NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

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“Plastic Beach” – Or, how my internet searches got a lot more interesting!

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It is my job – quite literally – to think about marine debris.  A good portion of this includes plastic debris that winds up on beaches. 

It is my hobby to listen to new music.  And because I am a self-described nerd, I subscribe to email updates from NPR’s music site, All Songs Considered, among others.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the words “Plastic Beach” in the latest All Songs newsletter.  Worlds colliding!  I always sought a profession that I could believe in; no one goes into marine biology to get rich, that’s for sure!  But usually there is not such an unexpected seeping of job into personal life. 

Plastic Beach is the newest album from Gorillaz.  It drops on Monday, 8 March 2010 in the UK and a day later in the U.S.  If interested, NPR is streaming the entire album (free of charge) for the next few days. 

I’d like to know more about the inspiration behind this album.  After listening a bit, it definitely sounds like a cohesive record that is best listened-to in its entirety.  There is a little concern that this type of publicity (I hear there is even a game?) might desensitize us to ocean pollution.  There is also concern that people might believe there is actually a plastic island floating around in the South Pacific. 

While we know there is plastic and other debris floating in the world’s oceans, we cannot say for sure how much is there / exactly where it accumulates / what impact it is having on ecosystems.  As a scientist, I don’t believe in over-stating an issue.  Plastic pollution is definitely an aesthetic problem, and there are some concerns with chemical contaminants that may interact with plastics.  But as far as we know, this is a widespread problem across ocean basins – there is no plastic island, just a lot of pieces of floating marine debris.  That makes cleanup really difficult.  So, there is a problem, it just isn’t nicely compacted into one island – which means stopping the problem at the source is the best!  Enter – public education!     

So, there you have it folks.  The marine debris message is getting out, thanks to (perhaps) an unlikely candidate.  Maybe this album will reach people who normally wouldn’t hear about ocean pollution.  Maybe they will start conscious efforts to properly dispose of waste, to reduce/reuse/recycle, to study up on the problem and get the word out, maybe even join in a cleanup effort!

At the very least, my usually generic internet searches for “plastic beach” just got much, much more exciting.

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

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