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Plastic Fisherman Uses Social Media for Global Ocean Clean Up

Rodrigo Butori started a global movement on social media to clean up plastic in the world's waterways.

MIAMI— A bit of imagination and a drive to do better can take you a long way. A local Florida man has undertaken a global mission to remove plastic from the world’s oceans through creativity and education.

Rodrigo Butori, the founder of Plastic Fisherman, started a journey in January 2020 which would turn from a local art project to a global fascination.

Butori was born and raised in Brazil near the water and found an early love for the ocean, which would lead him to choose coastal climes as his home throughout adulthood.

“The best moments of my life happened by the ocean,” said Butori. “I had this feeling that I had to give back.”

After relocating first to Los Angeles in 2001 to pursue a career in advertising and then to Florida in 2011, Butori would spend his time giving back by picking up trash on the beach and in the water.

Two years ago, he was inspired to take a bigger step to clean up plastic waste in the ocean after reading an article in early 2020 which gave a jarring view of plastic waste in the world’s oceans.

Current statistics show that an average of ten million tons of plastic are dumped into the world’s oceans each year, roughly one garbage truckload every minute, and the plastic pollution is killing an average of one million marine animals a year.

Current trends suggest there will be more plastic in the ocean by 2050 than fish. Bolstered by the frightening statistics, Butori took his creative advertising skills and began Plastic Fisherman. By taking advantage of the visual nature of Instagram, he created a movement utilizing discarded plastic to create sea creatures.

“I started calling it plastic fishing,” said Butori. “…I started this account on Instagram for that, and in the beginning, it wasn’t. I don’t even think there was a name for it…I started calling it plastic fishing, and I thought if this is plastic fishing, then I am the plastic fisherman.”

When Butori goes to the beach, he collects a handful of plastic waste lying around and turns the individual pieces into a sea creature before disposing of the plastic into a proper receptacle.

“I try to give myself this challenge,” said Butori. “…Today I found five things, so I need to make a fish with five pieces. Sometimes I find fifty, or sometimes you look at a piece of plastic, and it is no longer a piece of plastic. It is a tail, or a fish, or an eye. So, you kind of train your mind to look at plastic that way. That is part of what people like about plastic fishing because it goes from being this boring and sometimes tedious thing of picking up the beach to finding pieces of a puzzle, finding pieces of something that will become something else. That is part of the fun and playful part of plastic fishing.”

The challenge has created more than 200 posts and garnered over 10,000 followers worldwide, even sparking interest in other countries.

“Today, I am proud to say we are a little bit of a global [movement],” said Butori. “We have people all over the world who have picked up on plastic fishing.”

Accounts for Plastic Fisherman have popped up in Germany, Japan, and Brazil. Butori was able to teach a three-session Zoom class for an academy in Brazil to educate local children on the use of plastics and proper disposal.

“The educational part is a huge, huge part of what we are,” said Butori. “It is a part of Plastic Fisherman that is what it was designed to be. If you think about that plastic fishing is just a vessel to get information across. I like to say we entertain to educate.”

Butori asked the students to collect the plastic they used throughout the week and bring it to class. He was able to talk to them about how much plastic they use at home while keeping them engaged with a creative outlet.

Butori also works with local groups like Girl Scouts to host cleanups on the beach, engaging the younger generation in understanding the effect of plastic waste on their life and the environment.

Plastic Fisherman has found a way to inspire all Instagram users. People have been building their own fish and tagging their “catches” with “plastic fishing” to inspire others and continue to spread the message.

While Butori would love to see the oceans completely cleared of plastic, his focus is on spreading the message that a little goes a long way.

“I strongly believe that little actions matter,” said Butori. “The more people that do it, the more our impact…It is a way of fighting back through social media. The same power of social media that is wiring you with all that stuff now let’s just get together and join forces for this incredible word and do something that combines that could offset or try to bring a positive impact towards that.”

Butori’s next goal is to continue spreading the message and working with educators around the world to engage the younger generation through creative education.

Plastic Fisherman is also undergoing the process of becoming a non-profit, a step Butori began earlier this year.

“There is so much that we can talk about, but that is basically in a nutshell, who we are,” said Butori “…Our mission is to inform and turn as many people as we can into plastic fishermen and fisherwomen themselves, and we do so by putting out a simple statement that the sea is for fish, not for plastic. So, join us; let’s go plastic fishing.” Follow Plastic Fisherman on Instagram, plasticfisherman, on Facebook at Plastic Fisherman, or check out their website at https://www.plasticfisherman.com/.

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