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Is there an “Atlantic” Version of “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”? 5 Gyres Bike Tour Explains!
Lifestyle

Is there an “Atlantic” Version of “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”? 5 Gyres Bike Tour Explains!

5 Gyres Bike Tour members discuss their plastic pollution studies You may have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but you don’t have to worry about that here in Philly. Right? And what can we learn from the 5 Gyres bike tour?

Nonprofit 5 Gyres rolled into town Monday to share their findings of sailing around the world on a plastic pollution studies mission. And the results were shocking.

The 5 Gyres Last Straw Plastic Pollution Solutions Bike Tour kicked off in Boston on October 2nd. They did a riverside cleanup at the Camden Waterfront during the day, picking up 295 LBS of trash! Regardless of their cleanups and biking hundreds of miles in the past few weeks, their presentation at Underground Arts was completely energized. Each team member brought their unique including amazing photos, fascinating videos and real-life “ocean” samples passed around the audience for a truly educational event.

5 Gyres represent the five subtropical regions where complex networks of currents (coupled with wind & the earth’s rotation) create “gyres”, or massive, slow-rotating whirlpools where plastic trash can accumulate. Unlike the common misconception that these areas are “trash islands”, these are actually “plastic soup” areas. Much of the plastic pollution has “poly” degraded into tiny plastic pellets & shells of population.

the plastic pollution in the ocean is like a plastic "soup" says 5 Gyres Bike TourUnfortunately, this makes it easier for plastic to blend itself right into the marine ecosystem, confusing ocean life to mistake plastic for food & natural substances. One memorable photo from a 5 Gyre member even included a fish caught for food.. yet when it was cut open, there was 18 pieces in a 12 inch fish. With 9% of base food chain eating plastic, you can bet it works itself straight up to your sushi plate. YUM.

The 5 Gyres has taken ocean samples of plastic pollution outside the gyres across their visits. They’ve determined that plastic waste is everywhere in the ocean (aka there’s no areas without plastic trash), and has even reached the Great Lakes. But what types of plastic are they finding?

Everything that you find “in the grocery store” is found in the ocean. Plastic bags, bottles, tires, containers… Everything. The average American has a ‘Plastic Footprint” of 326 pounds of plastic per year, which equals about 1 pound of plastic daily per consumer. The average American uses 400 soda/water/etc bottles per year alone. Even in Philadelphia, your waste affects the eco-systems across the world.

5 gyres Bike Tour show pictures of their plastic pollution studies tour in Philadelphia

If you can catch the 5 Gyres Bike Tour in the near future, cancel your plans and get there. It’s truly an amazing presentation and each of the team members are down-to-earth, genuine & a fun time. Even though Carolynn Box mentioned in her 5 Gyres Bike Tour Philly recap that they felt like “rockstars” with the sweet blue lights & dark space, it’s a pretty accurate description. This nonprofit has a huge task to tackle, yet they all stay so positive and educate people who may not ‘see’ the affects of their pollution. We’re all in this together…

Host United By Blue also needs to be recognized for their amazing cleanup efforts. In 2012 alone, they’ve removed 4,513 pounds of trash including 3,771 plastic bottles from the Philadelphia waterways during their cleanups. (The UBB Facebook Page always gives you a heads up of their cleanups so you can get involved locally.) Plus, they let me hijack the microphone for a few minutes to discuss the Plastic Bag Reduction campaign and petition.

Chicobag plastic bag monster makes an appearance at 5 Gyres Bike Tour & United by Blue event

A special thanks to Lauren from United by Blue, who enthusiastically put on the Plastic Bag Monster costume to show how many plastic bags a US shopper uses each year. As you can guess, getting that thing on usually takes some assistance:

united by blue intern dons plastic bag monster costumer

(After Lauren left, I also wore the fashionable bag monster costume for a quick photo opp with 5 Gyres’ Carolynn.)

So how can you (right here, in Philly) help prevent plastic pollution in the ocean?

  • Use reusable products whenever you can.
  • Bring your own (stainless steel) bottle, mug, utensils & reusable bag.
  • Decline straws whenever you can.
  • Purchase products with the least amount of packaging
  • Pick up litter when you’re out and about. Make a goal of 5 pieces per day.
  • Spread the word to others.
  • Sign our plastic bag reduction campaign!
  • Check out the 5 Minutes for 5 Gyres Contest – If you pick up trash for 5 minutes by water, you can snap a pic & win sweet prizes! Good luck!
Photos by Katharine Friedgen

 

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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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