Two Kiwis have been devasted by their work in the Caribbean. The two joined an international team of 300 to clean up an ocean of plastic and educate local school children, but have come home stating more work needs to be done here in New Zealand.
The international team made up of environmental NGOs, local youth, and executives from 45 counties around the world travelled to the island of Roatán – once a beautiful paradise – to remove plastic waste from its coastlines. Floating off the shores of this island is a giant mass of waste stretching for kilometres, thought to originate from Guatemala’s Motagua River.
Over a 48 hour period more than eight tonnes of plastic waste was collected. Although this seems like a huge amount, this is actually the amount dropped into the world’s oceans every 30 seconds. More than eight million tons of plastic go into the ocean every year.
Shannon Zaloum, a SodaStream NZ representative, said there were dozens of types of discarded plastic products, but the most numerous were single-use plastic bottles with more than 160,000
“Plastics are not biodegradable and when they enter the ocean they simply break down into smaller pieces until they turn into microparticles,” said Zaloum. The microparticles are a serious hazard to marine life, with an estimated 90 percent of seabirds consuming them either directly or via the food chain.
“The waters around NZ are not immune to this issue,” said Zaloum. “The whole experience for us was devastating. It was really emotional and I found myself close to tears. The scale of what we faced was just something I hadn’t even imagined.”
Zaloum wants to take what shew learned from the trip and teach it to Kiwi children, who will be the future of plastic use and management.
The rains – increasingly volatile and unpredictable thanks to climate change – will likely bring another wave of rubbish from the river to the oceans around Roatán. SodaStream is funding the development of a technology, the Holy Turtle, designed to clean plastic waste from open waters. The design is based on oil spill containment systems. A 300 metre long floating device is connected to two boats, which tow it across kilometres of open water so it can capture floating waste while protecting wildlife.
The Holy Turtle is already on standby in the Caribbean, waiting for the rains to wash the next flow of plastic into the ocean. The plastic it collected will be turned into an exhibition aimed at educating people about the need to reduce plastic consumption.