GreenTown Los Altos

Ocean Plastics: What Comes Around Goes Around; Now in Better Ways


Feb 2019


Hope. That was one of the main messages of a GreenTown-sponsored talk on “Ocean Plastics: Circular Economy and Green Chemistry Solutions” on Wed., Jan 23 at the Los Altos Library. Julie Noblitt, a long-time advocate for reducing plastic waste, and the Energy and Climate Director of Acterra, a Palo-Alto based regional environmental organization, presented facts on plastic waste, the dire state of the oceans, and offered a glimmer of hope.

The crux of Julie’s talk was to highlight, not only what we can do as individuals to address the problem of rampant plastic waste, but what companies and creative entrepreneurs are doing to help mitigate the problem. In addition, Cambria Bartlett, a 14 year-old youth advocate active with the organization Heir to Our Oceans spoke about the work of their organization in educating people and policymakers about sustainable alternatives. If you don’t know about them, you should.

The problem:

  • Since the advent of plastics, and in particular, single-use plastics, 8 million metric tons have entered our oceans.
  • Nearly 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year
  • Only about 10 percent is recycled in any meaningful way

The solutions:

Julie highlighted a few big solutions that she is watching evolve.

Good alternatives to plastic

More and more bioplastics, plant-based plastics and edible/degradable substitutes are becoming available. Examples include styrofoam substitutes made out of mushrooms, from Ecovative and straws made out of marine-edible seaweed, from Loliware.

Back to the drawing board: paper straws from Aardvark and other manufacturers.

Dealing with existing plastics

Forty (40) percent of clothing is plastic. When these plastics are washed, microfibers are released into our waterways. The CoraBall, can be thrown in with the laundry to collect these fibers before they go out in the wash water and into our waterways. Adidas has found an answer, teaming with Parley, to create shoes and jerseys made of plastics collected from the ocean

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