April 20, 2015, New Delhi, India: – Each year, an estimated 11 billion pounds (approximately 4.99 metric tons) of plastic enters the ocean, 80% of which starts out on land, according to The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Floating trash has no geographic or political boundaries, so solutions must involve scalable international collaboration, yet be local in scope and reach. To address this critical problem of increasing trash flowing to the ocean, Ocean Recovery Alliance has officially launched Global Alert (www.globalalert.org), an international innovative online tool and mobile app which allows users to report, rate and map plastic pollution levels in their rivers, along ocean coastlines, as well as underwater on reefs. It is the most powerful mapping system in existence that can bring about reduced impact of trash in our waters by broadening awareness, aggregating information for decision-making, and spurring solutions to reduce plastic in the world’s rivers, and accumulating on our coastlines.
As an example of the plastic waste that we are creating as a global community, according to US-based non-profit environmental organization Earth Policy Institute, close to 2 million plastic bags are used and discarded every minute around the globe. Plastic never biodegrades and doesn’t break down into natural substances, though it is at risk for photo degradation, dissolving into toxic polymer particles. Unless it has been burned or incinerated, every piece of plastic that has ever been produced still exists. In the ocean, accumulated plastic concentrates in rotating currents called gyres. The North Pacific Gyre, an area of the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Japan, is an accumulation zone for plastic pollution (also called plastic soup) covering an estimated area at least twice the size of Texas, with every square mile containing close to 46,000 pieces of floating plastic, most of which are microscopic in size yet potentially harmful to wildlife. According to Environmental Health News, ocean debris worldwide kills hundreds of thousands of mammals and over one million sea birds each year. It also impacts tourism, shipping, and food safety.
As a solution to this global problem, Ocean Recovery Alliance announced the development of the Global Alert platform at the Clinton Global Initiative. Through this platform, Ocean Recovery Alliance aims to enable community participation for reporting and problem solving, catalyze active watershed stewardship focusing on rivers and coastlines, and raise current levels of global awareness and monitoring.
Ocean Recovery Alliance Co-Founder and Managing Director Doug Woodring expressed: “Global Alert is something that all of us can use within our own local communities in order to be part of the solution. The sum of all the parts will help to bring broad-based improvements on a global scale. Global Alert will shape the way that communities play an integral role in bettering their environments; inspiring cooperation, collaboration and solutions. Together we can leave a legacy of healthy oceans, rivers and engaged communities.” He added: “Right now we have dedicated watershed efforts in 5 countries. With funding support from the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Oceans, our mission is to bring positive impact to 100 watersheds and 20 countries by the end of 2015.”
Using Global Alert, citizens and school groups can easily “See, Share and Solve” their floating trash problems. Users can upload photos of trash in their water systems or coastlines, provide information on the location and coverage area, based on the volume of trash they see. Monitoring agencies and community groups will then be able to add, review, visualize and analyze their own data, as well as Global Alert data provided by the community, empowering them to make positive steps for improvements.
By visualizing trash hot-spots on a map and accessing information on best practices for cleanup and prevention programs, community groups can develop better recycling programs and plastic management strategies, ultimately leading to less floating trash making its way to the ocean.