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PlasticShore: Victoria's youthful ecoprenuers take on marine pollution

PlasticShore wants to transform the problem of marine plastic into a resource for use in eco-certified consumer products.

PlasticShore wants to transform the problem of marine plastic into a resource for use in consumer products. It plans to provide “eco-label certification” to help create demand for products made from plastic pollution.

Travel to developing countries of the Pacific Rim inspired Andrew Almack, the founder, to study the feasibility of the idea as part of his business degree at Bishops University. “People in the Philippines and Malaysia traditionally used banana leaves and other compostable material for packaging,” he said. “There’s insufficient infrastructure for waste management and a lot of it ends up in the ocean.”

The catastrophic impact of plastic debris on marine animals has gained attention over the last few years. Chris Jordan’s new movie Midway: Message from the Gyre uses disturbing beauty to frame the tragedy of plastic garbage consumed by Laysan Albatross. A recent study showed that 35% of fish surveyed in the North Pacific Ocean had plastic in their bodies. Over a billion people depend on the ocean for their main source of protein.

According to PlasticShore’s website, over six million tons of plastic debris enters the marine environment each year. About 80% starts as land litter. PlasticShore plans to sponsor cleanups for plastics in communities before debris enters the watershed and raise awareness about the impact of littering.

“We hope to create a demand for plastic debris in the same way that the fair trade symbol helps to support a market for ethically sourced products,” Almack said. He believes that if plastic pollution becomes a valued asset, the corporate sector will sponsor community-based collection strategies.

PlasticShore is a youth led enterprise: nine people under the age of twenty five, many of them from the University of Victoria. The team gelled around the question of how to make the greatest impact from the “externality” of plastic debris.

Initially, PlasticShore aims to add momentum to existing community clean up efforts by providing a fund-raising strategy for community initiatives. Gathered plastic will garner “points” for in kind donations by the corporate sector. Community groups can work toward a charitable goal using proceeds from debris they have collected.

Ultimately, the PlasticShore team wants to develop green employment programs for socially marginalized people. Studies show that it costs between $55,000/year and $135,000/year to service a homeless person on the streets. Almack thinks public investment in a flexible employment program could help prevent the heavy use of police and health services reflected in those costs.

To reach areas with no recycling infrastructure, PlasticShores would create a template and/or manual for other groups to use. 

 “This is a big summer for us,” Almack said. “We have worked hard to get the system in place and now it is time to pilot the project on Vancouver Island and create an implementation manual.” PlasticShore hopes to raise $3,000 through a crowd-funding campaign, which will enable it to access to a development grant worth $12,000.

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