JUNKride 2009 Exposes Plastic Pollution

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Sailing 2,600 miles from Los Angeles to Hawaii on a raft made of 15,000 bottles may not sound like a good time to you, but to the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, it’s just one part of the process to reveal the effects of plastics pollution in the ocean.  The “JUNKraft” was one part of their “Message in a Bottle” (MIB) initiative, and now MIB is taking their trip back to the shore with JUNKride 2009.

During JUNKride, Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins  of Algalita will ride 2,000 miles from Vancouver, Canada to Tijuana, Mexico. Throughout the journey, the team will distribute 100 samples of plastic debris from the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (the first portion of MIB) to illustrate the damaging impact plastics are having on marine life to educators, organizations and legislators. Eriksen and Cummins are hoping to convince legislators along their route to consider various plastic-related legislation, such as plastic bag bans.

Plastic debris in the Earth's waterways is often mistaken for food sources by sea life. Photo: tropicalblendsurf via Photobucket.com

Plastic debris in the Earth's waterways is often mistaken for food sources by sea life. Photo: tropicalblendsurf via Photobucket.com

In an interview with Wend Magazine, Eriksen notes that “Plastics are a medium for other pollutants to get into food webs.” Certain types of toxins bind with plastic particles, which make their way into the tissue of marine life.

During their trip to the NPSG, Algalita researchers found plastic particles in more than one-third of the lantern fish collected.

“We know that the situation is getting significantly worse,” says Cummins. “On our last voyage we found that the density of plastic particles had double in just 10 years. That, coupled with the fact that we found plastic particles in the fish we brought back, is enough to tell us we have to make some drastic changes.”

Plastic waste in oceans and wasted resources continue to be mounting concerns as scientists around the world research solutions to pollution impact. Cummins added in her interview that “The fact that we’re using a resource as valuable as petroleum to make a product that’s made to last forever to make things that can be thrown away is absurd…beyond citizens, it’s going to take cooperation from the industry (to get alternatives to single use plastic containers).”

This week, the riders will be in Portland, Salem and Corvallis, Oregon. A full schedule of their trip is available on the JUNKride site. The riders are also regularly updating a blog of their travels.

The trip began April 4 and will run through June 25. If you’re interested in joining, especially with Earth Day 2009 just around the corner, you can contact Anna Cummins at annacummins@gmail.com.

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