The status update read:
‘DEAD” Sea…………..no more plastic
This was filmed two days ago off the Dominican Republic Coast.
Our Oceans are dying.
The clip was immensely popular in the ensuing weeks on social media. No further information was included by the page about when, where, or how the clip was captured.
In the post, the only firm claims made were about location (the Dominican Republic) and date (March 16 2019). The latter claim was definitively false, as the exact same footage was shared to YouTube by Parley for the Oceans on July 18 2018:
Its description said that the footage was from the Dominican Republic:
With wave after wave of plastic waste washing ashore in the Dominican Republic, Parley teams are on the ground dealing with the world’s latest garbage emergency. Unless urgent action is taken, scenes like this will become more common.
A July 17 2019 post to Parley’s website added additional context about the video:
Late [in 2017], images of trash-covered beaches in Bali shocked the world and prompted the government to declare a ‘garbage emergency’. Now, video taken by Parley in the Dominican Republic shows an equally apocalyptic scene – wave after wave of plastic debris rolling in at Montesinos Beach in the capital, Santo Domingo.
In that initial post, Parley also said that aid workers were on site responding to the “garbage emergency” in the Dominican Republic:
Parley is currently on site working with the navy, the army, public workers and the municipal government. Over 500 public workers were mobilized for the operation, and after three days of work teams had collected 30 tons of plastic. So far, six tons of that has been recovered by Parley to be transformed into Ocean Plastic® – a premium material used to create products that act as symbols of change and fund the battle against marine plastic pollution … Machinery and trucks have been drafted in to deal with the massive tide of plastic, much of which will have to be sent to landfill because it is mixed and contaminated. The mayor of Santo Domingo is giving us the city’s full support and hopes to divert as much usable plastic as possible to Parley.
Beyond assisting with clean-up efforts, Parley is working to implement the AIR strategy (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign) island-wide. Working with local leaders and government, the plan focuses on education and communication, identifying the root of the problem, and working with policy-makers improve the island’s waste and recycling infrastructure.
At the initial time of publication, the story was covered by TIME, Smithsonian.com, CTV News, and the New York Times. The Times reported that environmentalists said recycling was a “bandage” for the problem, adding that “Parley for the Oceans advocates phasing out single-use plastic altogether.”
On July 24 2018, Parley updated the page with information about the progress of cleanup efforts, adding that a thousand tons of debris had been cleared from the beach between that date and July 13 (presumably the date the clip was filmed). However, the organization said that more plastic arrived with each tide:
In total, over 1000 tons of debris has now been removed from the impacted region in Santo Domingo since July 13th . Despite these efforts, more plastic arrives with the tides each day. Parley is working on a long-term plan for the Dominican Republic and will remain on the ground there. As part of the Parley AIR strategy, we will continue to organize ongoing clean-ups, implement education initiatives and develop waste management strategies with our local partners.
An estimated 8 million metrics tons of plastic trash ends up in our oceans every year. The ocean currents have formed five gigantic, slow moving whirlpools where the plastic collects, called gyres. Most of the plastic debris sinks or remains in the gyres, however a significant percentage of it washes onto our coastlines daily.
According to WWF, plastic pollution in the ocean has three primary sources: discarding of recyclable plastic in non-recycling bins, littering, and objects flushed down toilets. Small bits of the latter are too small for wastewater filtering, are consumed by small marine species, and wind up in the food chain.
The video is real — but its description is somewhat misleading. The clip was filmed in July 2018 in the Dominican Republic, not in March 2019. Organization Parley for the Oceans distributed the footage, subsequently cleaning several tons of plastic from the affected area near Santo Domingo. However, environmentalists noted that the problem recurs when tides change and is an ongoing issue.