During a month typically dominated by leaf-filled garbage bags and micro-portion candy wrappers, the Cape Fear Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation is celebrating October as Rise Above Plastics Month, encouraging people to find ways to reduce their personal plastic consumption.
Bonnie Monteleone, a board member and the Rise Above Plastics coordinator for the Cape Fear Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, said in a Sept. 26 interview she hopes the month will engage those who don’t think of their consumer decisions as having an impact on the growing amount of plastic debris worldwide.
“It doesn’t matter if you live on a mountain. If your debris gets caught up in a river, it has great potential for washing out to sea,” Monteleone said. “So it really is a global problem, and it’s not just the people that live close to the ocean that are causing this burden on it, but it’s all of us.”
Besides making poor oceanfront décor, plastic garbage has potentially serious ramifications for the full range of ocean-dwelling organisms, Monteleone said, ranging from microscopic zooplankton to large fish and marine mammals. She worked for years with Captain Charlie Moore — known for having discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — and said that in 1999, researchers aboard Moore’s ship were finding that plastics were present at a ratio of 1-to-6 by weight, compared with an abundant type of plankton. Ten years later, that average concentration had doubled.
“About one third of the fish we collected out of the North Pacific had plastics in their stomach,” she added.
As part of “RAP-tober,” Surfrider will be holding a month-long trash clean-up art contest called One Foot at a Time, challenging participants to collect one square foot of trash from their neighborhood, beach or riverfront, and assemble their finds into a mosaic. October-themed stencils can be printed off its website, and Surfrider will select a winner for each type of stencil. Those finalists will then have their names drawn for a chance to win a Timbertek Firewire surfboard or a gift certificate for a pair of Teva shoes.
“When people are engaged, they start looking at their own plastic use and one-time use,” Monteleone said. “We can’t demonize plastic because it has such great uses, but it’s this overuse of the one-time-use plastics that’s really putting a tax on the energy we’re using, whether we’re making the plastics and what we’re making them out of, which is petroleum and natural gas. Plus it’s staying on the planet anywhere from 400 to 1,000 years.”
For more information and rules for the One Foot at a Time trash art contest, visit www.rapmonth.org/ofaat