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Entries in plastic (8)

Monday
Jan062014

Great Lakes 'Awash in Plastic'

NOAA photo

At least three of the five Great Lakes “are awash in plastic,” according to Scientific American.

Make that micro plastic, which mostly consists of tiny beads often used as abrasives in personal care products.

 The big questions now are what effects these tiny pieces of pollution are having. The plastic itself could be harmful when ingested, but it also adsorbs chemicals, some of them toxic. That means the health of both fish and the humans that eat them could be at risk.

  “We don’t know what’s going on yet with the fish or the organisms eating the plastic with these pollutants in the Great Lakes,” said Lorena Rios, a chemist with the University of Wisconsin-Superior. “I plan to study whether the endocrine system of the fish is damaged and whether the problem stops there or moves up the food chain in harmful amounts all the way to humans.”

 During 2012, Rios and other researchers found 1,500 to 1.7 million plastic particles per square mile in Lakes Superior, Erie, and Huron. About 85 percent of that was micro plastics, with pieces averaging less than one millimeter in diameter. With more people and industry around it, Erie, not surprisingly, had the highest density.

 Rios didn’t find any plastic in the fish samples that she tested, which were all from Superior. But the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has found plastic in Lake Erie yellow perch during ongoing diet-analysis studies, and is sending samples to the chemist for analysis.

Researchers decided to look at the Great Lakes because micro plastics also are commonly found suspended in ocean waters. That marine pollution already has prompted some companies to announce they will phase out micro beads from their products.

Friday
Aug162013

Plastic Pollution Threatens Freshwater Too

For years we’ve heard about vast islands of plastic debris floating in the oceans.

Now we’re learning that plastic pollution is contaminating freshwaters as well--- only from a source that likely will surprise you.

Microbeads.

What are they?

They’re abrasive particles found in all kinds of products, including toothpaste, liquid soaps, and industrial cleaners. They scrub, remove dead cells, unclog pores, and give us sparkling teeth.

But they also don’t dissolve. Instead, they wash down the drain, through water treatment systems, and into our lakes, rivers, and, eventually, oceans.

They also absorb and retain chemicals contaminants.

“Fish and other water creatures ingest them, either because they look like food or because they’re so small they just get sucked in with the plankton or whatever else is for lunch,” says the Chicago Tribune.

 “The pellets --- and the contaminants --- get passed up the food chain until they land on our plates disguised as pecan-crusted walleye.”

Thus far, researchers have found the microbeads in water samples taken from lakes Superior, Huron, and Erie. And now they’re going to check out Michigan and Ontario.

In some portions of Erie, scientists found more than 600,000 particles per square kilometer.

Not so coincidentally, Johnson & Johnson has announced that it will phase out products with microbeads.

 “At the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Companies, we’ve already begun the phase out of polyethylene microbeads in our personal care products. We have stopped developing new products containing plastic microbeads, and we are currently conducting an environmental safety assessment of a promising alternative.

“This assessment is part of our ‘informed substitution’ approach, which helps ensure that the alternatives we choose are safe and environmentally sound, and that they provide consumers with a great experience. Our specific plans will be developed once this assessment is complete.”

Monday
Oct012012

B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Leads in Keeping Plastic Baits Out of Our Waters

Cody Bigford of Lakeland, Fla., collected more than 6,000 used baits. Photo courtesy of Eamon Bolten

This column is intended as a thank-you to the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation state conservation directors out there who have recognized the need for us to be better stewards of our fisheries and are doing something about it.

These guys and gals are volunteers with families, jobs, and other responsibilities, but they are taking the time to make a difference.

I’m speaking specifically of their dedication to educate and involve anglers in properly disposing of used plastic baits, or, even better, recycling them.

Ray Scott did a great thing when he extolled the virtues of catch-and-release decades ago. Millions of anglers bought into the idea, and, as a result, both the face and the nature of sport fishing were changed for the better.

But we’ve ridden that tailwind long enough. It’s time to do more for conservation, especially in light of growing anti-fishing sentiment in our increasingly urban society. When we don’t take responsibility for maintaining a positive public image, we allow others control of our destiny --- and that’s not good.

Why target used plastic baits? Here’s why:

At Florida’s recent Junior State Championship on Lake Okeechobee, Cody Bigford of the Lakeland Junior Bassmasters turned in 130 pounds of baits that he had collected from various events in his area. That’s one person, in one town, accumulating more than 6,000 used baits.

Now, think nationally and you easily can see the massive quantity of used baits that millions of anglers discard annually.

Too many of those are being tossed into lakes and rivers or discarded along shorelines. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some bass eat those baits and, as a result, suffer intestinal blockages, which leads to death by starvation.

The real problem with trashing our waters with used baits, though, is that it’s irresponsible, plain and simple. Leaving trash of any kind behind is wrong --- even if it is at the bottom of a lake.

But Cody and others are spreading awareness and building a new ethic worthy of the Ray Scott legacy. Of course, in the early going, incentives help.

In Illinois, Allen Severance staged a plastic baits weigh-in at the end of a tournament. The challenge, he said, “was finding a way to convince anglers to participate.”

He did that by convincing Bass Pro Shops to donate gift cards for the winning clubs.

Michigan’s Jarrod Sherwood tried something similar for his state’s championship tournament. He spread the word as early as possible that prizes would be given to the clubs that turned in the most baits. “I am sure the clubs have been ‘cheating’ and collecting baits throughout the year,” he said.

“Our course, that was the point of letting them know ahead of time.”

Wisconsin’s Ken Snow said, “Our guys really like the idea (of turning in used plastic baits). Our youth director, Jessie Heineke, took the baits to melt down and recycle into some hand-poured baits.”

South Dakota’s Jeff Brown added, “Our anglers are pitching in and getting the hang of keeping their plastics that they typically discard. We hand out plastic bags for lure collection prior to the tournament and have a receptacle at the weigh-in for used baits.

Brown also said that he has “worked out a deal” with Minnesota’s Mickey Goetting, who is also the owner of MG Lures. “He specializes in hand-poured lures and has agreed to re-manufacture the baits into something our youth program can sell.”

Adopting the name “ReBaits,” Florida’s Eamon Bolten was the first to envision a program in which used baits could be turned into new baits. Ideally, he would like to see it go national as a coordinated project, with conservation directors collecting and sending in used baits. Proceeds from sales of new baits would go to conservation.

But logistics of such a large-scale undertaking have yet to be worked out. Right now, he has contracted with one company, Reel-Feel Baits, to melt old baits into new. He then gives those baits to those who turned in used plastics.

“Maybe eventually we will sell them,” he said.

Meanwhile, he is encouraged by what he sees happening nationally, not only with other conservation directors but with anglers in general.

“People are starting programs all over the country,” he said. “Some are even using the ReBaits name.

“We’re getting the message across and keeping baits out of landfills and fisheries.”

(Reprinted from B.A.S.S. Times.)

Thursday
Jun212012

Talking 'Trash' About Panties, Plastic and Fishing Line 

I really need to do more night fishing at the little lakes near my house, especially those that have beaches.

Based on a recent finding at one of those beaches, I suspect that the “wildlife” is worth studying after dark.

Yes, I did find those unmentionables. I added my Activist Angler business card for proof that I didn’t just find a photo of a pair of hot pink panties by doing a Google search and make up this story.

And, oh yeah, I found a giant black bra last year at the same beach. Although I wrote about that discovery, I regrettably neglected to take a photo. Instead, I just picked up the bra with a long stick and carried it to the nearest trash can.

Four or five times a week during the summer, I walk down to the beaches and launch areas to pick up trash and treasures. I started doing it because of concerns about discarded fishing line, which can kill birds, but eventually started picking up other litter too.

And then I started finding the “good” stuff: Clothing, shoes, sunglasses, books, folding chairs, inflatable water toys, etc. Already this summer, I’ve found enough flip flops and slides to open a shoe store.

But all of that is just for entertainment value --- and to get you to read my real message, which follows.

Prime motivation for my walks to the beaches and access areas remains picking up fishing line, and other trash, especially plastics.

We have a big problem with plastics in our environment, folks.

Check out these links to learn more:

Waste and Recycling Facts

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Trash Vortex

North Pacific Trash Patch

Plastic Trash Island Disaster video

I’m doing what I can to make things better. Are you? 

 

Thursday
May242012

Time for Anglers to Take More Responsibility for Health of Fisheries

The above photo shows another bass that is slowly starving to death because of ingested plastic baits.

My friend Carl Wengenroth, owner of Angler’s Lodge on Lake Amistad, sent the photo to me. Sadly, he has seen plenty of this.

“A 9-inch curly tail was pulled from the anal port,” he says.

“The angler wanted to release it so I have no idea what else was in there. But I am assuming there was more. No hook was seen.

“Thought about digging around, but figured it would kill the fish. It took some effort to get the worm out of there, so I know it was stuck.”

As I’ve shown with photos previously at Activist Angler, many of them from Carl, we have anecdotal evidence that bass are eating discarded baits and starving to death because of it, as the plastic blocks their digestive systems.

The sight of a skinny bass with plastics in its belly is gut-wrenching, no doubt about it. And we need to do more to keep them out of our waters. But we have no evidence that those baits are hurting bass populations overall.

So, it makes sense to view this issue as one more front on the battle to keep trash, especially plastic and man-made packaging, out of our environment. Six-pack rings, plastic bags, fishing line, and Styrofoam bits have killed plenty of fish, turtles, and birds.

Most anglers pride themselves on their conservation ethic, and here’s a great way to demonstrate that ethic through actions.

Don’t throw those used plastic baits in the water or on the ground, and encourage others to properly dispose of them as well.

Also, join Recycled Fish’s One Million Stewards campaign. Take the Sportman’s Stewardship Pledge and buy a Stewardship kit, which includes a shoreline cleanup bag and a booklet on how to better care for our fisheries.

Catch-and-release was a great first step on the road toward anglers taking responsibility for the health of our fisheries. Now it’s time for the second.