10 reasons you’ll want to start to collect bottle caps

I try to reduce-reuse-recycle-refuse-reuse as much as possible but sometimes there is no way around it. Your home collects trash and waste. We seem to accumulate plastic caps. Bottle caps are one of the top five types of litter found on beaches worldwide. Imagine how many are in the sea we can’t see!? First, check to see if your municipality does recycle plastic caps. If not, here are ten ways that you can make use of them and maybe even have fun when the dreaded winter hits!

  1. Checkerboard: Use some corrugated cardboard and two sets of 12 differently colored caps. They stack on tops easily when you’re “kinged.” 
  2. Magnets: Add some friendly personal messages, too.
  3. Learning tools/games: I did some alphabet but memory could be just as fun. Check out Early Learning Ideas for more engaging learning ideas, too. 
  4. Musical instruments: These Snapple caps are ah-mazing for any type of bottlecap bands.
  5. Jewelry: It’s pretty easy to drill a hole through your bunch so you can string them together for clunky kids creations.
  6. Decorations: Forget the disposable plastic banners for parties. Make something personal with your favorite colors or brands on it.
  7. Caps of Love: This organization collects bottle caps which helps to provide wheelchairs for needy disabled children.
  8. Art work: My art pieces here are pretty elementary. I am sure many of you have far superior skills. For inspiration check out Pinterest.
  9. Save the caps in school: Some companies work with you to recycle them back into other products like toothbrushes.
  10. Miniature gardens: Thank you Redesign Report for this list of ways to upcycle bottle caps, especially the cute little gardens at the bottom.

Contact your local recycling agency and find out what they do collect. If not, start a collection. Make it a challenge and share your challenge with your neighbors. Any time you can do something to start a conversation about marine debris and plastic in the ocean is good. Watch some movies on marine debris. It might be a little uncomfortable at first – but smile, follow your heart, and know some facts.

Wednesday Wisdom: Gaelic rune

I don’t know about you, but I get very reflective at sunset. Hope this brings you peace as you’re settling from Halloween adventures!

Find more great ocean and conservation quotes here and please feel free to share with your friends and family!

Also, ask away! If you have a question about something you found on the beach or just something you’re curious about just send an email to info@beachchairscientist.com or tweet us!

What makes each ocean unique?

Well, it’s finally happened. My almost seven-year old is bringing on the thought-provoking questions. We talk a lot about how what we do in our house will affect our watershed and that in turn (collectively) affects the world. Well, I was snagged the other day when I said, “Well, the river goes to the lake and leads to another lake and river and then to the ocean. And, it’s the only ocean we have so we need to take care of it.” What I heard next was, “Mom, if it goes into the Atlantic Ocean isn’t there also the Pacific? Isn’t that two oceans?” She’s not alone in the confusion as I’ve had students not sure how the oceans are connected (Giant Conveyor Belt of currents!) and why do we give them all different names.

I laid it out like this: There is only one ocean, but each area of the world has a section (i.e., basin) of the ocean that has specific properties based on temperature and what type of land it is near. For instance, the Pacific Ocean is huge, has rocky shorelines, and lots of volcanoes and islands because it’s surrounded by the “Ring of Fire.” I explained that the Indian Ocean is pretty flat almost like the Gulf of Mexico because lots of rivers flow gently into it.

Here’s a quick graphic I fancied up to share on some major characteristics of each ocean basin. Click on it and then travel around to each one! I like to keep it simple so if you feel like there’s something that needs additional emphasis, please feel free to share so I can add it!

 

“Why is the bath still hot?” An anecdote on temperature & density

I’ve been mama-ing (i.e., SAHM) it lately to a 6yo and 3yo and with that comes some hard lessons to learn. I mean I just explained that there is one ocean but it has five spots with five separate names and now I get “Why is the bath still hot when you added so much cold water!?” (think of that one as being asked in a shrilly voice, too).

I had to keep my cool when I explained that the water on top still feels warm … but, if you could (please, please, please!) stick you toes in the tub to the bottom it will be cold and then you can mix it up.

I jazzed it up and said that when water droplets get cold they huddle together. More of them will take up the same space so it’s heavier (i.e., denser). Therefore, they’ll sink to the bottom of the tub.

In the ocean the water on the bottom is definitely colder, too. However that’s generally because sunlight isn’t penetrating past the first 200 meters (1/8 of a mile).

You see the ocean has a “thermocline.” The thermocline is a place when the temperature drastically changes. On the surface of the sea – the top 200 meters – it’s warm since it gets a lot of sunlight. Sunlight can’t really go any further and the temperature decreases for the next 800 meters. That layer where the temperature drastically changes is called the “thermocline”. After that the zone without sunlight is consistently colder. Check out the image below from NOAA Ocean Service and then this interactive and extremely up-to-date sea surface temperature map from NASA.

 

Do water molecules “surf” the waves?

It seems like water molecules might follow the path of a wave given what we know from the water cycle.

Water-Cycle-Art2A

But, if you watch a floating object like a toy boat on a wave in the open sea it won’t travel with the wave but rather bob up and down. The water molecules are actually swirling under the waves helping to move energy to the wave. This swirling motion is known to oceanographers as the “circular orbital motion”.

water-824418

doeswatersurf

Waves are mostly moved by wind. The water molecules in waves of the open ocean are not traveling along with the waves but rather under the waves in a circular motion.

When you get closer to the shore the orbital motion is non-existent because the waves touch the bottom. That phenomenon helps when you lose your boogie board in the surf zone.

Christmas critter countdown: Snowflake eel

Eels have the ability to genuinely give me the creeps. It’s probably because of the scene from Princess Bride. But, actually it might have something to do with the fact that some have the ability to tie their bodies in knots and use this to gain leverage when tearing food. Find out some more uplifting facts of eels here. … … … read on as you wish!

Christmas critter countdown

Christmas critter countdown: Cookie cutter shark

Another day of the countdown. This time it’s the ferocious cookie cutter shark. There’s nothing short of remarkably awesome when it comes to these sharks. They are small but also skillful in their ability to sneak up and eat prey much larger.  They even have the largest tooth-to-body-length ratio of any shark (including the great white)! Learn more here.

Christmas critter countdown: Cookie cutter sharks

Christmas critter countdown: Christmas tree worm

Admittedly, at this point my kind readers know that I’m a nut over some ocean humor (despite the rolling eyes from loved ones!). So if you’ll indulge me this holiday season I now have a list of twelve ornamental-appropriate organisms. My first one to share is the Christmas tree worm.

Christmas critter countdown: Chrsitams tree worms

The Christmas tree worm, found in tropical coral reefs worldwide, has some amazing spiral plumes (i.e., tentacles) are used for feeding and breathing. The Christmas tree worm prefers to feast on phytoplankton floating in the water nearby. Learn more here.

Maryland moves closer to banning microbeads

Plastic microbeads on a penny. Photo credit: 5Gyres

Plastic microbeads on a penny. Photo credit: 5Gyres

Reported on the Baltimore Sun’s B’More Green  blog, “Consumer products such as toothpaste and cosmetic scrubs containing tiny plastic “microbeads” could be banned from store shelves in Maryland after 2018 under a bill unanimously approved Thursday by the state Senate”. These means that if the bill passes the House, “Maryland will be the second state after Illinois to order a phase-out of the manufacture or sale of consumer products containing the beads”.

What is a microbead? It’s a tiny particle of plastic that never break down. What’s incredibly harmful is that they are being drained into local streams, creeks, rivers, lakes, and ocean and affecting our waterways. There are over 50 products on the shelves in the US that contain harmful microbeads! Find a list of products sold in the United States that contain microbeads (i.e., polythene) here.

Here is some alarming information on the microbeads, marine debris, and our ocean trash in general.

  1. A single tube of facial cleanser can contain over 3000,000 microbeads.
  2. More than 450,000 microbeads per square kilometer were found in some parts of Lake Erie.
  3. In the ocean there are approximately 5.25 trillion plastic particles.
  4. For every foot of coastline there is approximately five grocery bags filled with plastic, according to estimates in 2010.
  5. Six continents have microfibers washing up on their shores.
  6. Shores near sewage treatment plants have the highest concentration of microfibers washing up.
  7. Nearly 275 million tons of plastic waste was generated by coastal countries in 2010 — and that 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of that plastic made its way to the oceans.
  8. Each year, 8.8 million tons of plastic goes into the oceans.
  9. The estimate for 2015 is 9.1 million metric tons.
  10. On average, Americans use 220 pounds of plastic per year.
  11. 17% of all marine animals impacted by manmade debris are threatened or near threatened.
  12. Trash will likely increase tenfold over the next decade.

Who owns the fish in the sea?

It takes at least five minutes of discussion between a grandfather and a grandson to explain who owns the ocean and who can fish in the U.S. seas. Check out this animated video produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting as they share their perspective on the catch shares system in which “the right to fish belongs to a number of private individuals who have traded, bought and sold these rights in unregulated markets” (better known as “a few players control most of the fishery”). Although, as the Environmental Defense Fund notes from a recent study of fisheries in Canada and the U.S the catch shares system has some benefits, such as:

  • The amount of fish allowed to be caught increased 19% over 10 years of catch shares.
  • Wasted fish (bycatch) decreased 66% over 10 years, meaning more fish in the ocean and healthier populations.
  • Fleet-wide revenues increased 68% after 10 years and fisherman safety improved three-fold.

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