OceansLIVE! Talking Trash: A Call to Action

Join Amy Uhrin, NOAA Marine Debris Program's Chief Scientist, as she talks about marine debris with Katie Register, Executive Director of Clean Virginia Waterways, during Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2016's OceansLIVE! segment put on by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. This segment, titled "Talking Trash: A Call to Action," was originally live-streamed and talks about marine debris and what you can do to help.

OceansLIVE! Talking Trash: A Call to Action transcript

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