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Dianna Cohen: Tough truths about plastic pollution

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I'm a visual artist and I'm also one of the co-founders of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. I've been working with plastic bags which i cut up and saw back together as my primary material for my artwork for the last 20 years. I turn them into 2 and 3-dimensionnal pieces and sculptures and installations. upon working on the plastic after the first 8 years, some of my work started to fissure and break down into smaller litlle bits of plastic and i thought: "Great ! It's ephemeral just like us !". Upon educating myself a little further about plastics, i actually realised this was a bad thing. The bad thing is that plastic breaks down into smaller bits because it's always still plastic. and we are finding that there is a lot of it in the marine environment I've then learned in the last few years about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in a gyre. and my initial reaction, and i think this is the first reaction for a lot of people to learning about it, is "oh my God we've got to go out there and clean this thing up !". So i actually developped a proposal to go out with a cargo ship and two decommissioned fishing trollers, a crane, a shipping machine and a cold molding machine and my intention was to go out to the gyre and raise awareness about this issue and begin to pick up the plastic shirp it into little bits and cold mold it into bricks that could potentially be used as building materials in under-developed communities. I began talking with people who had actually been to the gyre and were studying the plastic problem in the marine environnement and upon doing so, i realised actually that cleaning it up would be a very small drop in the bucket relative to what is being generated every day around the world and actually i needed to back up to look at the bigger picture and the bigger picture is "We need to find a way to turn off the faucet!". We need to cut this spirit of single use and disposable plastic which are entering the marine environnement every day on a global scale. So in looking at that i also realised i was really angry, i wasn't just concerned about plastic that you're trying to imagine out in the middle of the pacific ocean of which i've learned there are 11 gyres, potentially of plastic in five major ocean in the world. It's not that gyre of plastic that i'm concerned about, it's the gyre of plastic in the supermarket. I go to the supermarket and all of my food is packaged in plastic, all of my beverage is packaged in plastic, even at the health food market. I'm also concerned about the plastic into your refrigirator. And i'm concerned about the plastic and the toxins that leads from plastics into us and into our bodies. So i came together with a group of other people who are all looking at this issue and we created the Plastic Pollution Coalition. We have many initiatives that we are working on but some of them are very basic. One is : if 80 to 90% of what we are finding in the ocean are the marine debris that we are finding in the ocean is plastic then why don't we call it what it is : it's plastic pollution. Recycling, everybody kind of ends there book about being sustainable and GREENING with the idea of recycling. You put something in a bin and you don't have to think about it again. What is the reality of that ? In United States less than 7% of our plastics are recycled. And if you really look into it, particularly when it commes to plastic bottles, most of it is only down-cycled or incinerated or shipped to China. It is downcycled and turned into lesser things. While a glass bottle can be a glass bottle again or can be used again, a plastic bottle can never be a plastic bottle again. So this is a big issue for us. Another thing that we are looking at and asking people to think about is : we've added a fourth R onto the front of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, 3 Rs, and that is Refuse. Whenever possible refuse single and disposable plastics Alternatives exist. Some of them are very old school. I myself am collecting these cool pyrex containers and using then instead of Glad and Tupperware containers to store food in. And i know that i am doing a service to myself and my family. It's very easy to pick up a stainless steel bottle or a glass bottle if you're travelling and you've forgotten to bring that stainless steel bottle and fill that up with water or filtered water versus purchasing plastic bottled water. I guess what i want to say to everybody here and i guess you guys know a lot about this issue. That is a huge problem in the ocean, but this a problem that we have created as consumers and this is a problem that we can solve ! We can solve this by raising awareness of the issue and teaching people to choose alternatives. So whenever possible to choose alternatives to single use plastics. We can cut down the stream of this into our ocean, and in doing so : save our oceans, save our planet, save ourselves ! Thank you.

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 48 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 179
Posted by: fmikusek on Oct 21, 2010

Artist Dianna Cohen shares some tough truths about plastic pollution in the ocean and in our lives -- and some thoughts on how to free ourselves from the plastic gyre.

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