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  • Brady Stroh

The Plastic Ocean

We all use plastic — we can’t avoid it. It lures and ensnares us with convenience, low cost, and in the healthcare and food services world, sterility.

Plastic is nothing new. It was invented in 1907 and over fifty years ago Dustin Hoffman was advised in a famous scene in The Graduate (1967), that the future is plastics — plastic products, plastic people, a plastic (synthetic) society, and today a plastic ocean.

On a visit to any shoreline — creek, river, lake, bay, or ocean — you WILL see plastic: plastic bottles, plastic barrels (those big blue ones), plastic tarps, kids toys, lawn furniture, syringes, plastic tubing, shopping bags, fishing line, rope, car parts, and a thousand other things.

After a six day trip on Chesapeake Bay last May (2018), we were greeted back to our home port at the top of the bay by a deluge, yes a DELUGE, of plastic flotsam drifting down the Susquehanna. The summer of 2018 will be remembered for record rainfall and record debris flows on the River. Much of that debris was plastic — just ask any volunteer of the Back River Restoration Committee.

During a boat delivery with a friend from Shinnecock Bay, Long Island to Delaware City, Delaware what did we see in the water, offshore, one after another, out of the sight of land? Mylar balloons... dozens of them drifting half submerged in the water. At a remote beach in a little cove on the coast of Ecuador, what did I see? A two foot high pile of plastic — presumably from the South Pacific Garbage Patch.

Durability and persistence are both the blessings and curses of plastic. We can all name the many blessings of plastic, but we may be less aware of its curses. A number of organizations worldwide are taking notice and taking action. The Plastic Ocean Project is a global effort as is Coastal Cleanup. But there are local and regional initiatives evolving everywhere -- look for them in your area.

The Plastic Ocean Project is using a creative adaptation of the famous Katsushika Hokusai work “The Great Wave Off Kangawa” as a logo on their website and projects.



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