Jack Johnson’s music is synonymous with good vibes, good waves, and sun. This is probably because the musician grew up on the beaches of Hawaii, surfing and reveling in the island’s pristine waters and unique natural beauty. So when Marcus Erikson of 5 Gyres invited Johnson to join a team of artists, musicians, surfers, and scientists to seek to explore the Pacific Island Garbage Patch, he immediately agreed to join the crew. The team brought along a camera crew and the resulting footage became the new documentary The Smog of the Sea.

Unfortunately, Johnson soon discovered that the ocean waters were nothing like he had imagined them. While the crew of citizen-scientists didn’t run aground on a literal “island of garbage,” they encountered a phenomenon that was even more unsettling – a haze of plastic that permeates the once-clean ocean waters. The crew floated a special trawl next to the boat to collect samples from the waters as they sailed to Bermuda. They then took these water samples and began to sift through the debris and separate the plastics from the sea water and plant matter – the results were stunning.


They found thousands of pieces of plastic, from old soda caps to silvery strands of fishing line, in every sample. This is not surprising considering, every year we produce 300 million tons or plastic and  8.8 million tons of this stuff gets put into our planet’s oceans and rivers. Once in the water, plastics slowly break down into microplastics and create the deadly “plastic smog” that the documentary crew witnessed. Plastics pollution currently threatens over 700 marine species and as long as we continue to irresponsibly consume and dispose of plastics, this number will continue to grow.

Matt Prindiville from Upstream, a group dedicated to discovering innovative solutions to the world’s plastic problem, was also a crew member on this voyage and he told the cameras, “When consumer goods companies sell all of their products wrapped in packaging to developing countries that don’t have any solid waste or recycling infrastructure, we have rivers of plastic that are literally flowing into the ocean.” And he’s right, we have a responsibility as consumers to address the massive plastic problem we have created. But we can save our oceans and the animals that inhabit them by making a few simple changes.

Cutting disposable plastics out of your life goes a long way to towards cleaning up our planet’s oceans, plus – it’s super easy to do. Be sure you bring a water bottle with you leave the house instead of buying a plastic one that will get thrown away. With this small, conscious act, you can prevent 116 plastic bottles from entering the ocean every year. Similarly, by bringing a reusable straw with you, you can prevent 584 plastic straws from entering the ocean every year. To learn more about how you can keep plastic out of our oceans, join One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign.

If you would like to see the full 30-minute documentary, The Smog of the Sea, you can watch it here – but do it now because you will only be able to stream it for free for a limited time.


Image source: Daniel DeSlover/Shutterstock