“Plastic is everywhere” – interview with former WRF staff on her upcoming plastic pollution expedition

Laura ItenTokyo, 31 May 2012. Our former colleague Laura Iten will sail across the Pacific from Tokyo to Hawaii on June 2nd, as part of a marine expedition documenting the existence of plastic pollution. She hopes to arrive in Hawaii in one months time, after analysing and raising awareness about the plastic soup. The team also expects to find material from the Japanese tsunami. She called us from Tokyo, just two days before sailing off.

“I heard about plastic pollution through the various voyages of 5gyres” she says. “When I first heard about them in 2009 it was clear to me that one day I would participate in one of their voyages. When I decided to take a gap year before university, I knew this was going to be the time span to take on such an adventure. I knew I would only want to do it without my parents help. So I started to look for potential sponsors. I got linked with the Usitawi network which promotes and supports sustainable management and action. They helped me carrying through this project, not only financially but also with their know-how and contacts. I had the idea and they helped me to make a plan out of it.

“I hope to get more people’s attention for this issue. plastic pollution is – just like climate change – a symptom of our mismanagement of resources. By polluting our planet with plastic, we are also polluting our food chain. We completely underestimate this problem. Only a small number of approximately 500 people are doing research in this field. Only now governments are starting to consider plastic as a problem.”Sea Dragon

“I really want to bring this issue to Switzerland and I think it is particularly interesting for us because we have no ocean, yet, plastic is everywhere.  It is in our food, it is in our cosmetics, it is in our clothing. And plastic is not only oil, it is also full of chemicals that are extremely harmful for us and our environment. This issue I want to bring, wrapped into adventurous stories from the sea onto dryland.”

“I hope that the World Resources Forum can help bring this issue on the European agenda, which can help re-defining extended producer responsibilty and creating new standards. WRF should help spreading the word, so society knows about the issue. As long as the plastic industry can sell single-use plastic – both made possible by not having laws and not having an informed public – the pollution of our food chain will go on.”

The expedition is organised by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation and the 5 Gyres Institute,  on a 72-feet yacht called the Sea Dragon

More information about the expedition on the web, for instance this CNN article and the special microplastics.ch blog (English/German).