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Plastic on Mars and the Arctic Seafloor

October 25 2012 | Rise Above Plastics, Bag Bans, Expanded Polystyrene Foam,
by Bill Hickman

Why are we taking plastic pollution to the ends of the earth and beyond?  David Bowie famously asked whether there is Life on Mars but before we can confirm that either way we have managed to litter plastic on the red planet.  Meanwhile, a study was recently released showing an increase of plastic litter on the Artic seafloor.

Reports earlier this month claim that one of the first items studied on NASA’s current mission was a plastic wrapper that shed from the rover Curiosity.  After all of the effort to get there and the amazing landing on Mars it’s a shame that we start leaving our mark with litter.

Snapshots of the Artic seafloor over time have shown an increase in plastic pollution. Scientists regularly drag an underwater camera just above the seabed during expeditions to HAUSGARTEN, a deep-sea Arctic observatory between Greenland and Norway's Svalbard archipelago. The photos it takes are usually analyzed for the presence of sea life but the camera sometimes catches unwelcome guests: plastic bags and other trash resting on the seafloor.  Some types of plastic sink and some float so items like PET bottles will not float unless the cap is left on or air is trapped inside.

We have managed to introduce plastic pollution to just about every corner of the world and it needs to stop.  Educational efforts are great, but they need to be paired with plastic litter source reductions such as plastic checkout bag bans and fees, foam foodware bans, etc., along with meaningful recycling efforts such as more states adopting bottle redemption fees and manufacturers embracing Extended Producer Responsibility.

Whether it’s a country like Haiti trying to deal with wide-scale litter issues, a Texas coastal city fighting to eliminate plastic bag litter locally, or a North Carolina beach town trying to find a solution for cigarette butt litter on the sand, we need to applaud and support their efforts whenever possible.  While Surfrider does not have a presence on Mars, the Arctic seafloor or in Haiti, Surfrider does have Chapters in Texas, North Carolina, every coastal region of the U.S. and beyond so join us to help stop plastic pollution.

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