“To be gone 20 days at sea and you haven’t seen another vessel, but yet the
remnants of man is right below the bow of the ship. To see all these plas-tic
particulates, to see animals swimming in and out of a plastic tub, to
see actual animals trapped inside plastics, which we have. Then you
figure out, God, what have we done? You can either lay down or
you can step up. You’re going to get a whole lot more out of life
if you step up.”
In 2012, Monteleone stepped up by cofounding the
Plastic Ocean Project, a Wilmington-based nonprofit with
the mission of cleaning up the world’s oceans.
“The more we research this problem, the more we’re
finding harmful effects,” she says. “I call it the apex pred-ator
WBM march 2020
of the sea because it’s capable of the demise of every-thing.
That’s why there has to be a sense of urgency.”
A rhetorical question posed by her mother when she
was just a child about where a plastic cover for ground meat
would end up planted a seed of curiosity in her young mind. It
is a question that continues to drive her.
“I was in a creative writing course and they were workshopping my
piece about plastic in the ocean,” she says. “I had made some comments
like how our disposable society has led to disposable children and disposable
marriages. That struck a chord with this guy, right? He was like, ‘Bonnie, why
do you care so much?’ My brain went back to standing in my mother’s kitchen. That’s
when that connection was made. It was like, my gosh, is that why I care so much? Did I
indeed answer the question that my mother posed to me when I was 12 years old?”
of North Carolina
to collect plastics
near the Gulf
The Plastic Ocean
vehicle has trav-eled
to 22 states
through art exhibit.
It is wrapped with
rendition of “The
Great Wave,” a
by Japanese art-ist
THE 5 GYRES
Rotating ocean currents, called gyres, carry debris into five concentrated areas.
PLASTIC OCEAN PROJECT