Plastic Waste, Disney and Jim Holm

July 15, 2016

I have a unique connection with the ocean. No, I’m not an amazing swimmer but some of my favorite animals tend to be underwater creatures. I’m also not ashamed to say that Free Willy is one of the greatest movie franchises ever. Like most sequels, they should’ve stopped after the 2nd, although the 3rd was bearable. I recently found out that they made a part 4, but I’m not interested, it came along too long after the first. In any case, you may be wondering what does Willy have to do with anything. Well, Willy is great, and it was the first time I was exposed to the harsh treatment of marine animals. It’s amazing how Disney effortlessly addresses serious topics. Although Disney movies are often fiction, and end with a happy ending, in life, this isn’t always the case.

Impact of plastic waste on oceans

Currently, our oceans are experiencing a trying time as its health continues to deteriorate due to pollution and marine debris. The pollution is primarily caused by plastic waste. At this point, you may be wondering how does this even happen? I’ll get to that soon. Some of the harmful effects of plastic are that it is causing a lot of harm to animals, and in many cases, animal death. If that doesn’t move you, think about your diet for a second, there is a good chance the seafood you eat may actually be poisonous, due to plastic waste. Although the ocean is in a bad shape making a change isn’t out of reach. This is where Captain Jim Holm comes in.

Who is Jim Holm?

Captain Jim Holm is a retired US Coast Guard, Founder and Executive Director of Clean Oceans International. Pawel Nazaruk, founder and CEO, of Better World International, interviewed Jim to better understand the ocean problem with plastic waste. This was a great conversation, as Jim wasted no time explaining his motivation behind his work. He shared that he has traveled a lot of places over his 35 years of work and that he has “witnessed a slow steady decline in ocean health and that’s what motivates me to take the action.”

Harm to marine wildlife

The part that shocked me the most was how plastic can change the entire diet of animals. This happens as plastic is introduced to the ocean. Sea creatures can unknowingly condition themselves to eat only plastic, which obviously has no nutrients. The plastic that animals consume often contains toxic properties that can contribute to severe illnesses. Plastic waste also can come in other forms as sea creatures can get caught in marine debris. Jim explains that “large sea creatures are commonly entangled in plastic debris be it garbage from cities or fishing gear, and it’s very common for them to drown or starve to death because they are unable to eat anymore.” As you can see, plastic waste is a nightmare for sea creatures such as turtles, whales, seals, sharks, etc.

Global infrastructure problem

Jim said, “there is not a proper infrastructure on a global scale that allows people to handle their plastic waste issue.” This is because plastic is often a part of our everyday lives and so common we don’t pay it much attention. How many times have you been driving or walking, and tried to avoid the plastic bag in the street, or look down and see a plastic bottle by the curb? Jim used a simple example to tell us how 80% of plastic waste ends up in the ocean. This story is timely as it is summer and it could and does happen to everyone. Imagine having a sandwich outside, a strong wind comes, and the plastic bag you are using gets away from you. As the bag travels, it can eventually reach a storm drain. Thus, traveling from creeks, rivers, and bays into the ocean. It’s amazing how something so harmless as eating lunch can contribute to marine debris.

Does ocean pollution affect us?

We know the effects that this can have on animals, but what about us? Jim explained that as plastic waste comes into contact with toxic waste, like motor fuel or brake fluid, toxicity can be transferred to the plastic, which will eventually be eaten by the fish. This doesn’t sound like an immediate concern, but think about the last time you ate some form of fish, it likely wasn’t that long ago. Unfortunately, there is a chance that our fish can become contaminated. Thus, making us ill or face other health problems.

According to Jim, although it may take us another 60 years to counteract the previous 60 years of plastic waste, it’s possible. Jim said, “I think we can reverse the trend enough that the oceans can breathe more easily again.” This is great and encouraging news.

Jim Holm is currently leading the way as he is doing something really cool with plastic waste in relation to technology. He is transforming plastic waste into useable energy such as gas, diesel, and kerosene. Read more about plastic to fuel technology here.

Plastic waste and other marine debris continue to be a serious issue, but if we start acting now, it can change. We have the power to make choices that can change the course of ocean health. Captain Jim Holm has started the journey, but it is up to us to keep advancing the agenda. This is not only important for the animals, but for us as well. The ocean is the center of life, and in addition to illness, if this problem isn’t addressed the food chain will be disrupted. Let’s start working now so we don’t have to deal with that later.

We can address this problem in a few ways:

  1. Get educated on the plastic problem by visiting sites such as the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
  2. Contribute to fighting plastic waste financially by donating to organizations such as Clean Oceans International.
  3. Get political and vote for politicians that are concerned with preserving and improving the environment.
  4. Make conscious decisions when eating out such as declining a straw or plastic lid.

Share this article with your friends and show them how they can fight Ocean Pollution!


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