Thursday, November 17, 2016

You Never Know What You'll Find at the Beach

Interesting finds at the cleanup: 3 disks from the Hooksett wastewater treatment plant spill on 3/6/11, a toy mermaid, toy dinosaur and a dime!
On Saturday, November 12, 52 volunteers headed out for a cleanup at Jenness Beach. At first glance, the beach appeared fairly clean, but volunteers ended up collecting over 800 pieces of litter, totaling 43 pounds!

During the cleanup, volunteers used data cards to record their findings.

The items recorded included:

2 Gloves
4 Nets/bait bags
1 Trap/pot (piece)
8 Pieces of Fishing Line
54 Pieces of rope
7 Beverage cans
9 Balloons
21 Straws
1 Syringe
33 Piles of dog waste (5 were in bags)
11 Plastic bags
3 Plastic bottles
96 Plastic bottle caps
176 Cigarette butts
12 Styrofoam cups
11 Strapping bands
190 Pieces of plastic
3.5 Hooksett disks

Some of the other items noted included a crayon, a mermaid, a dinosaur, a shotgun shell, a pen, 3 tennis balls, a pair of socks and 2 plastic knife handles.

Thanks to the volunteers from UNH Alumni, Green Team at Oyster River Schools and everyone else who joined us!


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Want to Help with our Microplastics Project? Join a sorting team!

At the beach, it's easy to see litter items like bottles, cans and bags. But there are smaller plastics that may go undetected.  We wondered how many of these microplastics were on our beaches and we have been working with New Hampshire Sea Grant (NHSG) to find out.

From April through October, we went to five NH beaches once per month to look for microplastics (plastics between 1-5mm in size).  The beaches were several of our most popular local beaches: Wallis Sands, Jenness Beach, Hampton Beach, Hampton Harbor and Seabrook Beach.  During the sampling process, we sifted the top layer of sand in a one meter squared plot. The samples were bagged, and now it's time for the fun part: sorting!

During the sorting process, we separate organic and inorganic material, then sort the inorganic material into several categories: foams (Styrofoam or insulation pieces), fragments (hard plastic pieces), films (e.g., straw wrappers), filaments (e.g., pieces of synthetic rope or fabric), plastic pellets ("nurdles"), and cigarette parts.

The process is a bit tedious, but yet oddly relaxing. If you'd like to help, we have several sorting dates coming up. Sorting will occur in Portsmouth, but space is limited so please RSVP and we can provide location and directions. All supplies are provided and we'll do a brief orientation onsite.

Sorting dates:

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2016: 3:30 PM – 6:00 PM
  • Monday, November 21, 2016: 10:00 AM
  • Monday, November 21, 2016: 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM
  • Wednesday, November 30, 2016: 5:00 PM – 7:30 PM


If you'd like to join us, e-mail Jen at jen@blueoceansociety.org or call 603-431-0260.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Surprising Impacts of Synthetic Fibers

We estimate over 700,000 fibres could be released from an average 6 kg wash load of acrylic fabric. 
- Napper, I.E. and R.C. Thompson (2016, In Press). 

Helping the ocean starts with changing our clothes. The startling  quote above was from a recent article in Marine Pollution Bulletin. It adds to the growing body of work showing that even the clothing we wear can impact the ocean.

For the past few years, we've been studying microplastics with New Hampshire Sea Grant. Microplastics are plastics less than 5 mm in size.  They come from a variety of sources, including the breakdown of larger plastics. They can also come from our laundry. As we wash fabric, fibers flake off and get discharged in the machine's wastewater. It’s unclear what happens to the particles after that. Some get trapped during the wastewater treatment process, while others enter a local waterway during the discharge process.
 
While we don't fully understand this problem, recent studies show the impacts could be enormous. As mentioned above, washing acrylic fabric could produce up to 700,000 acrylic fibers during one load. Patagonia commissioned a study that found that washing synthetic jackets released on average 1.7 grams of microfibers per load.  In Slovenia, scientists estimated that if each resident used a fleece blanket (washed 4 times per year) and a fleece jacket (washed 8 times a year), they’d result in the emission of 317 pounds of synthetic fibers into the environment each year. And these are tiny fibers that don't weigh much individually! In that study, scientists found that tumble-drying resulted in a release of fibers 3.5 times higher than washing. So, there's one more reason to feel good about hanging your wash on the line.

What’s the problem?

Microplastics can be eaten by all members of the food chain, from tiny zooplankton to large whales.  In enough concentrations, plastics can hinder the ability of marine animals to function through hindering their ability to eat, blocking digestion or leaching chemicals into tissues.  We know crabs, mussels and fish eat microplastics. It doesn't take a huge leap to wonder about the effect of plastics on our own health if we eat these organisms.

Unfortunately, the impact doesn’t stop there. Microplastics can also host pathogenic bacteria and other pollutants that further contaminate waterways.

It’s an odd thing that we outdoorsy people, who can really benefit from synthetic fibers such as fleece and moisture-wicking garments, add to the litter problem every time we do a load of laundry.

As an organization, we’re trying to reduce our impact.  This has included switching our Blue Ocean Society apparel to more eco-friendly organic cotton. We also distributed organic cotton t-shirts instead of synthetic fabric running shirts at our Run for the Ocean 5K in June.  We’ve also been studying the prevalence of microplastics on the New Hampshire coastline.

Concerned about this problem? Here are some ways you can help:
  • Look at labels. Use clothing and bedding made of natural fibers such as cotton, wool, linen and hemp whenever possible.
  • Wash synthetic fabrics less frequently if possible, and air dry them.
  • Help us learn about microplastics on local beaches by volunteering to collect or sort sand samples.
  • Join a beach cleanup or conduct your own. Pick up tiny trash! 

More about our microplastics project, courtesy of NH Sea Grant:


References and Further Information: 
Note: this article first appeared in print in Blue Ocean Society's Fall 2016 edition of Sea Notes.

The Surprising Impacts of Synthetic Fibers

We estimate over 700,000 fibres could be released from an average 6 kg wash load of acrylic fabric. 
- Napper, I.E. and R.C. Thompson (2016, In Press). 

Helping the ocean starts with changing our clothes. The startling  quote above was from a recent article in Marine Pollution Bulletin. It adds to the growing body of work showing that even the clothing we wear can impact the ocean.

For the past few years, we've been studying microplastics with New Hampshire Sea Grant. Microplastics are plastics less than 5 mm in size.  They come from a variety of sources, including the breakdown of larger plastics. They can also come from our laundry. As we wash fabric, fibers flake off and get discharged in the machine's wastewater. It’s unclear what happens to the particles after that. Some get trapped during the wastewater treatment process, while others enter a local waterway during the discharge process.
 
While we don't fully understand this problem, recent studies show the impacts could be enormous. As mentioned above, washing acrylic fabric could produce up to 700,000 acrylic fibers during one load. Patagonia commissioned a study that found that washing synthetic jackets released on average 1.7 grams of microfibers per load.  In Slovenia, scientists estimated that if each resident used a fleece blanket (washed 4 times per year) and a fleece jacket (washed 8 times a year), they’d result in the emission of 317 pounds of synthetic fibers into the environment each year. And these are tiny fibers that don't weigh much individually! In that study, scientists found that tumble-drying resulted in a release of fibers 3.5 times higher than washing. So, there's one more reason to feel good about hanging your wash on the line.

What’s the problem?

Microplastics can be eaten by all members of the food chain, from tiny zooplankton to large whales.  In enough concentrations, plastics can hinder the ability of marine animals to function through hindering their ability to eat, blocking digestion or leaching chemicals into tissues.  We know crabs, mussels and fish eat microplastics. It doesn't take a huge leap to wonder about the effect of plastics on our own health if we eat these organisms.

Unfortunately, the impact doesn’t stop there. Microplastics can also host pathogenic bacteria and other pollutants that further contaminate waterways.

It’s an odd thing that we outdoorsy people, who can really benefit from synthetic fibers such as fleece and moisture-wicking garments, add to the litter problem every time we do a load of laundry.

As an organization, we’re trying to reduce our impact.  This has included switching our Blue Ocean Society apparel to more eco-friendly organic cotton. We also distributed organic cotton t-shirts instead of synthetic fabric running shirts at our Run for the Ocean 5K in June.  We’ve also been studying the prevalence of microplastics on the New Hampshire coastline.

Concerned about this problem? Here are some ways you can help:
  • Look at labels. Use clothing and bedding made of natural fibers such as cotton, wool, linen and hemp whenever possible.
  • Wash synthetic fabrics less frequently if possible, and air dry them.
  • Help us learn about microplastics on local beaches by volunteering to collect or sort sand samples.
  • Join a beach cleanup or conduct your own. Pick up tiny trash! 

More about our microplastics project, courtesy of NH Sea Grant:


References and Further Information: 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Microplastics: What we've learned and what's next...


Microplastics sampling season is just around the corner but here is a quick recap of what we found out last year.  The 2015 season was highly impacted by weather and a lot of recreational traffic on many of the beaches in the summer (not surprising, but frustrating!).  We sampled five of NH's most loved beaches, Hampton Beach, Jenness Beach, Wallis Sands, North Hampton State Beach and Hampton Harbor beach from May until September.

During the 5 months of sampling we found the overall average concentration / beach was:
Beach Overall AVG Microplastics concentration pieces/m3
Jenness  3090
Wallis Sands 2890
Hampton  Harbor 1762
Hampton Beach 1660
North Hampton 500

The seven main categories of microplastics found in samples were:
  • Pellets (pre- fabricated nurdles)
  • Fragments
  • Whole Pieces
  • Foams
  • Films
  • Filaments
  • Cigarette Parts
As with the previous year, the predominant types of microplastics found on these beaches were fragments and foams, although on Jenness Beach, prefabricated nurdles were the predominant type of microplastic found.

Along with collecting some interesting and sometimes unexpected data (such as the low concentrations of microplastics on Hampton Beach and the high concentration of nurdles on Jenness), in the years since we started sampling for microplastics we have also learned some valuable lessons which we hope will make sampling this year go more smoothly:

1) Do not try to sample all of NH 's beaches:  NH Beaches are all very different with regard to topography, sand type, usage and most importantly, accessibility.  We quickly realized that even though we originally set out to sample 12 beaches, that this would not be possible because some beaches were too rocky and others, because of the parking  and residence restrictions, were nearly impossible to access.  We have since narrowed our scope and try and sample 5-6 beaches once a month from April- October.

2) Keep it Simple:  Since we depend on our volunteers, realizing that they are giving up their time to help out means that we needed to streamline our protocols and make this project as simple as possible.

3) Sampling doesn't always go as planned: The ideal sampling session is a beautiful day- 75 degrees, sunny, no wind and dry, dry, dry sand that can go through sieves easily, no parking issues and few people on the beach.  These days happen, but when they don't it makes sampling frustrating and we need to adjust. If the sand is too wet, we either reschedule or we bag up the samples and dry them at UNH (or usually, my basement), if there are too many people, you have to reschedule (why summer sampling needs to happen in the early morning or the late afternoon) and if it is cold, overcast or windy, you just have to dress warmly and work quickly and efficiently.  If the day is not ideal, plan to sample, but realize it could be rescheduled.

4) Many hands make easy work: This is where volunteers come in.  Without our volunteers, this project, as fun, interesting and IMPORTANT, as it is, could not happen with the help of volunteers.  The more we have, the better. On days when we have 6-8 volunteers, we can do a beach in 1.5 hours. When I sample alone, it can take closer to 2.5 hours.  So please, sign up and volunteer and bring a friend!


This year, with the early onset of spring and the lack of snow on the beaches, we start sampling on April 11th!  We have reduced the number of beaches from 12 to 6, and all beaches are readily accessible.  Our protocols have been streamlined as best as possible and we hope to just do quick trainings on the days we sample.  We plan on sampling every month beginning in April and ending in October.  We also hope to have a few sorting sessions throughout so we can be all wrapped up by November.


Here is the schedule for April- again- we hope for perfect days, but we also realize that we may have to reschedule in case of weather.
  • Mon 4/11- 10 AM:Hampton Beach
  • Tues 4/12-10 AM: Wallis Sands State Beach
  • Thurs 4/14-1 PM- Jenness Beach
  • Fri 4/15-1 PM- North Hampton State Beach
  • Mon 4/18- 3:30 PM-Seabrook Beach
  • Tues 4/19-4 PM- Hampton Harbor
Please join us! We would love to have you! To join us, fill out a volunteer application and e-mail it to Jen Kennedy at jen (at) blueoceansociety.org!

See you on the beach!

Microplastics hashtags in the sand : #nhmarinedebris, #plasticisforever, #findthenurdle

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Trash Knows No Season


Trash knows no season. On January 9, volunteers at our monthly cleanup at Jenness Beach picked up 42 pounds of litter. Their trash tallies included 149 pieces of plastic, 10 plastic bottles, 8 plastic bags, and even a condom.

Even during the winter, we find lots of litter. Some of it gets washed onto the beach by winter storms, and some is carelessly left behind by beachgoers or blows onto the beach from the street. All of it can be harmful to marine life if it is left on the beach, which is why regular cleanups are so important.

Since 2001, we have cleaned Jenness Beach once a month with the help of volunteers. The cleanups are open to the public – individuals, families and groups are welcome.  In 2015, we removed 774 pounds of litter from Jenness Beach alone.

Our next cleanup is Saturday, February 13 at 10:30 AM. The cleanups are held rain, snow or shine.  To sign up, call (603) 431-0260 or e-mail info@blueoceansociety.org.


Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation partners with GXT Green for our monthly beach cleanups at Jenness Beach. GXT Green, based in Billerica, Mass., develops and markets sustainable products and supporting services that cost-effectively solve the everyday environmental concerns of corporations, communities and governments. This includes solutions that reduce the environmental impact of plastic bags, EPS foam packaging, and Greenhouse gas emissions.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Is Your Life Too Plastic? Find out on January 7

Happy New Year! It's been awhile since we've posted... we're going to try to do better in 2016. Wanted to let you know about a couple upcoming events.

First is a screening of the movie bag it, followed by a discussion. The 45-minute film will be shown at Oyster River High School in Durham, NH. This event is hosted by Oyster River Sustainability Committee and we'll be leading the discussion!  The free film starts at 6:30.



Also, our first cleanup of 2016 is this Saturday!  Join us at Jenness Beach at 10:30 AM. All supplies are provided.  Please RSVP to info@blueoceansociety.org.

Hope to see you at one or both of these events!