The Pacific garbage patch comes home

Adriene Hill Sep 16, 2011
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The Pacific garbage patch comes home

Adriene Hill Sep 16, 2011
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KAI RYSSDAL: You have, perhaps, heard of the huge pile of trash floating out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s plastic, mostly, for thousands of miles just bobbing along on the ocean’s surface. There’s a company that wants to recycle all that plastic, turn it into bottles. It’s not going to be easy — and that’s kind of the point.

From the Marketplace Sustainability desk, Adriene Hill reports.


ADRIENE HILL: Method — the company that makes high-end, environmentally-friendly, soaps and cleaners — has a plan. One that doesn’t make much business sense and won’t be an easy fix for cleaning up the oceans.

ADAM LOWRY: We’re doing something highly impractical.

Adam Lowry is the co-founder at Method. The company wants to take ocean plastic and use it for new plastic bottles. Sounds good, except…

LOWRY: It’s really low-quality material, it’s been floating in the ocean for a decade or more.

And…

LOWRY: We need to clean it. There’s a lot of dirt, there’s a lot of biological material.

And…

LOWRY: It’s not like a supply chain for ocean plastic exists, we’re creating one.

And… seriously, there’s more. Creating that ocean plastic supply chain isn’t as easy as deploying big-vaccume-ships.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientist Miriam Goldstein has studied the ocean garbage patch.

MIRIAM GOLDSTEIN: These pieces are very small and they’re spread out over a very large area.

She says about 90 percent of the plastic is less than the size of your pinky nail. It’s like really gross confetti.

GOLDSTEIN: If you are going to collect them it’s going to be hard to pick up all of these microscopic pieces without picking up all of the microscopic animal life that’s living on and amongst them.

But Method’s Adam Lowry isn’t deterred. He’s going to get his plastic from groups already gathering it. He says the point is, really, to make a point. That we ought to be recycling our plastic instead of tossing it out, which is also the top of Goldstein’s list of solutions.

GOLDSTEIN: Definitely number one is to stop putting plastic in the oceans to begin with.

Sounds straightforward. But she says, we still have a long way to go.

I’m Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

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