An interview conducted by Made out of WHAT – an organization supporting a global movement towards a trash-free world through art and design.
Every so often, one gets the chance to meet people that touch your heart and mind like Captain Charles Moore – the ocean defender that in 1997 discovered the biggest trash island known to humans – the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We exchange words about insidious nanoplastics, ocean mythology, ghost fishing, and plastic as the ‘lubricant’ of globalization that is making our hyper convenient culture possible. A material that is odor-free, light, durable and makes the world economy as we know it spin around. The captain concluded that the plastic crisis can only be averted by focusing on holistic solutions, such as localism and zero-waste design strategies. Moore is also the founder of Algalita, an inspiring organization empowering young people to solve the plastic pollution crisis.
A conversation between Captain Charles Moore and our content writer Tina Ateljevic.
TA: What have you been up to, Captain Moore?
CM: I am excited, getting ready for a big voyage to the Garbage Patch. We will be meeting up with The Swim. There are people that are into extreme sports and want to do crazy things. Ben Lecomte wanted to swim across all the oceans, so he started from Japan swimming to Hawaii and when he found plastic in the ocean every day, the team switched their focus from breaking records to doing research on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. He is going to swim through the Garbage Patch at the time we are there so we are going to meet up with them. It goes to show how the world has become focused on activism over extreme sports. Extreme sports are a distraction over what really needs to be our focus, which is saving the planet.
TA: I am fully with you on that one. I come from a beautiful Croatian island where I get the impression that the plastic washing up on the shores is increasing every year despite plastic pollution awareness campaigns. Am I crazy?
CM: Yes, it’s on the increase. The petroleum companies are shaking in their boots because of the speed at which solar and wind are overtaking the fuel industry so they are pushing with all their might, to create more plastics.
TA: So you are saying that amidst this plastic waste crisis, petroleum companies are increasing their output of plastic production?
CM: Oh yes. Exponentially. A dramatic increase. And it’s because they are being forced to use the petroleum for things other than fuel. Historically, plastic was just a tiny sidelight for them.
TA: That is fascinating, especially in the light of the recent uproar against plastic.
CM: The movement is mainly focused on single-use plastics. Packaging is about 50% of what plastic is used for and its used one time only. All environmental movements obey the rule of going after the worst first; whatever part of the environment you are worried about, you go after the worst offender first. The worst offender in terms of plastics, is the single-use plastics, although there are many other offenders.
TA: Who are the other big offenders? Can you talk about the fishing industry?
CM: It’s almost getting to the point where fishing gear is single-use. It’s so cheap now. They have fished out the coastal fisheries to a large degree so international fleets are going into the deep ocean to raid that and the most effective way to raid the ocean is to put a bunch of trash out with a marker buoy attached and a transmitter that transmits its position, and then leave for a while to go set some more of those up. Then we have a whole series of what we call ‘FADs’ or ‘fish aggregation devices’ because in the deep ocean anything fixed becomes a food web. The small fish hide there and that attracts the large fish. Then these big boats come and put a big net around this FAD and draw it in and catch all the fish out of the ocean. All they care about retrieving is the transmitter and the fish. So an expedition just went out and got over 50 tons of these discarded nets tangled up with trash from the boats, which these guys are throwing together to make these fish attraction devices.
TA: Are you saying that the fishing industry is deliberately dumping trash in the ocean to attract fish?
CM: Yes, it doesn’t matter if it’s a deck chair with a broken leg or a cooler that has a broken lid. Whatever you can tie together and make float out in the middle of the ocean works. There are some fisherman that make FADs out of bamboo in Ecuador for example, but they still combine those with plastic too.
Read the full interview here.