Who has the best measuring stick?

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:13:00 AM

Hello and happy Monday!

Today we are going to pick up on the whole plastic ocean debris theme that came to a head as of recent following the publication of my perspective piece in Plastics News. Titled “Plastics’ Foes Wage Campaign on Social Media Battleground,” this piece was in dialogue with an earlier Plastics News article that described the findings of a new seabird study conducted by the University of British Columbia. In a nutshell, the authors postulate that the increase in plastic debris observed in seabirds’ stomachs is indicative of the increased amount of plastic ocean debris. This finding contradicted what I had learned at a former SPC conference, where members of the Ocean Conservancy and others explained that while the production and disposal of plastics had dramatically increased in the last twenty years, the amount of plastic ocean debris has remained constant. Consequently, I wrote an article to these regards, referencing the Ocean Conservancy study that formed my initial understanding of the issue.

My article generated several engaged commentators, perhaps motivating the Plastics Blog to write this post, tipping the hat, if you will, to the sophisticated dialogue surrounding this hot-button topic.

THEN, another Plastics News reader published this article in response to my article (a response to a response, if you will), which further emphasized, in my opinion, the importance of this issue for the plastics industry. ??

AND THEN this article was published, describing how the EPA is being called upon to police the issue of plastic ocean debris…

In each case—be it the initial seabird study article, my response to said article, the comments generated therefrom, the article in response to the comments generated therefrom, the blog post(s), etc.—a DIFFERENT scientific study was referenced as THE study that demonstrates the reality about plastic ocean debris. Heck, if I had known there were five truths to the truth about plastic ocean debris, I would have done more research. So my question to you all is this: if different scientific studies present different findings insofar as if the amount of plastics pollution in the ocean has increased with the increased production, then how are we, proactive members of the plastics industry, supposed to understand the problem of plastic ocean debris, and our roles therein?

We need to perform a critical analysis of the various environmental studies about plastics ocean debris to see if consistencies exist. If we can’t even agree on if the problem is getting worse, how are we supposed to develop proactive solutions? After all, you can’t manage what you can’t measure (BAMB, that’s going to be my new mantra for everything); so, who has the best measuring stick?

Topics: Plastics industry, Uncategorized, Plastics pollution, Seabird study, Plastics ocean debris