Have you seen this photo circulating on the internet? That’s Mae West, a snapping turtle severely damaged by plastic pollution, that 5 Gyres just transported from the east coast to southern California.
Mae West was found twenty years ago in the drainage canals of New Orleans. As a tiny hatchling, she inadvertently walked into a plastic milk jug ring and got stuck. As she grew she could not break his plastic belt around her waist. Her shell is permanently deformed, giving her an hourglass-like shape.
There is no reason why a single use throwaway item, like a milk jug ring, should be made from a material designed to last forever.
This turtle demonstrates that the design of a plastic product matters. It is the combination of poor design and poor waste management that causes the majority of suffering due to plastic.
We first met the turtle in 2007 – we were in New Orleans, found out Mae West was had been living in Debbie Pearson’s backyard, under her care. Anna (5 Gyres co-founder & my wife) and I both really wanted her to live someplace where she could also be viewed, and share her story with the public.
We began working on getting her to LA in 2011, and now the circle is finally complete – we took her yesterday to Star Eco Station in Culver City, CA. She’ll be under quarantine for 2 months, then you can visit her!
(This article originally appeared on 5 Gyres. It has been reprinted here with permission.)