Just about everything we use on a daily basis is composed of plastic – it’s become the product of our lives! First created in 1898 and recreated in 1953 in a high-density form, Polyethylene is one of the most used plastics today. The origin of this high density formula was simple - the draw for a cheaper alternative to the costly paper bag system in grocery stores was too tempting to pass up. And just like that, the monster was born… Plastic grocery bags essentially went on to become a viral commodity in America, when in 1982, Safeway and Kroger picked them up in all of their stores nationwide. Only a few years later and a whopping 75% of supermarkets were offering the plastic bag behemoth, and yet many customers still preferred paper bags because they were able to hold more products. Ironically, it actually took about 10 years of (unfortunate) advocacy from the plastic producers to sway grocery store guests away from their beloved paper bags. Now in 2018 after countless studies regarding the plastic waste problem we now face, sustainable advocates are tackling this issue from a different angle by trying to educate and influence people’s plastic habits toward reusable and environmentally-friendly products.
Unfortunately, the issue with plastic is simple and scary: it quite literally never goes away. You might not realize, but every single piece of plastic made in history is actually still in existence today, even though you might think it’s gone. This is because products made from plastics photo-degrade when faced with long exposure to sunlight, eventually causing them to shrink smaller and smaller into little mini bits and pieces known as microplastics.
Microplastic - “Extremely small pieces of plastic debris less than 5mm long that exist in the environment.”
Now, while much, much smaller, this still isn’t helping anyone (or any creatures, for that matter). Research has unmistakably shown that these microplastics are ingested by marine mammals, sea turtles, and even fish (algalita.org), and with 100 million tons of fish being caught each year solely for human consumption (Pauly and Zeller, 2016)… well, we’ll let you add that up. So how DO we eat less plastic?
a hero emerges
There is one group who is tackling this problem head on, and we are so pleased to be a supporter in this mission! The Eat Less Plastic Voyage is a collaboration of conservation-minded supporters who are embarking on a four-month journey across the South Pacific Ocean, collecting data where microplastic samples have never been collected before. Making nine stops along the way, the journey will be documented in VR/306 as they sail across the seas, all while forming meaningful and educational connections with all of the local communities they meet along the way.
“Eat Less Plastic is dedicated to strengthening the plastic pollution conversation voice in order to spur change in global policy in a unique way.”
During the journey, crew members will be using a manta microplastic trawler to collect samples. The boat travels at 3knots for 30min and collects a surface sample of the area. This brand-new data will be sent to 5 Gyres to analyze and quantify the impacts that plastic is having on our ocean, our marine life, and let’s face it – our entire ecosystem. After the voyage, this critical data will then be added to the Global Estimate of Marine Plastic Pollution, which is used to educate and create important legislative changes for our (and Mother Nature’s) future.
a match made in heaven
Here on Maui, another local company has been making their own personal contribution since 2010 to mitigating the plastic problem (we’ll give you 3 guesses!). Since 1973, Trilogy has been a leader in sustainability both above and below the water. It was this dedicated involvement in reef clean-ups and other environmentally responsible practices that eventually allowed their passionate, eco-forward employees to found the Blue’Aina program. Blue’Aina is a campaign that Trilogy sponsors on a monthly basis since its inception in January 2010 - that’s an impressive 92 months of sponsorship for our beautiful ‘aina & ocean! The objective of the Blue’Aina Campaign is to cleanup and maintain Maui’s reef and surrounding lands, to educate the community through classes and citizen science, and to raise money and lend volunteer support for other local non-profit organizations.
The best part of this program is that they get to share a connection with both the local Maui community and with visiting tourists, alike! Through a fun day of snorkeling, education, and delicious food (and all for a nominal donation to the program itself), guests are able to clean up marine debris from the reef while simultaneously learning first-hand about the world’s plastic problem (and becoming part of the solution!). Our Conservation Director & avid environmental enthusiast, Magen Schifiliti is a strong believer that one of the biggest opportunities for solving this plastic crisis is through education, with the goal being to truly alter consumer behaviors and tendencies so that we can reduce our single-use plastic dependency.
welcome aboard, magen!
With all of the harmonies between ELP and Blue’Aina’s missions, it was no wonder that we were truly thrilled at the idea of a partnership! Trilogy will be sponsoring Magen to join the ELP voyage for a leg of their trip, helping gather microplastic samples, visiting the local schools of the South Pacific islands, and even educating Maui’s youth here on our own island about sustainable living. The Blue’Aina campaign will be directly connecting Maui school children of all ages with local schools in Fiji, so that students can get a chance to learn from each other about the full lifecycle of a piece of plastic and how it’s contributing to the global plastic problem. The best part? Through in-person education and samples, the students will use this knowledge to then discover positive and meaningful ways to help reduce their own plastic dependency.
ELP and Blue’Aina are so excited for this opportunity, as it will help to educate people of all ages in a genuinely meaningful way about the global plastic problem and how they can start making sustainable changes. Follow along with this amazing voyage using all the sources below!
@blueainamaui | @schifime | @eatlessplastic
And check out the links below for more information about the Sponsors and their other ongoing projects:
Written by Cyndie Ellis & Magen Schifiliti
1) Algalitta. https://www.algalita.org. September 12, 2018.
2) Pauly, D. & Zeller, D. Catch reconstructions reveal that global marine fisheries catches are higher than reported and declining. Nat. Commun. 7:10244 doi: 10.1038/ncomms10244 (2016).