants seek to a fun project looking at
16:52 education and outreach so how can we teach folks about marine debris and how
16:56 it can be prevented and so this might be someone developing a curriculum for
17:00 school to teach students
17:02 it could be a community that wants to put up signage because their community
17:05 is on a water body and they want to make people aware of what marine debris is
17:09 and and how we can combat it
17:10 and then lastly research so withheld grant competitions for research in the
17:15 past we also fund research through other mechanisms but looking at several
17:18 different aspects of the marine debris issue source
17:21 how much how its distributed how it moves through the environment
17:25 and how it impacts animal this Katie was talking about
17:28 and so again our ten-year anniversary we're really excited about all our
17:31 accomplishments
17:33 you can check us out on marine debris . know . go to learn more
17:36 yeah well I know that sanctuaries has received quite a few of those amazing
17:40 grants to go out each year and bring up that either derelict fishing gear or
17:45 just pounds of trash and it
17:48 it really is amazing that the marine debris program does these grants because
17:52 it helps us to to clean up and make somewhat of an impact anyway so Katie
17:59 tell me a little bit more about the clean Virginia waterways program and
18:03 what you do all right well for 22 years clean Virginia waterways has led the
18:07 international coastal cleanup in the state of Virginia
18:10 we've our volunteers of removed more than 3 million pounds of trash from
18:15 Virginia streams rivers and beaches
18:17 they also collect data because it is part of the international coastal
18:21 cleanup we've also done some groundbreaking research our first big
18:25 research project was on cigarette butts which is the number one source of
18:29 plastic that people don't understand that those filters are made of cellulose
18:33 acetate
18:34 we've also recently been working on research about balloon releases balloons
18:39 are very unique source of marine debris
18:42 it's one of the few things that people purchase they go outside with the intent
18:46 of releasing it into the environment and i think most people have no idea or
18:52 don't think about how one hundred percent of those balloons will return to
18:56 Earth or the ocean and we find hundreds and hundreds on the ocean beaches of
19:01 Virginia
19:02 we also recently with our partners the Virginia coastal zone management program
19:07 and Noah wrote the Virginia marine debris reduction plants so Virginia is
19:13 one of the very few states in the United States that has a plan to deal with
19:18 marine debris and reduce it over the next 10
19:21 yours well we actually have a question from our live chat you can chat your
19:25 questions in and we will answer in your life which we're going to do right now
19:30 so our question is how can civilians get involved in the cleanup
19:33 oh boy getting involved and clean up there in first of all the International
19:37 coastal cleanup
19:38 you can learn about it through Ocean Conservancy and they will tell you where
19:42 in your state of who to contact
19:45 wherever you live not just in your state is international but people can also get
19:49 involved by prevention prevention is one of the biggest solutions to marine
19:53 debris cleanup SAR great data collection very important but prevention by the 3
19:59 r's reduce the amount of trash you're producing everyday SE nota straws reuse
20:06 things reusable shopping bags coffee mugs things like that
20:10 recycle of course whatever trash you do end up producing but yes it's very
20:16 preventable whether you're in fourth grade or you're a country i mean there's
20:20 so much we can do with education legislation and innovation and that you
20:26 just wanted to share one little thing when the Virginia Institute of Marine
20:30 Sciences worked on a panel to put on crab pots and this panel is made up of
20:37 readily biodegradable plastic so if a crab pot gets severed from its float and
20:42 it's down there in the Chesapeake Bay or coastal waters after a while this panel
20:47 will biodegrade in any animal that's captured can come out
20:50 well the scientist who created this said well let's do that with shotgun wads
20:54 shotgun
20:55 if you're a hunter and you're off shooting there's a piece of plastic that
20:59 separates the powder from the shot made out of plastic
21:03 unruh treatable once the shotguns been shot
21:06 so they are gearing up to make available commercially these biodegradable odds
21:12 for shock and so it's just a sample of innovation right to solve the problem
21:18 can I see on facebook or something the other day there is that a beer company
21:21 because because that's always the this six-pack rain and that's what you always
21:26 see like around turtles or whatever but there's actually a beer company that now
21:30 they're making edible rings like it
21:32 turtles can actually eat the ether rate I think it's genius like we all need to
21:37 move forward and come up with these innovative ideas to prevent this from
21:41 happening
21:42 so what are some of the solutions that your organizations are working on to
21:48 combat marine debris
21:50 I think Katie touched on several of those but I didn't want to make kind of
21:53 a plug for her
21:55 our marine debris monitoring and assessment project so again if you go to
21:58 our website it's under the research header and so this was a project that
22:02 was initiated as a result of the japan Tsunami and 2011 that i mentioned before
22:06 and our partners were really interested our partners on the west coast were
22:10 interested in determining what kind of debris was on the shorelines all ready
22:13 to serve as a baseline before the potential influx of debris from the
22:18 japan Tsunami and so our staff developed some rapid assessment protocols so folks
22:23 would go out on their shorelines on the west coast of the US and do some random
22:27 recounts and get a handle on you know what was out there and so that project
22:31 has been around for for a while now and just at the beginning this month we
22:35 launched an online tool box for that project that's called to get started
22:39 toolbox and so it's kind of a one-stop shop online for folks who participate in
22:44 the monitoring project as Katie group does where they can find all the tools
22:49 that they need to get started if they're not yet a partner or to continue being a
22:52 partner things like all the data sheets can be found there in the field manual
22:57 and a photo field guide folks sometimes are not sure what to call a piece of
23:01 debris when they find it so there's a nice handy field guide they can look at
23:04 there's a video tutorial for folks who are interested in getting involved in
23:07 the project so they can watch the tutorial and figure out what exactly is
23:11 involved how do we actually monitor on the beach on
23:14 yeah so I would encourage folks to get involved if you want
23:17 don't want to take on something as large as being an official part of the
23:20 monitoring project just participating in in beach cleanups in your area or even
23:25 if you don't live on the coast line participating in a clean up wherever you
23:28 live because as we've you know it's been a theme in this discussion it can end up
23:32 in the ocean and often times it does right and just looking back at that top
23:36 10 list that collected by the International coastal cleanup volunteers
23:40 tells you a lot of what we could do we can say no two straws for example you
23:45 know most people really don't absolutely need a straw smokers can use pocket
23:50 ashtrays or they're also a strange that you can buy for your car since i don't
23:55 have ashtrays built into them anymore
23:57 i mean if if smokers stop littering if people who eat and drink
24:01 stop littering or if they go to reusable water bottles and reusable shopping bags
24:07 so this top 10 list gives us a lot of answer right right so again let's show
24:12 that that reusable water bottle
24:15 this one we can go here first over this
24:18 this verse this there we go if your reusable the plastic use reusable and if
24:26 you have to use single-use disposable make sure you get it recycled right
24:30 right
24:31 recycle recycle recycle I think it's important we talk about recycling to to
24:35 make sure you understand the recycling policies in your area because they vary
24:39 they vary across stage at a very across communities within States so really find
24:44 out what is and is not recyclable in in your community and so that you know
24:47 because it can be a problem for the recycling industry when things are mixed
24:51 commingled the Sun can be recycling some can so it does create problems for that
24:56 industry so so knowing knowing the rules and regulations in your area is really
25:01 important for example important you know such a large problem but so completely
25:05 preventable
25:06 absolutely so completely confident we can solve it right reduce reuse recycle
25:10 thanks ladies your money for joining me they and discussing this incredibly
25:14 important topic
25:15 you can learn more about knows marine debris program at marine debris . Noah .
25:19 gov and about the clean Virginia waterways program at longwood dot edu /
25:24 clean VA at 11:15 a.m. child will continue discussing this issue with a
25:30 panel on turning trash into cash
25:32 innovation and industry leadership will be back with Capitol Hill ocean talk at
25:36 twelve-fifteen with a panel on ocean acidification
25:40 but before we go I want to extend a special thank you to our presenting
25:43 sponsors the national oceanic and atmospheric administration the US
25:46 Department of the Interior and the walton family foundation the co-host of
25:50 chow
25:51 the Campbell foundation
25:52 the Gordon Betty Moore Foundation and all the sponsors
25:55 because without their support the success and accessibility of child would
25:59 not be possible
26:00 thanks so much for watching and I'll see you right back here at 12:15