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Executive Summary for June 16th

In this weekly roundup, we review the latest ocean news, as scientists urge Congress to protect marine monuments from a Trump review, a study identifies Asia’s rivers as a major source of plastic pollution and a computer giant recycles ocean plastic into packaging.

Published on June 16, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Top Scientists Fight for Marine Monuments

Some of the United States’ most prominent marine scientists have signed a letter urging congressional leaders to support marine national monuments that are under review by the Trump administration.

The letter released by the Marine Conservation Institute and signed by 535 scientists – including Sylvia Earle, Enric Sala and Carl Safina – calls on the U.S. to “maintain existing ocean protections and to increase protections for diverse habitats across all biogeographic regions of U.S. ocean waters.”

It was sent on June 15 to coincide with the 11th anniversary of President George W. Bush’s designation of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii. The scientists fear the Trump administration could remove protections for Papahānaumokuākea and other marine protected areas.

“Decades of study of large marine reserves, like Papahānaumokuākea, have taught us that they are a critically important tool for safeguarding ocean biodiversity, creating blue jobs, and protecting the long term future of our vibrant fisheries,” Douglas McCauley, a marine biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said in a statement.

Rivers of Plastic

A study by Dutch researchers in the journal Nature found that rivers in Asia are responsible for 86 percent of the plastic trash flowing into the oceans and that most of the world’s top 20 polluting rivers are in the region.

By comparison, 7.8 percent of plastic garbage flowed through African rivers, the next biggest polluter, according to the report published on June 7. South America was responsible for 4.8 percent of discarded plastic that made its way to the sea via waterways, while North and Central America, Europe and the Australia/Pacific region contributed just 0.95, 0.28 and 0.02 percent, respectively.

Rivers are a major source of ocean plastic pollution. Scientists estimate that between 4.8 million and 12.7 million metric tons of the material enters the ocean annually from coastal communities. Rivers alone contribute between 1.15 million and 2.41 million tons, the researchers estimated.

They noted that most of the world’s top 20 polluting rivers are in Asia. While the region represents 21 percent of the global population, the rivers contribute 67 percent of the plastics flowing to the sea. Seven of the 20 rivers pass through major Chinese cities.

The researchers say 74.5 percent of the trash ends up in the ocean between May and October during monsoon season and the plastic tide peaks in August.

From Trash to a Tray

Computer maker Dell is recycling ocean plastic trash into packaging for laptops.

Dell’s initiative will recycle trash collected from beaches in Haiti for use as the packaging tray for its XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop. The tray, which features images of whales, is made from 25 percent discarded plastic.

The pilot program will keep nearly 16,000lb (7,257kg) of plastics from entering the ocean in 2017, Piyush Bhargava, Dell’s vice-president of global operations, said during a panel at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York last week.

He acknowledged that it was literally a drop in the ocean but said the key was to get other manufacturers to launch similar initiatives. “We hope to scale this and help stem an endemic problem,” Bhargava said. “We’ve committed to open-source all the learning we have.”

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