Dictated by Roz at 21.07 on May 21st and transcribed by her mother Rita Savage.

Position: -08.19040S  153.62320E

I had an interesting conversation this morning with Dr Kiki Sanford during our regular weekly podcast at twit.tv/roz and it got me thinking. We were talking about the evils of plastic but I found myself almost defending the horrible stuff. It seems to me the plastic itself is not the problem, but the ways we have chosen to use it.

Like so many other things plastic can be used or it can be abused. You can use your TV to watch fascinating documentaries, to visit places you would never otherwise see, to learn more about all kinds of things, or you can watch reality TV and soap operas. Likewise you can use the internet to connect with on-line communities, to collaborate with colleagues overseas, research any subject under the sun, or you can browse porn sites.

Similarly there are lots of good uses for plastic: for example on my boat I have many invaluable items that would not work so well if made from any other substance: waterproof cases, electronics, life jackets, buckets – but why use just toxic, non-biodegradable substances to make “disposable” items out of it, generating these items by the billion to be used for a few minutes and then dumped. It just doesn’t make sense.

There is a very short-term list of items like plastic bags and bottles. Then there are the longer-term items which are just as bad but harder to avoid: shampoo, conditioner, body lotions, toothbrushes, household cleaning products, food packaging. As no-impact man showed it is really hard to live in the twenty-first century without generating plastic trash.

As consumers we cast our vote every time we buy something. If you have found clever ways to reduce your plastic consumption, please log on at ecoheroes.me and share your tips with the rest of our ecohero community.

The good news, and the bad news:  if all we have to do is change the thinking. It is not the world we need to change, it is human behaviour.

Whale Shark - Roz 2009.

Other Stuff: I was very sad to hear that among the creatures most seriously impacted by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill are turtles and whale sharks, my two favourite marine animals. Incidentally oil is used in the production of plastic so if we used less plastic we would need less oil.

And now enough about the environment. Back to me. Today I managed to make some progress west and now getting very close to that diagonal line dividing the Solomon Sea. See maps from a few days ago. In theory, once I cross that line, I should get out of this fast, south-flowing, current (between one and two knots) and into more neutral waters before finding the north west flowing current up the coast of Papua New Guinea.

But I am not getting much cooperation from the elements. The prevailing winds are supposed to be from the south east but I have experienced mostly light westerlies instead. Today I noted with concern that I am less than seventy miles from Woodlark Island, which more or less marks the start of that long chain of islands leading up into Papua New Guinea and I am heading straight for it.

In other words I need to turn the corner of this big hairpin and start heading north west. And soon! But the winds and the currents are not helping. A change in conditions would be very welcome. Any time now would be good. Hello, up there – is anybody listening?

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18 Comments

  • Over the last few days there have been some excellent comments from Rozlings reporting their ways of dealing with the problem of trash plastics in their daily living. Keep it up – Roz would be delighted!

  • Fact: 8% of the world’s oil production is used to make plastic. That’s truly a huge amount of oil!

  • Roz, what do you think of recycling plastic? Our city has recycling service with our regular trash pickup & we can recycle plastics #1-7. Is that helping at all?

  • Gifted with this self sustaining, yet biodegradeable planet, man’s intellect has figured out how to combine its elements to make it less so the former and our ignorance to make it more so the latter.

    Roz you may be our salty prelapsarian witness.

    That should keep your mind off the paddle blades for a spell.

    Good luck through the islands.
    w@noaa

  • I checked out the youtube that Marcus mentioned and as he said it was very disturbing to watch even though we know it’s happening. Every time I see a plastic bag I will envision the seagull wolfing one down.
    We all need to limit the use of non-essential plastic and take responsibility for the disposal of what we do use. Control the litter. Educate. Educate. Educate. Thank you Roz for what you are doing.
    There are those who just don’t get it and won’t until it affects them on a personal level.
    Someday I hope a way is found to re-use the huge amount of discarded plastic materials into something useful.

  • I have been quitetly folling your adventures from the Atlantic to the Pacific. I must say that you live your life to the fullest and do what millions wish the had the —– to do. Your dedication for the oceans and the enviroment is inspiring and you have enlightened many to the plight of our oceans.

    I love the ocean, am a avid scuba diver and was a member of Greenpeace. I have seen first hand the devestating effects of pollution on reefs and sea life. I have renewed my own goals of recycling, using less plastic and decreasing my energy consumption and encouraging other to do the same.

    Your work and contributions will not be forgotten.

    Keep on rowing.

  • Roz, I was going to post a comment yesterday regarding the “good” elements of plastic. I’m glad you noted some of them today. The fact is one of the main reasons for all those plastic bottles is shipping weight and thus the cost and carbon footprint of hauling water, in its various forms-including wine and beer, around. For example a 12 oz glass beer bottle weighs about 6.5 oz, a 12 oz aluminum can 0.6 oz and a 12 oz plastic water bottle less than 0.5 oz. That amounts to hauling a lot of extra weight just to avoid using plastic. I’m not even going to try to get into the energy cost of “recycling” glass either. The real solution is to stop using products like plain water that are packaged in plastic, because there are better, cheaper alternatives in most of the developed world. It’s called tap water.

    Another element in the move from glass to plastic containers has to do with personal safety. Wouldn’t you rather drop a plastic shampoo bottle in the shower than a glass one? – I know my feet prefer plastic.

    Roz, you hit the nail squarely on teh head when you describe this as a “behavior” problem. All the plastic trash in the oceans got there because someone threw it there. In addition to reducing our use of products packaged in plastics where we can. We need to make sure that when we drop a plastic container in the recycle bin that it actually gets recycled. I live in a community that is criticized because we only “take” milk bottle polyethylene and PET drink bottles. They do not take other containers because there is no market nearby that will use them in new products. If the waste people here started taking other plastics in the recycle bin, they would find it cheaper to dump them in a landfill than to ship them half way across country for recycling.

    Simply put the problem with plastic is how we use, reuse and dispose of it, not that it exists.

  • The city I live in recycles plastic. I throw all plastic in the recycle bin and don’t buy plastic water bottles anymore. I am trying to change my use of plastic bags to reusable bags but it’s going slow. The city garbage contractor also takes plastic bags for recycling. I try to reuse them too. I reuse the plastic bags the newspaper comes in when I clean out the cat boxes. The bags are two layers which are perfect.

    I’m sending good vibes for that northwest current and favorable winds.

  • As you said, plastic is Everywhere. Just looking at the store shelves full of it is enough to make one realize that. Until some other affordable, durable non toxic material is introduced and accepted by society it will continue.

    It ties in with our link to oil dependence. It is in everything and everywhere. BP’s disaster in the Gulf is a Tragedy with ramifications we have yet to see. Yet our dependence on their product will keep them drilling and destroying our oceans.

    The bottom line is alternatives have to make economic sense for the mega corporations controlling the world. Until that grip can be loosened or adjusted more of the same will continue.

    However, all great changes start “one stoke at a time”. There is a collective energy that can be utilized, if enough people are involved. It requires leadership, a bit of discomfort and willingness to go the extra mile, like Roz.

  • Hi Roz. Maybe I’m an old grouch like Walter Mattheau in “Grumpy Old Men”, but I do find an alternate use for almost everything plastic I find necessary to use – like a toothbrush. One old one I have been using to apply polish to my boots ’cause it gets into every niche and groove. Also use others for separate jobs from reaching grotty areas around windows and doors to cleaning gunk off a fan. There are so many other plastic items that can be used for a plethora of different chores, it would take too much space to mention here.

    Part of my porpoise in helping Vancouver (BC) become the greenest city in N.A. is gently putting the onus on sloppy uncaring people for littering our streets with materials that get swept into storm drains then into our coves, bays, and inlets. Our abuse of these products destroys these environments, not the proper usage thereof.

    Even grumpy old men can be productive 😉

  • Unfortunately tap water is not an answer as too many places in the world, including the United States does not have potable water. I had to shut down the well to my house due to high nitrates and arsenic.

    That is not to say I use plastic, but I sometimes get the impression that many seem to think that the services and economy available to them and conditions they live in apply everywhere. In Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Cabo San Lucas in the resorts, a sign over every sink has the message: ‘Do not drink the water’ and supply bottled water. I cannot use the water in my house on Cancun. My only choice is to buy water, or have it delivered for drinking and cooking.

    There is a light in that some manufacturers are beginning to shift from the use of plastics for their food producst to a biodegradable substitute. As we went from glass bottles to cardboard cartons to plastic bottles and from steel cans to aluminum cans in efforts to reduce impacts, it is time to develop the next step.

  • Richard’s point is well taken. I am fortunate in having potable well water despite being in California’s ‘Gold Country’ where there’s a lot of arsenic and iron in the soil. Nitrates in water often derive from fertilizers. Our well is supplied by flowing water from the snow melt off the Sierras, but many domestic (and industrial) wells draw on ancient reservoirs that are replenished by default with brine. It is carried under California by subduction of the Pacific Plate.

    Part of the problem is that while all surface water is “owned” by some entity (so responsibility can be assigned) underground water belongs to whoever can get at it.

    Many Pacific islands get their water from ancient reservoirs in the dead volcanoes forming their foundations. Such reservoirs may last for many generations before salination becomes apparent.

  • I have a friend who always drinks bottled water. I asked him to stop because we have really good tap water here at work. He said that it has fluoride in it and he thinks that’s unhealthy. I said, buy big jugs of bottled water that get refilled and then fill reusable water bottles to carry to work and elsewhere. He liked that idea and I made another convert. Just like Roz rowing the oceans, if there’s a will there’s a way!

  • Commenting on your posts for days 32 and 33, Roz: Yogurt pots = toothbrush handle

    In Waltham, MA, USA a company produces toothbrushes with handles made from recycled yogurt cups (or pots.) Bought one here in Los Angeles — soft bristles, good design, can return for (handle) recycling.

    Looking at the big picture of ocean currents, I had the same question posed by Lynn.

    Keep up the good progress, sharing your message and your journey!

  • Recycling glass costs far less than recycling plastic. It’s clean and easy to do. Recycled glass is as good as first-use glass, which isn’t true of plastic. On the other hand, recycling plastic is a dirty chemical process that requires a lot of energy.

    The carbon footprint of shipping glass is nothing compared to the cost of creating plastic, which is a direct petroleum product in itself. As I said above, 8% of all oil produced is directly used to make plastic.

    Regarding safety, glass-container injuries are very rare. People lived with glass for a very long time without a major safety issue.

    Recycling plastic is better than throwing it in a landfill, but it’s not a solution to the problem. As Roz says, we need to reduce the way we think about plastic. It shouldn’t be used as a disposable single-use material.

    Most areas of the Unites States and Europe have a very high quality municipal water supply, or a well that produces perfectly good drinking water. Of course there are exceptions to this, but for the most part, very high quality and inexpensive water comes right out of the tap.

    I’m sorry if this sounds rude, but it seem to me like some people here are making excuses for the things they do because it’s more convenient than changing their harmful addiction to disposable plastic products. Fixing the problems we’ve created as a society won’t be easy (although it’s not THAT difficult either), but it’s worth the effort. This is the only planet we have. If we don’t start taking better care of it, it’s going to stop taking care of us. Plastic is a major problem that is polluting our environment to an extent that most people don’t realize, because they don’t see it in their every day life. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s a very flawed way of thinking.

  • I didn’t even mention the harmful chemicals that leach out of plastic food and beverage containers. Even if you’re willing to blindly overlook how you are polluting the one and only planet we have, are you willing to overlook polluting your own body? That’s another thing we have only one of.

  • Hi Roz! My class and I look at your progress everyday. We have been “cheering” for you since you left.(except the weekends.) You are almost there!(I think…) Keep up the good work!!

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