Fake Plastic Straw Ban

I briefly got excited when I saw this sign at a local McDonalds. Sadly, I quickly realized it is meaningless.

  1. They proposed reducing the use of plastic straws for only one day
  2. The targeted audience was only dine-in customers; take-out customers presumably still got plastic straws
  3. There are straw dispensers on the counter; dine-in customers don’t ask for straws, anyway, they simply take them

Therefore, this one-day event probably resulted in absolutely no reduction in straw usage. This sign continues to sit on the counter near the straw dispensers, from which anyone can still take as many plastic straws as they wish.

You can do better than this, McDonalds.

Turn Plastics Into Pesos!

Filipinos can trade plastics for pesos at the Plastic Bank in Barangay Balatas, Naga City! That’s right: they will pay you to bring them plastic. Their mission is to clean up the streets and waterways while alleviating poverty.

I’ll be honest: I was hoping to have a precise location and more information by now. Sadly, I can’t seem to find anyone willing to investigate this opportunity. Even Filipinos with zero income have expressed zero interest, even if they live relatively near Naga City.

So, I’ve decided to do this backwards. I will try to raise awareness of this opportunity first, and hopefully someone will eventually seize it. Once someone earns real pesos off of turning in plastics, then the news will hopefully spread far and wide. After all, sadly, there is more than enough plastics (future pesos) lying around and floating around everywhere.

Get Swaggr

I got excited the other day when I saw a tweet about Swaggr (@GetSwaggr on Twitter). Swaggr are athletic socks that “are made almost entirely from recycled plastic bottles.”

https://getswaggr.com

But, Jacqueline Macleod (@TalamhLifestyle) had a great question: won’t microfibers from these socks end up washing out of our laundry and into our oceans? Yes, but @GetSwaggr has an answer for that!

Through their research, @GetSwaggr has come across GuppyFriend, which they say is one option that can be used to help prevent microfibers from entering the water system.

GuppyFriend washing bags (@patagonia on Twitter) help collect the microfibers that are released in wash cycles. This pertains to all your laundry, not just your Swaggr socks.

https://www.patagonia.com/product/guppyfriend-washing-bag/O2191.html

So, the only remaining question at this time is, “what do we do with the microfibers collected in our wash cycles?”

I have made two suggestions to @GetSwaggr:

1. Include microfiber collection bags with the socks; at least make it an option, anyway.

2. Allow customers to return the microfibers to them so that they can be re-recycled into more socks, something else, or anything else.

The company has been very responsive to these suggestions.

With the disclaimer that I do not yet own either the socks or the bags, I am going to publish the following “sock math” equation:

Swaggr + GuppyFriend + (pending microfiber disposition solution) = an environmentally-friendly sock solution.

No, this doesn’t solve all our plastic problems. However, it would reduce the number of post-consumed single-use plastic bottles out there while also preventing microfibers from the recycling solution from becoming an even worse problem.

Got better ideas? As stated above, the company seems very responsive.

FYI: Swaggr launches on Indiegogo on Wednesday, October 17th.

DISCLAIMER: There are no paid-or-otherwise-compensated endorsements in this blog article. I hate plastic pollution.

Project Aware & 4Ocean

I recently discovered 4Ocean and posted about them on all my social media accounts. They have an innovative way of making a profit by cleaning up our oceans.

And now I see that they have partnered up with Project Aware. I have seen some skepticism about their transparency; how can we be certain that they are really doing as much as they claim to be doing?

It’s a good question.

However, transparency is a challenge with any organization. In my mind, partnering with Project Aware grants legitimacy to the work that 4Ocean is doing. Keep up the good work!

Scuba Diving and Gas Laws

One of the the first things that scuba divers learn is Boyle’s Law. In a nutshell, Boyle’s Law states that pressure and volume are inversely proportional.

This relationship is typically illustrated with a balloon. As you take this theoretical balloon deeper and deeper, the pressure on the gas increases and the volume of the balloon decreases. On your ascent, the pressure on the gas decreases and the balloon gradually returns to its starting volume at the surface.

I have seen this demonstrated with a plastic water bottle. Sadly, these demonstrations involve plastic, whether plastic bottles or plastic balloons. However, my instructor had taken the plastic bottle out of a trash receptacle (improperly discarded) and after our dive I submitted the bottle for recycling.

The bottle was sealed at the surface and brought down to 40 meters (130 feet). My instructor then showed me that the bottle was completely crushed under the pressure, because the gas volume was only 20% of its volume at the surface. Because the bottle was sealed, the shrinking gas volume creates a vacuum, sucking in all sides of the bottle.

He then refilled the bottle with air while still at depth.

When we were back on the boat, the volume of the gas wanted to be 500% of what it was at 40 meters. Because the bottle was sealed, there was a lot of pressure inside the bottle. Suddenly, there was a loud POP, and the cap was off. Fortunately, the bottle was still in my instructor’s buoyancy compensator device (BCD) pocket, so no one was hurt and we didn’t lose the cap in the ocean.

My instructor then handed me the bottle and cap, knowing that I would ensure proper disposal.

If you can find improperly discarded plastic (I hope not), this is a fun experiment to try.

Trying to Volunteer

I recently learned that my city’s Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Office (DRRMO) has a dive team. According to the city’s environmental office they do weekly cleanup dives.

I have confirmed that cleanup dives happen, although they do not seem to occur weekly. In fact, I can’t seem to find out when the next one will be. I have been messaging multiple people and I have visited the office twice, but so far to no avail.

I don’t know when the cleanup dives started, but there is great incentive these days to show environmental efforts because of the government’s shutdown of Boracay, perhaps the top travel destination in the Philippines. Other tourist destinations seem to have been implementing proactive measures to prevent enduring similar fates.

Basically, Boracay became an overdeveloped environmental disaster, with extremely high levels of fecal coliform in its waters. Everyone has been dumping their solid waste right into the water. Other areas have been testing high (including my area) but not quite as high as Boracay yet.

So, hopefully I’ll have some blog posts soon about my direct efforts to help the city. Volunteering for anything around here tends to be exercises in frustration, but I will persist. I have my favorite mesh bag, my scale, and my camera ready to go….

25th Dive Against Debris

We removed 11 pieces of debris weighing a total of .15 kg from Shangri-la Marine Sanctuary off Mactan Island in Cebu, Philippines.

This was my 2nd dive to 40 meters for my Deep Diving specialty and, perhaps because relatively few divers go this deep, I have found 30-40 meters to have more debris, on average, than more-frequently-travelled shallower depths. This makes me worry about even deeper depths.

My instructor, who it was my first time diving with, was amazed by my ability to detect debris. She said after the dive that every time she looked around to make sure I was still with her that I was picking up debris 5-10 meters away. (https://scubadivingzero.wordpress.com/2018/06/04/deep-diving-2/)

One piece, which is hard to make out in the photos, was some kind of thin wooden frame covered in tissue paper. It fell apart as I tried to put it in the mesh bag and it fell apart even more in transit to my home scale. I didn’t have a camera with me, but the original piece was a very strange object to even have on a boat, let alone drop from a boat.

24th Dive Against Debris

We removed 6 pieces of debris weighing a total of .35 kg from Shangri-la Marine Sanctuary off Mactan Island in Cebu, Philippines.

This was my 2nd really fun dive of the day. During my 1st dive (https://scubadivingzero.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/23rd-dive-against-debris/), I followed along an instructor-student team that was doing a simulated decompression dive. We did deco stops that were not actually necessary, but were good practice before the student did a real deco dive.

This dive was similarly unusual, in that it was a divemaster training course. So my dive buddy was the divemaster trainee leading the group, while another buddy team included 2 instructors, one of whom was evaluating the trainee.

At several points, the divemaster trainee did an air check. The 1st one got my attention because I had noticeably less air than everyone else. OK, they are far more experienced than I am. But, toward the end, one instructor signalled having 120 BAR remaining while I only had 80 BAR. I felt like I was really sucking air in comparison.

When we returned to the dive center, that instructor confessed to starting with 230, whereas I started with 200. So, during that last air check, his air consumption was 10 better than mine, not 40. The other instructor also started with 200, but legitimately had the best air consumption rate.

The best part, perhaps, of diving with a group of this composition, is that everyone was naturally searching for debris. Fortunately, we found little.

On a side note, it is also comforting to dive in a group in which every single member is Stress & Rescue certified!

23rd Dive Against Debris

We removed 10 pieces of debris weighing a total .65 kg from Shangri-la Marine Sanctuary off Mactan Island in Cebu, Philippines.

This was an unplanned trip to my dive center. An instructor was doing a simulated decompression dive, and I got to tag along. They didn’t stay deep enough or long enough to require actual deco stops, but they did deco stops as if they were required. Their buoyancy was absolutely incredible, and the exercises they did were fascinating. I wish I had brought a camera with me!

During one of the simulated deco stops, I discovered that my mesh bag had dropped. Most of what is in these photos I started stuffing into my wetsuit and BCD pockets. However, I knew where the bag must’ve dropped. While my second dive of the day went another route with a different group, we passed the group from this dive and passed the site where I thought the mesh bag had dropped.

The team from this first dive recovered the mesh bag, but it was empty. So I got the bag back, and then, near where I though it had dropped, I re-found the glass bottle. It had been in there during this dive. There was only 1 other piece of debris that had been in there, but, sadly, it was nowhere to be found.

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