How a Band of Marine Researchers Is Solving the Plastic Pollution Crisis in Our Oceans

"Our goal is to teach people the right way to recycle."

Algalita's Ship-2-Shore education program aims to demystify recycling. Image courtesy Algalita.

In 1999, Algalita founder Captain Charles Moore put his small California environmental nonprofit on the map when he was the first to sample the surface waters of what is now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Since then, the California-based organization has dedicated itself to research and education about plastic pollution in the waterways with the belief that they can solve the problem with the right public outreach and in collaboration with other organizations and scientists. Considering that over 80 percent of marine debris originates from sources on land, there’s no time to waste.

Algalita’s executive director, Liesl Thomas, carries on Captain Moore’s vision of collaboration. “It was always his mentality that if anything is going to get solved, it will be by people working together,” she says from her office in Long Beach.

Liesl Thomas
Executive Director, Algalita

Algalita continues to partner with other organizations, biologists, and even graduate students at local universities to undertake research and education projects. They teamed up with the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where master’s students produced a 256-page report, “Reducing Plastic Debris in the Los Angeles and San Gabriel River Watersheds.” The report is the foundation of a new prevention campaign, which will include education on reducing litter and improving recycling savvy. “We realized that if we really wanted to make prevention happen, we needed to start smaller and look at a more local level,” Thomas says.

On the recycling education front, Algalita has partnered with the nationwide program Recycle Across America, whose goal is to get standardized recycling labels on all recycling bins across the country.

“Our goal is to teach people the right way to recycle,” says Thomas. “There’s a lot of contamination in recycling right now. Sometimes the labeling is confusing. When you go from city to city, you have drastically different recycling requirements, so the standardized labels make it really obvious what can be recycled. We feel that if you make it easy for people, then you have a better chance at a good success rate in terms of recycling.”

Since Algalita already makes regular presentations in K-12 education, bringing the recycling labeling to the schools was a perfect fit. “We already go in and do trash audits and show them what their waste looks like, and point out trash that is recyclable and teach them the distinction. What we are looking to do, since we have strong connection in our schools, is to come in and push the [standardized labeling] issue in the Los Angeles schools. The program has the labels donated and ready to go; we just need to get the schools to agree.”

In the quest to reduce plastic pollution, Thomas says, some organizations skip the crucial step of recycling education in favor of eliminating plastic altogether. “Instead of saying we need to make people stop drinking soda or water unless it’s in a glass, there are realistic ways to educate people, and recycling is an important part of that.”

“We do not recycle near what people think we do,” says Thomas. She points to the less-than-satisfactory recycling rates across the country, with California leading at 50 percent. “A lot of these items make their way into the ocean, and they could easily be recycled. I think a lot of it comes down to educating people. We are literally putting this stuff into the ocean and killing fish. We need to be better stewards of the planet.”

She recommends simple steps that consumers can take, such as not requesting straws at restaurants, drinking from reusable containers, and making sure that what plastic you do purchase is placed in appropriate recycling bins. “People aren’t going to stop drinking their sodas, so recycling has to be a vital part of the conversation.”

Algalita is not sponsored by or affiliated with Arrowhead.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

RELATED: The 1975's singer bravely kissed a man at a Dubai concert to protest anti-LGBT oppression

In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

RELATED: Alan Turing will appear on the 50-pound note nearly 70 years after being persecuted for his sexuality

Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr and nrkbeta / flickr

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) dropped a bombshell on Tuesday, announcing it had over 900 emails that White House aide Stephen Miller sent to former Breitbart writer and editor Katie McHugh.

According to the SPLC, in the emails, Miller aggressively "promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof's murderous rampage."

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