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St. Petersburg College to screen “A Plastic Ocean” documentary

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The grave threat posed by plastic waste to the world’s oceans – and the marine life within them – is the focus of a documentary film that will be screened by St. Petersburg College’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions. The film, “A Plastic Ocean,” and a follow-up discussion of the implications of toxic seas will be presented from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. April 26 at the SPC Seminole Campus, 9200 113th Street N.

The event is co-sponsored by the University of Florida IFAS Extension Service. Admission is free, but advance registration is requested at Following the screening, there will be a discussion of the plastic waste issue led by Lara Milligan, Natural Resources Special Agent for the Pinellas County Extension Service. The program also will include a display of microplastic waste collected by SPC students in the Natural Science Department at the college’s Bay Pines STEM Center on the shore of “Hurricane Hole” on Boca Ciega Bay.

The documentary is the product of a four-year odyssey to explore the issue of plastics in our oceans and to assess its effects on marine ecosystems and human health. It was created by two respected documentary film-makers, Jo Ruxton as producer and Craig Leeson as director, with the assistance of scientists Dr. Bonnie Monteleone and marine biologist Dr. Lindsay Porter.

The film documents the massive scale of plastic waste in the oceans – and the toll it takes on marine life. Plastic waste fields pollute all five of the world’s primary ocean systems, but the biggest is what is commonly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located roughly 1,500 miles west of San Francisco. A study published March 22 by the journal Scientific Reports found the scale of that garbage patch to be four to 16 times larger than previously thought, an area roughly four times the size of California.

But contrary to popular belief, this garbage is not piled up to form a floating island of plastic. “A Plastic Ocean” documents the fact that it is breaking down into small particulates that enter the marine food chain, where they attract toxins like a magnet. These toxins, consumed by sea creatures, are stored in their fatty tissues and eventually are taken in by humans who consume the edible seafood. Because plastic is man-made, it does not disintegrate the way other materials like wood, paper or even metal objects eventually do. This means that every item of plastic that has ever been created is still with us on the planet today, say scientists. As Director Leeson put it in an interview, “…The environment has no way of dealing with it, so it is building up and poisoning our earth like a disease. . .”