Microplastics Have Reached the Deep Sea — in Monterey Bay

whale

Plastic pollution is no longer a surface level problem. Recent discoveries have uncovered that plastics have reached the deep sea. They’ve even been discovered in the deepest natural trench in the world.

What does this tell us? The critical state of plastic pollution is worsening. Plastics are now present throughout the entire ocean. And the harmful pollutants are closer to home than we once thought.

The Monterey Bay Study

A recent study conducted in Monterey Bay off the coast of Northern California found there are far more microplastics at the bottom of the sea than there are at the surface. A team of scientists tested the Bay’s water column to see how the concentration of plastic varied from the surface to the ocean floor. They found microplastics in every sample they took, and their samples showed that the highest concentrations of microplastics were located between 650 and 1,000 feet down. That’s four times as much plastic as they found at the surface.

Monterey Bay is a deep submarine canyon ecosystem. It’s an important conservation area for marine life, and part of the migratory path for gray whales and humpback whales. It is also part of the deep pelagic zone, the largest habitat on earth. Finding so much plastic here means there could be far more plastic than we know about in deep waters all over the world. These plastics will be far more difficult to remove than plastics floating near the surface.

Researchers determined that most of the plastic they found came from land, not from fishing activity. Additionally, the majority of the microplastics were plastic #1, or PET. This is the kind of plastic that is used in single-use items such as water bottles and takeout food containers.

How You Can Help

You can take action to prevent more single-use plastics washing into the ocean. Avoid plastic packaging when possible, and invest in a reusable water bottle, reusable drinking straws and reusable food-safe containers. Refusing is the first step to reducing pollution. When you can’t refuse, recycle! Learn what plastics we accept for recycling in our Recycling Guide.

Never Put Plastic Bags in Your Recycling — Here’s What You Can Do With Them Instead

plastic bag

Don’t put plastic bags in your recycling bin. If you do, they won’t get recycled. What’s worse, they’ll get tangled up in the machinery at our recycling facilities, which damages the machinery and endangers the workers who have to untangle them in order to get the machines working again.

That doesn’t mean you can’t recycle plastic bags, but they do take more effort. Some big box stores will collect them, and from there they are often recycled into plastic lumber. However, the closest stores to Lake County that recycle plastic bags are in Ukiah.

It’s better to recycle plastic bags than throw to them in the trash, because it’s easy for them to blow away at the landfill and become litter in the local environment and waterways. However, it’s better to put plastic bags in the trash than accidentally toss them in with your curbside recycling. Just make sure they are sealed tight within a heavy trash bag.

If you want to recycle your plastic bags, you can find plastic bag recycling containers at the following places in Ukiah:

Kohl’s
437 N Orchard Ave | (707) 462-2694
Map & Directions

Raley’s
1315 N State St | (707) 468-5178
Map & Directions

Plastic bags should be clean, dry and completely empty before being recycled. If a bag tears or crinkles, it’s not recyclable.

Remember that plastic bags include:

Take This Challenge to Learn How to Waste Less Food! (Video)

It’s time to waste less and enjoy more! As Americans, we waste about 25% of the food we buy. That’s like buying four bags of food at the grocery store, then dropping one in the parking lot and leaving it there.

The Too Good to Waste Challenge is a month-long program that will help you:

  • Pinpoint why good food may be going to waste in your home
  • Make easy shifts in how you shop, store and prep food
  • Reduce waste
  • Save money

Watch this video to learn how to take the challenge and cut back on food waste at home. Sign up for the Too Good to Waste Challenge here.

Question How You Hydrate

plastic water bottle

One million single-use plastic bottles are sold every minute around the world. If this is shocking news to you, then it may be time to question how you hydrate.

Lonely Whale is on a mission to end the use of single-use plastic water bottles. Their new campaign, called Question How You Hydrate, is trying to raise awareness of our harmful, single-use plastic water bottle habit.

Plastic bottles only came into popular use in the 1990s, and now they are among the top five items found in beach cleanups around the world. They’re also likely to outlive us by hundreds of years. Considering a whopping 91% of all the plastic ever made hasn’t been recycled, that’s pretty scary.

When it comes to plastic bottles, it’s easy to choose sustainable alternatives for our drinking water. Reusable water bottles, reusable glasses, tap water, filtered water, hydration stations and aluminum canned water are all more eco-friendly choices. You can join the #HydrateLike campaign by using their hashtag to show others how you choose to hydrate. You can also pledge to stop using single-use plastic water bottles at hydratelike.org.

 

Question How You Hydrate follows Lonely Whale’s hugely successful campaign against plastic straws, #StopSucking. The #StopSucking campaign helped support Strawless in Seattle, and within four months, it had spurred a global movement. The viral campaign reached over 40 countries and territories. Now plastic straws are limited in California, and they have been banned in other U.S. cities and foreign countries, as well.

So how do you hydrate? Ending the use of single-use plastics starts with our individual choices and daily actions. Commit to choosing sustainable alternatives to plastic water bottles today.

The “Attenborough Effect”: How One Man Is Changing the Way We Think About Plastic

The “Attenborough Effect” is shedding light on the progress we’re making — and can continue to make — when it comes to plastic use. The term is named after David Attenborough, an English broadcaster, writer and natural historian whose work educates people about plastic and other sustainability issues.

Attenborough’s Impact on Plastic Use

Attenborough is especially well-known for his most recent work narrating Blue Planet, Planet Earth and Our Planet, and he also narrated a nine-part Life series on BBC that was released between the late 1970s and early 90s. However, the films he has worked on have done more than entertain millions worldwide. According to a new report, online searches in the UK for “plastic recycling” have doubled since Blue Planet II was released two years ago, and 53 percent of people have reported using less plastic after watching the documentary.

The Attenborough Effect is now seen as a larger global movement to reduce plastic waste. New regulations have been initiated that claim to be influenced by Attenborough’s work. The European Union, which encompasses 28 countries, recently passed a single-use plastics ban, accrediting Attenborough’s Blue Planet series as part of its motivation. Even the Queen herself has banned certain single-use plastics from the Royal estates after working with Attenborough on a conservation documentary about wildlife.

The Importance of Awareness

It’s beginning to get harder to ignore just how serious the plastic issue really is. Between the fact that over 90% of plastic has never been recycled, and so many marine animals are dying from accidentally consuming plastics in the ocean, we all need to start rethinking our daily plastic use.

Although the idea of cutting out all plastics is daunting to most of us, limiting how much plastic we use can be done in small stages. Start with the little things: Take a look at the plastics in our Recycling Guide and see if there are any items you can use less of.

As we begin to notice how prevalent plastic is in our lives, we can start to reshape our habits one decision at a time. If there’s anything that can help us turn things around, being more aware is the first step.

The Truth You Need to Know About Your Sunscreen

Protecting your skin from the sun is important. Not only does limiting sun exposure help prevent heat-related health risks, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion, but it can also reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.

However, some sunscreens can do more harm than good, especially to our oceans. Here’s what you need to know.

Sunscreen Harms the Environment

As much as 14,000 tons of sunscreen is deposited in the world’s oceans each year. One of the biggest impacts it has on our environment is how it affects marine life and coral reefs. Some of the same chemicals used to prevent sunburn come off our skin when swimming in lakes, rivers and oceans or showering off afterward. Oxybenzone, for example, is a leading chemical that helps to absorb UV light but can also be absorbed by corals and lead to coral bleaching.

Coral bleaching is the whitening process that happens when coral reefs experience extreme changes in environmental conditions, such as temperature, light, or nutrients. As a result, they expel the algae that lives in their tissues, and that’s how they become white. If the conditions reverse, the corals can recover. If not, the algae do not return and the corals eventually die.

Another issue common with sunscreen chemicals is that they contain endocrine and genetic disrupters. In high enough concentrations, these may be damaging to the hormones, genetics and reproductive capabilities of fish populations.

Use Alternatives to Avoid Polluting the Water

Not all sunscreens are made equal.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate are two of the most widely talked about sunscreen chemicals that act as pollutants, and in 2021 they will be banned as sunscreen ingredients in the state of Hawaii. However, many other chemicals can still be included even in products that label themselves as “reef safe.”

While mineral sunscreens that use titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are generally preferred, these ingredients are also harmful if they are nanoparticles, or “nano-sized.” Look for sunscreens labeled “non-nano,” or use the Consumer Products Inventory to find out if your sunscreen contains nanoparticles.

Haereticus Environmental Lab maintains a complete list of ingredients to avoid in your sunscreen. A few of the best-rated sunscreen brands without these toxic chemicals include Thinksport, All Good, Suntegrity, Badger and Raw Elements.

In addition to using eco-friendly sunscreens, you can also limit your sun exposure to begin with so that you don’t have to wear as much sunscreen. Use shade structures to get out of direct sunlight, and wear hats and lightweight clothing with UV protection.

Don’t Toss Your Old Socks — Darn Them Instead! Here’s How

If your favorite socks didn’t survive the winter hole-free, you don’t have to toss them! You can save your favorite socks through the simple, age-old process of darning. If you aren’t crafty, don’t worry — it’s much easier than you think. Watch this short video to learn how.

Toss That Old Garden Hose

garden hose

With summer finally here, many of us are realizing that our garden hoses are cracked, broken or leaky and need to be replaced. Although you might think garden hoses are recyclable because they’re made out of plastic, they actually need to be put in the garbage.

Garden hoses are one of the most dangerous items to accidentally toss in your recycling. Why? They are long, unruly and can wrap around sorting machinery. This not only damages the machinery, but it also endangers the workers who have to try to untangle them. Toss them in the trash, or, if you’re feeling creative, check out these ideas in the Recycling Guide for repurposing them.

When replacing your garden hose, opt for polyurethane (PU) or natural rubber hoses over PVC hoses. PU hoses can also withstand cold weather and high pressure better than PVC hoses do. Also, they are more eco-friendly because they do not contain chemicals that can leach into the environment.

Low-Water Lawn and Garden Ideas

According to the EPA, outdoor water use can account for as much as 60 percent of total household water use in arid regions. Do you want to replace your high-maintenance, water-thirsty lawn, but aren’t sure where to get started? You can use drought-tolerant plants or plant-free lawn options to save on water and lawn care.

Drought-Tolerant Plants

Create a lawn with drought-tolerant plants native to California. This low-water option will keep greenery in your yard while benefiting the environment, because plants help the soil absorb and hold more water while preventing erosion. They also reduce the heat your yard creates from reflecting sunlight. Native plant species in particular promote the health of local bee populations.

Want to try it? You can stick to grasses that look like your typical sod, such as the native California bent grass or Native Mow Free, a trademarked California grass. You can also search the California Native Plant Society’s map for native plants suited to your area.

Succulents and ornamental, drought-tolerant grasses are another way to add beauty without the extra water and maintenance. If you still want flowers, try planting native perennials that tend to be hardier and require less water, such as blanketflower, common yarrow, and a few varieties of sage.

Need more inspiration? Check out other Californians who have replaced their lawns in the State of California’s Reimagine Your Landscape. Worried about the extra work involved in replacing your grass? Don’t be! A study from the City of Santa Monica found that a native plant garden uses 83 percent less water and requires 68 percent less maintenance than a traditional lawn.

Plant-Free Lawn Options

Looking for a yard that’s entirely plant-free? Mulch is your greenest option, allowing water to absorb into the ground to replenish local aquifers. Its heating effect is neutral, and it also tends to be the most affordable.

Artificial turf, concrete, gravel and decomposed granite are other lawn alternatives that don’t require any water. However, they provide little to no benefit to local wildlife and contribute to the urban heat island effect, so it’s best to limit how widely you use them. Whereas gravel and decomposed granite both allow water to sink into the ground, most artificial turf and concrete products are not permeable, so they don’t allow water to replenish aquifers. However, by using a tiling pattern, you can create spaces in between these hard surfaces for water to seep through.

Do you already have turf grass and want to replace it? Visit SaveOurWater.com for information on how to get a rebate for replacing your turf grass with low-water or native plants.

More Water-Saving Tips

  • Collect rainwater in rain barrels and use it to irrigate your lawn and garden, cutting down on water bills and wasted runoff.
  • Create a dry creek bed made of smooth rocks. It will direct the flow of rainwater while creating a striking visual effect in your yard.
  • Terrace sloping areas of your yard or use small check dams to increase your yard’s water absorption.

To learn more about taking good care of our water supply, visit our Clean Water page.

4 Reasons to Kick That Plastic Water Bottle Habit

If you’re one of the millions of Americans still buying bottled water, don’t worry — now is the perfect time to kick that habit. Here are four reasons why:

1. In the U.S., bottled water is not subject to the same reporting standards as tap water. If you’re drinking bottled water because you think it’s safer, know that tap water has to be tested far more often than bottled water. Additionally, in most big cities, water facilities are required to filter and disinfect tap water, whereas bottled water is not required to be filtered or disinfected. If you’re not sure that your tap water is safe, you can look up your zip code in the Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database to find the local water report.

2. According to MoneyCrashers, bottled water is 600 times more expensive than tap water, on average. However, if you’re buying a 16.9 oz bottle for $1.00, you’re paying over 3,000 times what you’d pay for tap. Considering that a quarter of all bottled water is tap water anyway, that’s quite a markup.

3. Bottled water isn’t always tastier than tap water. In blind taste tests, tap water tends to trounce half or more of its bottled water competition.

4. Globally, about one million plastic bottles are bought every minute. Most of these plastic bottles end up in landfills or the ocean. Researchers have estimated that about 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in our oceans every year, where it breaks down and enters the food chain and eventually our own bodies. Creating all those bottles also uses up a huge amount of energy, and produces toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases in the process.

Kicking your plastic water bottle habit won’t just be good for the planet, it’ll be good for you, too! It’s easy — just pick up a reusable bottle and fill it with tap.