By Gregg Bragg, Senior Staff Writer For The Island Connection
Avani opened its doors in 2014 determined to make a difference. The Indonesia based manufacturer began making biodegradable products in response to the overwhelming problem with plastic waste. Their product line includes grocery bags, “to-go” food containers, eating utensils, cups, six pack “ring” containers, and even ponchos made from cassava starch (e.g. yucca plants). Their goods are durable enough to be reusable, but are also edible, compostable, water soluble, and 100% biodegradable in a matter of weeks, without leaving any toxic residues.
The rash of media coverage which followed the SC legislature’s failed attempt to stop coastal municipalities from banning single use plastics gets some of the credit for awareness of companies like Avani. The legislature recessed for the session without passing H.3529 “the ban on bans.” However, SC environmental groups like Sierra Club, the Coastal Conservation league, and League of Conservation Voters warn a redux seems likely for the next session given the Post & Courier newspaper’s report of widespread donations to legislators.
The chorus of SC municipalities banning plastics ahead of any reanimated legislation out of Columbia is picking up steam. The Island Connection’s “Turn the Page on Marine Debris” http:// islandconnectionnews.com/turn-pagemarine-debris/ reported that Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, Surfside Beach, Myrtle Beach, and North Myrtle Beach enacted plastic bans. Mount Pleasant has since joined the club, enacting the most aggressive ban to date. Beaufort, Hilton Head, and Bluffton have also joined, and if Port Royal follows suit, Beaufort County Council has committed to passing a county-wide ban. NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) thinking on the part of those communities is proving a positive influence in this instance, as elected officials seem anxious to work with constituents in an election year.
Plastic’s contribution to burgeoning landfills, trashy beaches, and sick/dead wildlife from ingesting plastic, is only the beginning of the problem. Competing winds and ocean currents yield a circular pattern forming “gyres,” (whirlpools) which have a relatively static center where coastal debris and dumping coagulate. There are five major gyres on the planet; one in the Indian Ocean, two in the Pacific, and two more in the Atlantic (including the U.S. East coast). The North Pacific Gyre (NPG) wins the size category at about 12.4 million miles. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration first commented on the trash there in 1988 when dumping raised alarms.
Forget Rhode Island or even Delaware, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch at the center of the NPG has more recently been estimated at between 1 and 2 times the size of Texas. Each of the five gyres has its very own garbage patch filled with decades of plastic waste hovering just below the surface. The slowly decomposing masses leach poisons and particulates into the water inundating wildlife, and ending up in the food we eat.
Twenty-three-year-old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat has engineered a solution to the garbage patches (Facebook.com/ GLBLCTZN/videos/1695472567215171/). His solution could be described as fishing for trash.
Long cylindrical floats support 2 triangular cable frames. The first triangle connects the float to a boat. The second is draped with netting, dips well below the surface, and the peak of triangle also connected to a ship. The miraculous solution is an odd combination of brilliance and common sense.
However, his efforts to clean the oceans will be for naught if coastal communities continue to bleed plastic into the ocean. National Geographic developed a list of “fast facts” about plastics to bring the point home.
Closer to home, the SC Aquarium joined the fray with the April 18 opening of their newest exhibit. The Respond Gallery is “designed to educate guests about… innovative alternatives to single-use plastics,” proclaimed the aquarium’s press release. The “In Our Hands” campaign is a featured component of the exhibit sponsored by Ingevity. The North Charleston based company “provides specialty chemicals and high-performance carbon materials and technologies that purify, protect and enhance the world around us,” concluded the aquarium’s press release.
Searching the Internet yields no end to recommendations on what individuals can do to reduce plastic use. For more information on measures being taken where you live, contact your local and county elected officials.