Algalita Marine Research Blog

Onward and Upward in Tokyo

Posted by: Katie Allen

The world of the international traveler does not always expand. In some ways it shrinks.  From my perspective, Tokyo is different than Hong Kong because in Tokyo you drive on the left and walk on the left.  I have to be careful because if someone is in a hurry and wants to pass me, I have to leave the right side of an escalator or sidewalk available.  I was surprised when I got to Hong Kong because even though they drive on the left, they walk on the right.  Hong Kong is not a subway/train city like Tokyo, maybe that is why. Although people are still in a hurry, maybe a bit less in the tropics, it is a taxi/ferry city since it is full of islands and mountains.

Whether passing on the right or the left, people everywhere I go are surprised to learn about the extent and impacts of the plastic plague of waste that is a major side effect of global modernity.

In Tokyo, Patagonia clothing stores served as the grass roots venues for two Plastic Pollution Conversations.  Employees were especially interested in my information, and wanted to know about the issue of their polyester fibers polluting marine sediments, an issue which has received media attention recently.  This of course fits into my point about plastic pollution being non-point source pollution.  I suggested that washing  machines needed better filters for the thousands of micro-plastic fibers that come out with the rinse water and predicted that a forward thinking company like Patagonia was probably going to be among the first to find alternatives to polyester that don’t pollute.

A middle school that is fighting plastic pollution with filling stations for reusable bottles also hosted my talk.  Unfortunately it was during finals and the kids were exhausted from studying late.  I don’t think I have seen as many nodding heads and drooping eyelids in my audiences anywhere else I have presented.

The grand finale was at Kasumigaseki, an enormous high rise complex that was once the tallest building in Tokyo.  It was here that my host at Fight House (a converted apartment building used for victims left homeless by the tsunami where I stayed), had arranged a high level press conference both for the publishers of my book, PLASTIC OCEAN, in Japanese, NHK, and for the press to view the “Inconvenient Truth of Waste,”  Trashed, narrated by Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons.  I introduced the film with a power point presentation and took questions after the film.  As a result, I got an interview with the largest daily in Japan that everybody reads, Tokyo Shinbun.  It included pictures and was a great kick off for my Pacific Rim Plastic Pollution Conversation Tour.

More to follow from Tasmania and the Australian mainland.
As Jeanne Gallagher, my steadfast support on the home front likes to say: “Onward and Upward.”

- Captain Charles Moore

Date Posted: September 25, 2012 @ 5:39 pm Comments (0) | Comment Shortcut

On the ground at the site of largest plastic pellet spill in history

Posted by: Katie Allen

Dear All,
I am now concluding the first third of the tour in Hong Kong, the site of the largest plastic pellet spill in recorded history. One consequence of the spill was to ruin the livelihood of the fish farmers in the harbor. Since the fish in the net cages at the farms were used to having their food given to them in pellet form, they thought it was Xmas when thousands of pellets wafted into their habitat. They gorged themselves and then floated belly up on the surface, unable to move the pellets through their digestive tract. Tracey Read, who discovered the spill when she found bags and bags of the pellets on her local beach, along with Gary, a volunteer with Sea Shephard, documented this and I have video of the fish in distress swimming belly up and a dissection by one of the fish farmers of the stomach contents showing many pre-production polypropylene pellets. Dr. Takada, at Tokyo U analyzed the pellets and found them to be free from toxic additives, so there was no real danger in eating the flesh of the sick fish, but word had gotten out that the fish were dying after having eaten the pellets and all the retail outlets refused shipments, so the farmers had to organize fish frys for their friends to use the meat.
Video: Plastic Disaster (Hong Kong pellet spill)

Yesterday, I helped kick off the International Coastal Cleanup in Hong Kong, with lots of media including Nat Geo and Fox International. I visited the beach where the pellets were first found on Lantau Island and was shocked by the quantities still there. The young people cleaning the beach had been using colanders to sift the pellets out of the sand, but decided to invent a rotating screen that you put sand in one end and turn and have pellets coming out the other. Kids would turn it for fun for half an hour , so volunteer beach cleanup technology is advancing rapidly.

There are quite a few international schools in Hong Kong and I have spoken to two of them, The Canadian International School and the Li Po Chun United World College started by the founder of Outward Bound.
We have had excellent turnouts at all venues, and I believe I have reached close to one thousand individuals here in Hong Kong with information about the Plastic Plague affection our world ocean.

In Tokyo, I also spoke to a middle school and had a press conference, where I gave a Power Point Presentation in advance of the screening of Trashed with Japanese subtitles rendered with the help of Shin Takahasi. I also was hosted at two Patagonia outlets and had good book sales for Plastic Ocean in Japanese. The publisher, NHK, was very supportive and attended these events.

Today I am looking forward to getting out on the water sailing to a remote island off Hong Kong which is reported to have a dump like the one in Lebanon shown in Trashed which is bulldozing rubbish into the sea.

Tomorrow on to Hobart and Sydney,
Best to all,
Captain Charles Moore

Date Posted: September 16, 2012 @ 2:11 am Comments (0) | Comment Shortcut