We end our first day at sea after an unbelievable 10 days in Bermuda. The island in now a distant glow on the horizon as we put the research trawl back in the water. We slow the sailboat down to 2 knots and trawl for 3 hours, skimming the surface for whatever floats. At 1:30am we pull in the net. Among the shredded plastic film, nurdles, and random pieces of plastic confetti, we’ve also nabbed a milk jug ring. (Click on the image above to get a closer look at the contents of the sample.)

This is an example of two key problems to the plastic pollution issue. First, that milk jug ring is a product made to last forever, yet designed to be thrown away. Throw away plastic products, which do not biodegrade, are quickly littering our world. Second, of the millions of products made in plastic, only a handful have a reasonable plan for recovery.

In our lectures we often talk about the impact of plastic pollution on wildlife. There is a snapping turtle named “Mae West”. When she was a hatchling she walked into a milk jug ring. As she grew she could not break this corset around her waist. Now she’s as big as a football, but with a thin waist, looking more like an hourglass. Her spine has never healed.

Video: Snapping Tutle with Plastic Ring – Crew members Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins meet a snapping turtle that was entangled in a plastic ring when young, and view the effects the entanglement had on the turtles body. Note: this is an archived video from before the voyage that they requested we share with you.

We’re following the “Five Gyres” oceanic scientific voyage into plastic pollution in world’s oceans from the Ship-2-Shore Education blog.