Some 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. Plastic bottles, bags and plastic nets drift through currents, ending up in the planet's subtropical gyres, spiraling currents that are essential to the movement of the ocean's waters. The world's "garbage patch" doesn't just clog waterways and currents, though. It poses a significant threat to marine mammals and fish, which ingest the plastic or get ensnarled in nets.
There have been a number of initiatives launched in recent years to clean up the gyres and the shorelines that are often depositories for the plastic. One of the more ingenious concepts is The Ocean Cleanup, that uses developing technology to scoop up the refuse. The developers are in the pilot stage and hope to launch it next year. They say it would take about 5 years to clean up 50 percent of the ocean's garbage patch.
The Plastic Bank, on the other hand, is tackling the human angle. It provides a living wage to individuals in developing countries who are willing to clean up the plastic on their beaches. The refuse is then funneled to companies that recycle it into products sold across the globe.
One of the companies that has been working to develop a supply chain is Pokonobe Associates, the maker of the Jenga game. The company has discovered that commercial plastic fishing nets provide ideal material for making Jenga's light-weight stackable blocks. But there's another motivator to its interest: It hopes that by creating a means to recycle fishing nets into toys, it can educate consumers about the importance of stopping ocean pollution.
At least 10 percent of the garbage that ends up in the world's oceans comes from discarded fishing nets either lost by commercial fishing vessels or discarded in the process.To highlight this fact and the importance of ocean cleanup, the game's designers, partners Paul Eveloff and Robert Grebler have spearheaded a new game called Jenga Ocean to call attention to the problem. They are also partnering with Bureo and the International Ocean Film Festival in promotion of the game, two long-time advocates for ocean clean-up efforts.
Bureo has had its own interesting success in the recycling arena in recent years. Its skateboards, glasses and other products are made with recycled nets, proving that sporting and game companies can not only provide a vehicle for reusing plastics, but give a good shout-out about the benefits of doing so. Bureo's efforts to build a company that could contribute in this way became the storyline for Net Positiva, a film recently screened at The International Ocean Film Festival.
The new game's release will coincide with World Ocean Day, this week (June 8). Pokonobe, Bureo and the International Ocean Film Festival are hoping to inspire other companies to look for ways to recycle the ocean's vast collection of reusable plastic and be a megaphone for the importance of stopping marine pollution.
Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.