Drowning In Plastic

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    Mar 06, 2012 8:37 AM GMT
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/5208645/Drowning-in-plastic-The-Great-Pacific-Garbage-Patch-is-twice-the-size-of-France.html

    Drowning in plastic: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of France

    There are now 46,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre of the world's oceans, killing a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year. Worse still, there seems to be nothing we can do to clean it up. So how do we turn the tide?

    Turtle-plasticbag.jpg


    Way out in the Pacific Ocean, in an area once known as the doldrums, an enormous, accidental monument to modern society has formed. Invisible to satellites, poorly understood by scientists and perhaps twice the size of France, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not a solid mass, as is sometimes imagined, but a kind of marine soup whose main ingredient is floating plastic debris.

    It was discovered in 1997 by a Californian sailor, surfer, volunteer environmentalist and early-retired furniture restorer named Charles Moore, who was heading home with his crew from a sailing race in Hawaii, at the helm of a 50ft catamaran that he had built himself.

    For the hell of it, he decided to turn on the engine and take a shortcut across the edge of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a region that seafarers have long avoided. It is a perennial high pressure zone, an immense slowly spiralling vortex of warm equatorial air that pulls in winds and turns them gently until they expire. Several major sea currents also converge in the gyre and bring with them most of the flotsam from the Pacific coasts of Southeast Asia, North America, Canada and Mexico. Fifty years ago nearly all that flotsam was biodegradable. These days it is 90 per cent plastic.

    'It took us a week to get across and there was always some plastic thing bobbing by,' says Moore, who speaks in a jaded, sardonic drawl that occasionally flares up into heartfelt oratory. 'Bottle caps, toothbrushes, styrofoam cups, detergent bottles, pieces of polystyrene packaging and plastic bags. Half of it was just little chips that we couldn't identify. It wasn't a revelation so much as a gradual sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong here. Two years later I went back with a fine-mesh net, and that was the real mind-boggling discovery.'

    Floating beneath the surface of the water, to a depth of 10 metres, was a multitude of small plastic flecks and particles, in many colours, swirling like snowflakes or fish food. An awful thought occurred to Moore and he started measuring the weight of plastic in the water compared to that of plankton. Plastic won, and it wasn't even close. 'We found six times more plastic than plankton, and this was just colossal,' he says. 'No one had any idea this was happening, or what it might mean for marine ecosystems, or even where all this stuff was coming from.'

    So ended Moore's retirement. He turned his small volunteer environmental monitoring group into the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, enlisted scientists, launched public awareness campaigns and devoted all his considerable energies to exploring what would become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and studying the broader problem of marine plastic pollution, which is accumulating in all the world's oceans.

    The world's navies and commercial shipping fleets make a significant contribution, he discovered, throwing some 639,000 plastic containers overboard every day, along with their other litter. But after a few more years of sampling ocean water in
    the gyre and near the mouths of Los Angeles streams, and comparing notes with scientists in Japan and Britain, Moore concluded that 80 per cent of marine plastic was initially discarded on land, and the United Nations Environmental Programme agrees.

    The wind blows plastic rubbish out of littered streets and landfills, and lorries and trains on their way to landfills. It gets into rivers, streams and storm drains and then rides the tides and currents out to sea. Litter dropped by people at the beach is also a major source.

    Plastic does not biodegrade; no microbe has yet evolved that can feed on it. But it does photodegrade. Prolonged exposure to sunlight causes polymer chains to break down into smaller and smaller pieces, a process accelerated by physical friction, such as being blown across a beach or rolled by waves. This accounts for most of the flecks and fragments in the enormous plastic soup at the becalmed heart of the Pacific, but Moore also found a fantastic profusion of uniformly shaped pellets about 2mm across.

    Nearly all the plastic items in our lives begin as these little manufactured pellets of raw plastic resin, which are known in the industry as nurdles. More than 100 billion kilograms of them are shipped around the world every year, delivered to processing plants and then heated up, treated with other chemicals, stretched and moulded into our familiar products, containers and packaging.

    During their loadings and unloadings, however, nurdles have a knack for spilling and escaping. They are light enough to become airborne in a good wind. They float wonderfully and can now be found in every ocean in the world, hence their new nickname: mermaids' tears. You can find nurdles in abundance on almost any seashore in Britain, where litter has increased by 90 per cent in the past 10 years, or on the remotest uninhabited Pacific islands, along with all kinds of other plastic confetti.

    'There's no such thing as a pristine sandy beach any more,' Charles Moore says. 'The ones that look pristine are usually groomed, and if you look closely you can always find plastic particles. On Kamilo Beach in Hawaii there are now more plastic particles than sand particles until you dig a foot down. On Pagan Island [between Hawaii and the Philippines] they have what they call the "shopping beach". If the islanders need a cigarette lighter, or some flip-flops, or a toy, or a ball for their kids, they go down to the shopping beach and pick it out of all the plastic trash that's washed up there from thousands of miles away.'

    On Midway Island, 2,800 miles west of California and 2,200 miles east of Japan, the British wildlife filmmaker Rebecca Hosking found that many thousands of Laysan albatross chicks are dying every year from eating pieces of plastic that their parents mistake for food and bring back for them.

    Worldwide, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, plastic is killing a million seabirds a year, and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles. It kills by entanglement, most commonly in discarded synthetic fishing lines and nets. It kills by choking throats and gullets and clogging up digestive tracts, leading to fatal constipation. Bottle caps, pocket combs, cigarette lighters, tampon applicators, cottonbud shafts, toothbrushes, toys, syringes and plastic shopping bags are routinely found in the stomachs of dead seabirds and turtles.

    A study of fulmar carcases that washed up on North Sea coastlines found that 95 per cent had plastic in their stomachs – an average of 45 pieces per bird.
    Plastic particles are not thought to be toxic themselves but they attract and accumulate chemical poisons already in the water such as DDT and PCBs – nurdles have a special knack for this. Plastic has been found inside zooplankton and filter-feeders such as mussels and barnacles; the worry is that these plastic pellets and associated toxins are travelling through the marine food chains into the fish on our plates.

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    Mar 06, 2012 10:11 AM GMT
    Absolutely shocking how oceans and waterways have been used as dumping grounds for such a long time. Those that don't live on coastlines where world currents bring the rubbish dont experience it as visually as the unfortunate ones that do.
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    Mar 06, 2012 11:15 AM GMT
    Its also very disturbing to see the death toll on animals and remember that humans are at the top of the food chain icon_eek.gif these plastic bits will keep spreading and wind up pretty much everywhere in the world and into ourselves... with them leeching all manner of material into our bodies that mess with organic processes...

    we are literally slowly poisoning ourselves to death with each piece of plastic we throw away.. its very frightening ..
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    Mar 06, 2012 11:34 AM GMT
    On the plus side..

    http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/blogs/boy-discovers-microbe-that-eats-plastic

    However, before the ecosystem can rebalance itself.. we're still looking at a loooooooooooooooong time of dealing with toxins all around is... which would not only deteriorate the environment, but be a cause for a huge public health crisis.. the plastics in food packaging are now theorised to be leeching substances into our bodies that react and cause diabetes and obesity... a possible cause of the current worldwide epidemics.. you can imagine the toll on our well-being and our pocketbooks
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    Mar 06, 2012 11:52 AM GMT
    Heres a bit plastics and human health... They are thought to be responsible for asthma, male infertility, miscarriages,.. and we only just started studying these effects... lord knows what else its doing to us

    http://www.earthresource.org/campaigns/capp/capp-health.html
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    Mar 06, 2012 12:08 PM GMT
    Oof, more info of the effects of plastic on human health.. this info is freely available.. given this... its surprising we havent banned plastics yet even

    http://www.ecologycenter.org/factsheets/plastichealtheffects.html

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    Mar 06, 2012 5:11 PM GMT
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    Mar 07, 2012 4:32 AM GMT
    I hate those damn plastic bags. Washington DC charges you a nickel for each plastic bag you sue and wish the rest of the USA did that too. I can't tell you how many times I've stopped in a store to buy one or two small things, like a protein bar or a padlock or some dog treat and the cashier has tried to throw it in one of those standard size plastic bags.
  • dancedancekj

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    Mar 07, 2012 4:35 AM GMT
    http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/30/plastic-eating-bacteria-found-in-ocean-desert-scientist-says/

    Plastic-eating bacteria discovered in the Sargasso sea. Nature will find a way ;)
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    Mar 07, 2012 4:40 AM GMT
    dancedancekj saidhttp://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/30/plastic-eating-bacteria-found-in-ocean-desert-scientist-says/

    Plastic-eating bacteria discovered in the Sargasso sea. Nature will find a way ;)




    Nature does..lol. thats not the problem... I already looked at that.. and other plastic eating microbes.. they are not a solution to the issue

    the issue is US... WE are poisoning ourselves with it.. we will be suffering the effects of plastics and other chemicals around us for hundreds of years to come for sure... and yeah, the whole biosphere will be upset by it.. the one on which we depend....
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    Mar 07, 2012 4:40 AM GMT
    "nature will find a way" that's what Jeff Goldblum said in "Jurassiac Park"...and we know how that ended.
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    Mar 07, 2012 4:55 AM GMT
    I do my best to buy things with as little plastic packaging as possible and then dispose of the plastic properly. Yes that means hefting paper bags of glass bottles and paper cartons up the stairs but i think about it this way. I can drop that glass bottle with its stamped tin lid into the ocean and it will eventually break back down into nature. The glass will be smashed and ground into sand and the tin will corrode back to its base elements. A paper carton will just decompose in a landfill. Plastic lasts TOO long. I use new, biodegradable plastic zip bags in my kitchen and use all of my appliances until they actually BREAK, and not until something newer, shinier and "better" comes on the market. It honestly makes me feel better that I'm not contributing as much to this menace to nature as I could be (or as most people are). Hell, i even go to a different grocers just to get the Ovaltine in the paper and metal tin instead of the plastic jar icon_smile.gif
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    Mar 07, 2012 6:13 AM GMT
    Alternatives for plastics when dealing with food:

    http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Plasticizers/Out-Of-Diet-PG5nov03.htm
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    Mar 07, 2012 6:16 AM GMT
    GreenHopper saidAlternatives for plastics when dealing with food:

    http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Plasticizers/Out-Of-Diet-PG5nov03.htm


    my trick to carrying water with me in the car is to keep it in a glass VOSS bottle. I get them on clearance at TJMaxx, drink the (unexpired) water and then just refill them...over and over and over again. and if it breaks? i properly dispose of the plastic top and just chuck the bottle in the bin
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    Mar 07, 2012 9:38 AM GMT
    My town has outlawed plastic bags. None of the stores or supermarkets use them anymore.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/15/local/la-me-0715-plastic-bags-20110715

    I also have water filters at home and fill CamelBak reusuable bottles. I have more confidence that the water is good, based on what I read about commercial bottled water. They are involved with clean water initiatives also.

    http://www.camelbak.com/
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    Mar 07, 2012 11:54 AM GMT
    "Planned obsolescence" is the #1 reason behind this trash heap. It's not because we are wasteful, it's because the manufacturers force us to be wasteful.
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    Mar 07, 2012 12:03 PM GMT
    paulflexes said"Planned obsolescence" is the #1 reason behind this trash heap. It's not because we are wasteful, it's because the manufacturers force us to be wasteful.


    Got it covered, babe icon_smile.gif

    http://www.realjock.com/gayforums/2221105

    but I have to add though.. that even if it werent for plastic as waste.. the health risks associated with its use are rampant... diabetes, infertility, cancers... because of both leeched products from the plastics and the plastic residues that accumulate in air, food etc... basically, plastic is just plain toxic and a long-term public health hazard... i avoid using it at all
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    Mar 07, 2012 1:55 PM GMT
    GreenHopper said
    paulflexes said"Planned obsolescence" is the #1 reason behind this trash heap. It's not because we are wasteful, it's because the manufacturers force us to be wasteful.


    Got it covered, babe icon_smile.gif

    http://www.realjock.com/gayforums/2221105

    but I have to add though.. that even if it werent for plastic as waste.. the health risks associated with its use are rampant... diabetes, infertility, cancers... because of both leeched products from the plastics and the plastic residues that accumulate in air, food etc... basically, plastic is just plain toxic and a long-term public health hazard... i avoid using it at all
    Yet you type this on a plastic device. icon_razz.gif

    But that's the bad part...almost everything we use (computers, phones, car, etc) is made of plastic; and it's engineered to be short-lasting and disposable. The only way to avoid using (and disposing of) plastic products is to die. Harsh reality, but true.

    I think outlawing planned obsolescence is the only thing that will take care of this big trash heap. All other measures are futile. Until manufacturers stop manufacturing so many plastic products, there will always be a heap of trash in the ocean.
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    Mar 07, 2012 2:04 PM GMT
    paulflexes said
    GreenHopper said
    paulflexes said"Planned obsolescence" is the #1 reason behind this trash heap. It's not because we are wasteful, it's because the manufacturers force us to be wasteful.


    Got it covered, babe icon_smile.gif

    http://www.realjock.com/gayforums/2221105

    but I have to add though.. that even if it werent for plastic as waste.. the health risks associated with its use are rampant... diabetes, infertility, cancers... because of both leeched products from the plastics and the plastic residues that accumulate in air, food etc... basically, plastic is just plain toxic and a long-term public health hazard... i avoid using it at all
    Yet you type this on a plastic device. icon_razz.gif

    But that's the bad part...almost everything we use (computers, phones, car, etc) is made of plastic; and it's engineered to be short-lasting and disposable. The only way to avoid using (and disposing of) plastic products is to die. Harsh reality, but true.

    I think outlawing planned obsolescence is the only thing that will take care of this big trash heap. All other measures are futile. Until manufacturers stop manufacturing so many plastic products, there will always be a heap of trash in the ocean.


    Im more radical, I think we should ban plastic.... and I said I AVOID it.. that doesnt mean I can go without it when Im not given an option, such as in the case of the keyboard.. and its no excuse to keep plastic around either jsut because "one cant avoid it in certain instances".. thats like saying you might as well keep eating junk food all your life just because the one time you were starving the only thing you could find on the road was mcDonalds.. its simply not an argument.. you eat the McDonalds because you have to live.. the moment you can find something better to eat, you do.. its that simple


    Edit: btw, we can not decraese the trash heap... all we can do is avoid it getting bigger
  • metta

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    Jul 03, 2012 5:56 PM GMT
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    Jul 03, 2012 5:57 PM GMT
    I am an environmentalist, but the thread title inspired me and I can't resist...

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    Jul 03, 2012 10:24 PM GMT
    I'm quite obsessive when it comes to recycling - small effort for big benefit. That shocking turtle photo sums up very poignantly the negative impacts on the creatures of our oceans and rivers.
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    Jul 03, 2012 10:29 PM GMT
    One more sad example of how we're cannibalizing ourselves along with destroying everything else on the planet.

    I'm beginning to think it's too late to fix things.
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    Jul 03, 2012 10:41 PM GMT
    I glad you posted this article....it's such sad shame to what we're doing to the planet.
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    Jul 03, 2012 11:06 PM GMT
    Thank you for posting that GreenHopper. I've been a firm believer in paper bags and glass bottles. The world is too small to be believing in the dilution solution and can't rely on bacteria breaking this stuff down. The cheap oil policy that we have lived with most of our lives has ruined the world. Cheap transportation, food, goods and of course packaging has made us good consumers.....aaaaahhh you got me ranting again... it's a curse too society.