Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic (Part 1/3)


Uploaded by vice on 06.09.2012

Transcript:
[SOUND OF PROJECTOR]
CHARLES MOORE: Every reporter changes the story.
Just like every scientist changes what he's observing,
every reporter is changing that story.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
MEREDITH DANLUCK: What are we doing, Joe?
JOE GOODMAN: Well, I'm ready to put a plastic catcher in
the water, a troll.
MALE SPEAKER: Troll?
JOE GOODMAN: So I'll troll for plastic.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
CHARLES MOORE: What in the hell is that?
There's a misconception that the worst kind of spill is the
gooey, oily mess.
THOMAS MORTON: Yeah.
CHARLES MOORE: But it's really these nice little bits of your
plastic bottles that are going to be
around forever, basically.
THOMAS MORTON: So we're just on the outskirts of
the gyre right now.
I haven't really even gotten into the thick of things.
And already, in the last hour, we've seen more fucking trash
float by than we have in the entire voyage up until now.

We're nowhere near land.
We're nowhere near any other fucking ships.
And it's just flotsam city out here.
All fucking plastic too, all gross, sun baked, plastic.
It's absurd.
FREDERICK VOM SAAL: Just this one chemical, bisphenol A,
that is used to make this hard, clear plastic called
polycarbonate, is produced at over 7 billion pounds a year.
And it's a non-recyclable plastic.
What's happening to it?
It's being thrown away into the environment.
The evidence from Europe, Asia, the United States, is
that every person examined has these
chemicals in their bodies.
There is actually a study in Japan where women with
elevated levels of bisphenol A were the women who were
repeatedly miscarrying, never able to have
a successful pregnancy.
When you go out into the ocean and you see that the ocean is
full of these plastic products, where in the world
is there not exposure to them?
[MUSIC PLAYING]
THOMAS MORTON: Tell me when.
Ready?
JAKE BURGHART: All right, whenever you're ready.
THOMAS MORTON: OK, you rolling?
JAKE BURGHART: Yep.
THOMAS MORTON: Hi.
I'm Thomas Morton.
We're here in Long Beach, California, on our way to meet
Charles Moore, who's the captain of the oceanographic
research vessel, Alguita.
For a number of years, we've been reading these articles
about this just huge section of the ocean that's
essentially a floating landfill.
10 years ago, on a sailing trip back from Australia,
Captain Moore took a detour into a section of the North
Pacific called the North Pacific Gyre, which is kind of
a swirling vortex of currents.
That area has historically acted as a collecting point
for all the debris.
And it's sometimes referred to as the Eastern Garbage Patch.
Now, with the advent of plastics, it's just become one
large, continuous dump.
When Captain Moore found it, it was just plastic bags and
bottles and consumer products as far as the eye can see.
Some places have estimated it as the size of Texas.
There's a lot of what sounds like hyperbole.
And some people have written it off
totally as an urban myth.
So we're going to go out with Captain Moore on his boat to
survey the damage out there.
I've never been on a boat.
And I've been kind of boning up on my knots and swimming
lessons and all.
It's a three-week trip.
A week to get out there, a week of taking samples and
hanging out with all the trash, and a week to get back.
We are going to act as crew.
That's Jake, our camera guy.
Meredith, our producer.
We are 1/2 of the crew of the ORV Alguita on our way to
"Garbage
Island." [CAR HORN]
MEREDITH DANLUCK: Captain Moore?
THOMAS MORTON: Hi.
I'm Thomas.
CHARLES MOORE: Nice to meet you, Thomas.
THOMAS MORTON: Good to meet you.
CHARLES MOORE: Good to have you.
Come on aboard.
Come on aboard.
THOMAS MORTON: Thank you.
CHARLES MOORE: We've got some people for you to meet here.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Great.
Welcome.
THOMAS MORTON: Hello.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Come on in.
Welcome aboard.
CHARLES MOORE: We do have a freezer on this side.
And we can put a couple gallons of ice cream in there.
MEREDITH DANLUCK: Ice cream seems to be a high
priority for you.
CHARLES MOORE: Well, it's like that's a treat
because it's a dry boat.
I usually give it one day in the jar, because it's so calm
and we've been working so hard for so long, where we just put
out the sea anchor and stop.
And if you want to get pissed, go ahead.
[LAUGHTER]
CHARLES MOORE: But mostly, when you're on watch and we're
working, it's a dry boat.
THOMAS MORTON: Yeah.
CHARLES MOORE: That's just the way it is.
I know that you don't have much experience.
But do you know whether or not you get sea sick?
THOMAS MORTON: I have in the past.
CHARLES MOORE: OK, so you're going to
probably want the patch.
THOMAS MORTON: I might.
CHARLES MOORE: At least to get started.
THOMAS MORTON: I'm about to get my scopolamine patch to
help keep down the sea sickness, hopefully.
This is the same stuff that Colombian gangsters use to
knock people out.
FEMALE SPEAKER: The one thing you want to be careful of is,
if you touch it, don't touch your eyes.
THOMAS MORTON: OK.
I'm just going to--
[LAUGHTER]
THOMAS MORTON: I'm not going to try to imagine
what that would do.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Yeah.
THOMAS MORTON: I'm not going to do it.

JAKE BURGHART: We haven't really done anything.
We loaded up the boat.
And since we're going to be at sea for three weeks and then
this boat's going to be in Hawaii for a ways of time and
then coming back, so they're just making
everything super tight.

MEREDITH DANLUCK: Do you want to introduce yourself?
JOE GOODMAN: The last voyage, nobody survived.
Hi.
My name is Joe Goodman.
MEREDITH DANLUCK: What do you do, Joe?
JOE GOODMAN: I'm a physician in Fresno, California.
I work with crazy people.
MEREDITH DANLUCK: [LAUGHS]
JOE GOODMAN: I don't know if you know Captain Moore, but
the guy is an extremely good cook.
THOMAS MORTON: That's what we've read.
JOE GOODMAN: So don't hesitate saying, hey, by the way-- this
is on film too.
I love the man.
I love him.
THOMAS MORTON: It seems it, so far.
JOE GOODMAN: He also will keep a little distant to all of us.
I mean, he'll bark at me too.
If I'm not moving fast enough, he's going to say something.
THOMAS MORTON: Yeah.
JOE GOODMAN: So don't take offense to it.
Safety is number one for hitting on his boat.
Everyone that comes back, healthy, happy and enjoyable.
And nobody has any problems.
And then you cross over, and then come through.
MEREDITH DANLUCK: We're preparing to leave, to leave
and not see land for three weeks.
I trust the captain.
He knows what he's doing, right?
This smells like cat piss.

LORENA M. RIOS MENDOZA: [SPEAKING SPANISH]
CHARLES MOORE: And now here's the sea grass
and all this plastic.
This is a pre-production plastic pellet here.
These pellets are the virgin material that have never been
through the hands of a consumer.
They're just what the factory uses to make plastic objects
out of, whether it's a plastic bag or a coffee cup.
They get here by being lost in the rail yards and the truck
delivery docks.
It's a symbol of the whole plastic production chain, how
it pollutes from the very beginning, when it's just in
this pellet form, up to these bottle caps.
We may get up to, say, 50% of some water bottles recycled.
But none of the caps are getting recycled at the
present time.

She's on the phone.
Soon there will be no phone.
It will be all work and no play.
MEREDITH DANLUCK: [LAUGHTER]
THOMAS MORTON: I think, from first impressions, we're going
to have kind of a family cruise vibe on this trip.
Captain Moore is, obviously, the no-nonsense dad.
He sort of reminds me of the dad from
Freaks and Geeks a little.
Joe's the wacky uncle.
Lorena's the Mexican scientist aunt.
And I guess we're the slightly grown kids.
THOMAS MORTON: You all right?
Did you just clock yourself?
JAKE BURGHART: Yeah.
THOMAS MORTON: Nice.
CHARLES MOORE: OK, here we go!
Gwen, we got Gwen on the stern line.
We've got Parker on the bow.
[APPLAUSE]
[CHEERS]
FEMALE SPEAKER: Have a great trip!
FEMALE SPEAKER: Have a nice journey!
THOMAS MORTON: I don't know if it's like California, or being
in a marina.
It's really hard to distinguish between other
people that are being friendly or dickheads or are just so
sun-basted, their brains are done.

You know, it's funny if you consider that there are places
in the world that are seven days away.

Like flying to Hawaii from LA or whatever takes, what?
Like eight hours?
Eight or nine?
And yet this is going to be seven days away.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
JOE GOODMAN: Here he is.
He's coming up right here.
THOMAS MORTON: There we go.
Oh, this might be the final one.
Look.
Look.
JOE GOODMAN: I tell you, if he circles around, I'm putting my
wet suit on.
[LAUGHTER]
JOE GOODMAN: Yeah.
So I've swam with the Orcas.
Orcas aren't afraid of me.
I'm not afraid of them.
They can take me, if they want to, today.

THOMAS MORTON: It's just water now.
MEREDITH DANLUCK: There's not even any boats.
THOMAS MORTON: Nope.
Nothing on the radar, on the radio.
Just us.
MEREDITH DANLUCK: I got a little twinge of anxiety last
night where I was like, holy fuck.
We are on a boat in the middle of the ocean.
JOE GOODMAN: We're not even close to the middle yet.
MEREDITH DANLUCK: Yeah.
JOE GOODMAN: I can still see land.
THOMAS MORTON: What made you want to come?
JOE GOODMAN: First I've always wanted to be
in the North Pacific.
I've never sailed this area before.
Also, I wanted to know about the plastic garbage problem.
There's so much that individuals, they get
inundated, inundated, inundated.
And yet something really significant, like The Gyre,
nobody knows about it.
I mean, if we didn't have this boat and some other people,
who would ever tell us about it?
It's the middle of nowhere.
Why would it affect us?
It's the middle of nowhere.
We don't see it.
And if you don't see it, it doesn't exist.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
CHARLES MOORE: Where can you really see a
huge expanse of nothing?
What's the biggest thing most people ever see that's really
open and unencumbered?
Like a desert scene?
But still, it's very finite, compared to the ocean.
MEREDITH DANLUCK: How much garbage do you
think is in the ocean?
CHARLES MOORE: I think there's 100 million tons minimum.
100 million tons minimum.
We're all guilty.
There's no guiltless parties here.

MEREDITH DANLUCK: Ooh.
Wow.
MALE SPEAKER: What'd you get?
THOMAS MORTON: Whoa.

I busted out the ship's jelly guide and managed to hit the
right page.
Jesus Christ.
OK, so I went to the glossary to look up manubrium, because
I was a little unclear on what that was.
And thankfully, it lays it straight for me.
"The manubrium is a variously shaped pendant,
subumbrellular, gastrovascular cavity in medusa bearing a
terminal mouth." [MAKES SPITTING NOISE]
Of course.
MEREDITH DANLUCK: It really is amazing how similar plastic
looks to the jellies.
I swam up to it thinking it was jelly.
It's crazy.

LORENA M. RIOS MENDOZA:
CHARLES MOORE: Every part needs to have a
well-understood by the general public end.
You can't just say it's the consumer's fault, right?
You've got to have a place for it to go.
Right now, plastic has no end game.
You're done with it?
Well, which bucket do I throw it in?
You know, there's no end game.

MEREDITH DANLUCK: I've done it before.
I don't know what kind of status that is.
THOMAS MORTON: Isn't it a little ironic that, on a trip
out to see the damage plastic's doing to the ocean,
almost all the food that we need for the trip has to be
kept in plastic?
CHARLES MOORE: I'm quite sure all of us during this trip
have contributed plastic to the ocean, not wantonly, but
helplessly.
With all the plastic we have, we can't help it.
This idea that we're going to have all these pristine
products in plastic one after the other, and open, open,
open, open, all day long, it's like Christmas every day,
you're being fooled.
What about an orange?
That has its own wrapper.
What about a head of lettuce?
Romaine lettuce, you just pick off the outer leaves.
You don't need a wrapper.
Now there's a million things that don't need this bullshit.
MEREDITH DANLUCK: What is that?
THOMAS MORTON: Some sort of pod fruit?
What is it?
CHARLES MOORE: Banana flower.
MEREDITH DANLUCK: A banana flower.
MALE SPEAKER: [FOREIGN]
CHARLES MOORE: Well, we're going to have this for dinner.
[FOREIGN]
All the religions got to go.
JOE GOODMAN: [FOREIGN]
[LAUGHTER]
THOMAS MORTON: Kind of hard to remember what day it is when
all you're doing is sitting on a boat.
We've been having shit luck with sailing wind.
So we've been running the motors the whole time.
And now we need to refuel.
Have to run hoses down into the tanks from those little
nozzles on top.
I guess it's kind of ironic that we're here on this
environmental tour of the place.
Nature won't even give us the winds we need not to pollute
her with diesel fumes.
CHARLES MOORE: Can you imagine this full of vegetable oil?
THOMAS MORTON: So you're planning on
converting your engine.
How soon do you think you're going to be able to do that?
CHARLES MOORE: As soon as I can identify sources in
foreign ports where I'll be traveling.
THOMAS MORTON: Ah!
JOE GOODMAN:
THOMAS MORTON: Yeah.
CHARLES MOORE: (WITH AUSTRALIAN ACCENT) Aye, mate.
Take her up another five inches, mate.
[LAUGHTER]
THOMAS MORTON: So we just stopped and Lorena's going to
take her first samples.
We're just going to see, I think, what the plastic
content in this water is, and see if we can
catch a couple of pieces.
It's literally what you'd expect.
It's like beakers and funnels, some sort of weird handheld
microscope, it looks like.
This is nerd heaven.
LORENA M. RIOS MENDOZA: Thomas?
THOMAS MORTON: Yes?
LORENA M. RIOS MENDOZA:
THOMAS MORTON: From the freezer?
LORENA M. RIOS MENDOZA: Yes.
THOMAS MORTON: OK.

LORENA M. RIOS MENDOZA:
THOMAS MORTON: Lorena was explaining to me earlier a
little bit of her equipment, some sort of solution that's
going to somehow indicate the presence of plastic particles,
polymers, in the water, so that you can get a rough
estimate of what the exact polymer count is.
JOE GOODMAN: Wherever there's little areas of collection,
you see this stuff filling them up.
And historically, these places were places where nutrients
accumulated.
And debris had nutrient value.
It was biodegradable.
Now we're covering up with a suffocating layer of non-gas
permeable plastic with toxics attached to it.
When you put your hand in here, you can feel some of the
hard objects, the plastics.
It's kind of interesting.
THOMAS MORTON: The difference between organic trash and
synthetics is whereas the organic stuff biodegrades,
plastics, they just break down into individual polymers.
So as small as they keep getting, it's
still the same plastic.
It's every part of a Coke bottle busted down into a
little digestible morsel.

CHARLES MOORE: What we say is, we sweat the small stuff.
And what we're doing with Lorena is trying to get down
into what we can't see.
No one's tried to find microplastics in the main
environment.
What is it doing to these jellyfish?
When we pull up blobs of plastic and globs of jelly all
mixed together, what's going on there?

[MUSIC PLAYING]
MEREDITH DANLUCK: We just jostled Thomas out of bed for
the sunset.
Is this one, maybe, in the top five things that
you've never seen?
THOMAS MORTON: I've seen some things.
JAKE BURGHART: Have you seen the moon on the other side?
Let's go check that out.
THOMAS MORTON: I'm bored.
JAKE BURGHART: All right, let's see your point.
Bring your point out a little to the right.
All right, ready?
Turn back and look at the camera.

[LAUGHTER]