Q. What can we do?
A. We need to stop using single use-plastic wherever that is possible. Take the pledge and check-out the Plastic Free July website for quick and easy wins to reduce your plastic footprint.
Q. Is compostable/biodegradable plastic the answer?
A. Not yet. They are both options that may have potential in the future and hopefully will be developed further. Currently compostable plastic is only an alternative if it is separated out from the waste stream, collected separately and placed in an industrial composter. It will not ‘break down’ in the ground, it needs light, oxygen and heat, none of which will be available in landfill. Until that happens it will act like normal plastic and can continue to harm wildlife.
Biodegradable plastic is in its infancy and there are many very unsuitable types on the market such as plastic bags that are bound together with vegetable components. Once the vegetable has degraded, small pieces of plastic remain in the environment causing as much harm as any other normal plastic that has fragmented over time. In addition to this, even those that are not made using plastic components look so much like the real thing that they are neither separated nor collected differently and are likely to end up either in recycling – which will not work, or in landfill where they still take years to degrade. If they do end up in rivers and oceans they can still do the same harm to wildlife through entanglement and ingestion because they still take a very long time to break down. In summary we need more research, more infrastructure and above all to stop using single-use.
Q. Is it dangerous to eat seafood/do you eat seafood?
A. This is a hard one to answer due to the fact that you can’t experiment on humans with toxins, plus linking a disease or disorder to a fish that may have been eaten years before is almost impossible. What we do know from published science is that the chemicals we know are carried by or leach from plastics have been associated with diseases and disorders in the lab. Currently 25% of fish and 100% of mussels studied contained plastic, even if this is at a level where it is not causing harm, we cannot afford to let it become worse.
We need more research to answer these questions, to find safe alternatives and that is all part of Plastic Oceans mission.
Q. How can we remove the plastic that is already in the oceans?
A. At the moment there is no safe way to remove it, the oceans are far too big, the majority of the plastic has already sunk to the depths and with the plastic breaking into tiny fragments that mix with plankton removing them would mean that we lose the plankton too. Plankton is not only the vital base of the marine food chain but the plant element, phytoplankton, provides more than half of the Earth’s oxygen supply and absorbs more of our CO2 than our forests.
Beach clean-ups can prevent plastic on the beach reaching the oceans and causing harm there, plus they raise awareness, as long as the plastic is sorted and recycled responsibly.
Putting booms at river mouths can help too again as long as the waste collected is responsibly disposed of.
We need research with the right expert brains amongst engineers and scientists to really address this problem and perhaps we will find a way but for now stopping it at source is the only option.
Q. What about the Dutch boy who claims he can clean up the oceans within 5 years with his invention?
A. Boyan Slat has brought a significant amount of attention to the issue and we thank him for that, however, the scientific community does not support his invention for many reason. Simply put, if a giant oil boom were to successfully collect and remove all of the floating plastic in its path, it would take the life-giving plankton with it. This idea was also developed along with the belief that there are giant islands of plastic afloat in the centres of our oceans and we now know that this is not the case. The problem is far more insidious with the plastic almost invisible and mixed up with the plankton itself and therefore collecting this way is not feasible.
Q. What about the ‘Seabin’ that sucks all the trash into it? We have seen this on You Tube.
A. The Seabin certainly sucks up things from the surface. It does, however, need to be plugged in to an electricity supply so can only work in marinas and places close to that supply. Also the waste needs to be collected, sorted and disposed of effectively so it really simply may take the hard work out of fishing for litter in a place near to the coast. The hard work often starts once that plastic is brought to the shore.
Q. How can we watch the film
A. Please see our website following general release on 19th Jan. The film will she showing at various cinemas in the US, Canada and the UK and will be available online from 20th Jan.
Q. How much did the film cost to make
A. Approximately US$3.5 million
Q. How long did it take
A. Actual filming was about 4 years
Q. Why did it take so long from beginning to end
A. Fundraising that began just as the world descended into recession was one of our biggest challenges. Funds were raised throughout the production phase, it was 2 years of research and fund raising before we carried out our first shoot, which was Blue Whales in Sri Lanka.
Q. What was the hardest part of making the film
A. Apart from raising the funds – The initial trip out to the so-called ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ was the opposite of an ‘eye opener’. We had expected to encounter a new continent, ten metres deep of plastic stretching for hundreds of miles and were already working out how to film it above, below and around with all kinds of technical filming gear. Instead we were met with a clear blue sparkling ocean and it wasn’t until the surface plankton trawls were deployed that the real ‘garbage patch’ revealed its true horrors. The story had suddenly become far more serious and frightening but how could we possible make a film about something that was almost invisible? It would make a great scientific radio programme but that would something entirely different.
And so, the progress began, starting with, ‘Which charismatic animal feeds on plankton?’ Baleen whales! From there we brought in the ‘boys toys’ and what more exciting one than a submersible to dive into the depths below. The stories soon came thick and fast but the funding could never keep up and on top of that the weather was rarely our friend so very, very few trips happened easily.
Q. What was the worst place you filmed?
A. Each member of the crew might answer that differently. For Producer, Jo, it was Tuvalu, a place that should have resembled Heaven on Earth. Nowhere to hide all if the plastic that keep arriving and burning seems to be the only option. There was so much sickness on the island and a general feeling of apathy and acceptance. We filmed a family of 30 people, 5 of them had cancer and 2 had died in the previous 18 months. With our exponential production of plastic for single use, if we don’t act now, we could be looking at a microcosm that represents the future of our entire planet.