Message in a plastic bottle

In the lead up to Plastic Free July, we thought you might like to hear about this amazing project – the first study of its kind to track how plastic bottle pollution moves through the open ocean

On World Ocean Day the Message in a Bottle campaign released seven plastic bottles fitted with electronic tracking devices – each named after one of the G7 nations - into the Atlantic Ocean off the south coast of the UK. 

Designed to mimic a single use plastic drinks bottle, the devices will respond to currents and winds as real bottles do – gathering valuable data to help scientists understand how plastic moves across the ocean and the potential risk it poses to marine wildlife. They could potentially travel hundreds of miles over the course of the project, passing over deep ocean trenches, across major migratory routes for marine mammals and birds.

The devices in the bottles have a lifespan of up to two years, and the group tracking say they will find ways to retrieve the bottles when they are nearing the end of their battery life.

Eight million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year and campaigners say world leaders are failing to listen to the scientific evidence that urgent action is needed to protect the planet from climate change.

The Message in a Bottle tracking project is a collaboration between scientific institutions and ocean groups from around the world, including the Arribada Initiative; The University of Exeter; The University of Plymouth and the Zoological Society of London, with support from OneLess and OneOcean.

Professor Heather Koldewey of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and University of Exeter, lead scientist on the project and Director of the #OneLess campaign said “The small stretch of sea around Cornwall connects to a vast ocean without boundaries. By combining novel technology and ocean observing systems, we will obtain new insights into how marine litter behaves. The ocean connects us all, G7 leaders need to listen to science, listen to the ocean, and to act. Treaties on global plastic and High Seas protection would be very good places to start.”

"Everywhere we go, whether it's the deepest part of the ocean or the most uninhabited islands we find plastic pollution. By understanding the movements better, we can show the impact and do everything we can to stop plastic going in in the first place" she said.

The launch of the tracking experiment was timed to coincide with the G7 Summit. Scientists have called on the Leaders to pay urgent attention to the connection between the ocean and climate breakdown. Setting out seven key areas for action across policy and science, the authors highlight the importance of increased ocean monitoring and scientific investigation including increased monitoring, creating protected areas and halting destructive extraction of ocean resources. 

Director of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean and the OneOcean campaign, Mirella von Lindenfels said: “We cannot solve the climate crisis if we do not protect the ocean. G7 Leaders need to listen to the ocean and take immediate action to significantly increase protection for it and awareness about its role in making life on our planet possible.”

#OneLess will then use its findings to advocate for policy change to better protect the oceans from unnecessary pollution. In the meantime, the campaign will call on every G7 leader to #listentotheocean and do everything in their power to prevent climate breakdown.

You can follow the seven bottles here

Seeing plastic pollution was a big part of the inspiration behind KIND2 and making it an easy decision to ditch those plastic bottles of shampoo and conditioner.

And if you're inspired to make one more step towards reducing your impact, head over to the KIND2 shop.

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