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‘Addiction to single-use plastic must stop’

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The elimination of mankind's “addiction to single-use plastic” is the focus of a new documentary being privately screened at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute for the first time in Bermuda to coincide with World Oceans Day.

A Plastic Ocean, produced by Jo Ruxton formerly of the BBC Natural History Unit in the UK, follows journalist Craig Leeson and a team of scientists and researchers to 20 locations around the world to document the global effects of plastic pollution.

The documentary, co-produced by Adam Leipzig, along with the Plastic Oceans Foundation launched by Ms Ruxton, introduces some solutions to the problem that can make meaningful change in the future.

The foundation aims to take the message of the film through three main programmes — science and policy, business and sustainability, and education and conservation.

Ms Ruxton has worked for the World Wildlife Fund in Asia and was a part of the celebrated Blue Plant team.

She has been on the island speaking at several schools to highlight the problem. The world exclusive private screening is tonight at 6.30pm and Ms Ruxton will be giving a talk on plastic pollution on Friday.

She told The Royal Gazette: “It is an eye-opener. It will make people realise that this addiction has got to stop — you can't throw something away because there is no ‘away'.

“There are messages to different groups including those who may not care about nature or the environment — we show that plastic can be turned into fuel because it came from fuel and that might make people's ears prick up but the one I think nobody can ignore is the effect on human health and the potential for that to get so much worse.

“A lot of the diseases that are on the increase have already been linked to the same toxins that are carried by plastics — cancer, autoimmune problems, cognitive developmental problems, infertility, endocrinal problems. The toxins either leach from plastic or something the plastic has picked up in the ocean. When they are eaten what they like better than plastic is fat and so the toxins will lift off and pass through the bloodstream and they are stored in the fatty tissue.”

The great naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough has fully endorsed the film and is quoted saying: “When I was a boy I remember my teacher telling me that we are living in the plastic period — you have Iron age, etc and he said ‘and how right he was'.”

Ms Ruxton added: “It's like the Stone Age and the Iron Age — now we are in the plastic age. Paleontologists are finding plastic in rocks and arctic ice. The poles can't escape, it is one ocean.”

Bermuda is no exception. During her visit, Ms Ruxton conducted a survey covering one square mile at Whalebone Beach in St George's and she collected two large ziplock bags and about 20 sample tubes of plastic fragments largely made up of pre-production plastic pellets.

“We found lots of pre-production pellets on the beach this is how plastic is transported around the world and they pour them into a plastic mould. They spill during shipping or any kind of transport. There is not a beach in the world yet where they have not been found to date — right up to the Antarctic. They look just like fish eggs so the fish are eating them.

“Micro beads is another one that is so easy to solve they have banned them in the US. The latest study has shown that 50 per cent is from five Asian countries. But it is not as simple as we think. We are sending our plastic waste to them and think it is being recycled but only the high-value stuff gets used, the rest of it gets dumped. Many of them don't have trash collection so they view the river as a self cleansing way to take their trash away from the village. The ocean is choking already — it is backing up. We would help those countries already by addressing our addiction single use plastic.”

Speaking on the Plastic Oceans foundation, Ms Ruxton added: “The reason I set up the foundation was the more I learnt about the topic, in particular the human health side, I thought this can not end with the film.

“We are moving forward in the three areas and collating everything so the foundation will be the centre of excellence for this and universities can link into it.”

Tickets for the screening have sold out but there are still tickets available for Friday's talk during which clips from the film will be shown. For tickets call 294-0204.

Problem runs deep: plastic collections in the ocean. Some solutions to the problem are introduced in a new documentary
Our oceans are choking: plastic from one square mile at Whalebone Bay in Bermuda
Jo Ruxton

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Published June 08, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 08, 2016 at 11:22 am)

‘Addiction to single-use plastic must stop’

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