Garbage In The Oceans

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    Nov 10, 2009 5:30 PM GMT
    Is this another scare tactic invented by scientists, Al Gore and other people who believe we are destoying the planet? I wonder if its Republican or Democratic garbage............
    Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of Trash
    ABOARD THE ALGUITA, 1,000 miles northeast of Hawaii — In this remote patch of the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from any national boundary, the detritus of human life is collecting in a swirling current so large that it defies precise measurement.

    Light bulbs, bottle caps, toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks and tiny pieces of plastic, each the size of a grain of rice, inhabit the Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely dispersed trash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas. But one research organization estimates that the garbage now actually pervades the Pacific, though most of it is caught in what oceanographers call a gyre like this one — an area of heavy currents and slack winds that keep the trash swirling in a giant whirlpool.

    Scientists say the garbage patch is just one of five that may be caught in giant gyres scattered around the world’s oceans. Abandoned fishing gear like buoys, fishing line and nets account for some of the waste, but other items come from land after washing into storm drains and out to sea.

    Plastic is the most common refuse in the patch because it is lightweight, durable and an omnipresent, disposable product in both advanced and developing societies. It can float along for hundreds of miles before being caught in a gyre and then, over time, breaking down.

    But once it does split into pieces, the fragments look like confetti in the water. Millions, billions, trillions and more of these particles are floating in the world’s trash-filled gyres.

    PCBs, DDT and other toxic chemicals cannot dissolve in water, but the plastic absorbs them like a sponge. Fish that feed on plankton ingest the tiny plastic particles. Scientists from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation say that fish tissues contain some of the same chemicals as the plastic. The scientists speculate that toxic chemicals are leaching into fish tissue from the plastic they eat.

    The researchers say that when a predator — a larger fish or a person — eats the fish that eats the plastic, that predator may be transferring toxins to its own tissues, and in greater concentrations since toxins from multiple food sources can accumulate in the body.

    Charles Moore found the Pacific garbage patch by accident 12 years ago, when he came upon it on his way back from a sailing race in Hawaii. As captain, Mr. Moore ferried three researchers, his first mate and a journalist here this summer in his 10th scientific trip to the site. He is convinced that several similar garbage patches remain to be discovered.

    “Anywhere you really look for it, you’re going to see it,” he said.

    Many scientists believe there is a garbage patch off the coast of Japan and another in the Sargasso Sea, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

    Bonnie Monteleone, a University of North Carolina, Wilmington, graduate student researching a master’s thesis on plastic accumulation in the ocean, visited the Sargasso Sea in late spring and the Pacific garbage patch with Mr. Moore this summer.

    “I saw much higher concentrations of trash in the Pacific garbage patch than in the Sargasso,” Ms. Monteleone said, while acknowledging that she might not have found the Atlantic gyre.

    Ms. Monteleone, a volunteer crew member on Mr. Moore’s ship, kept hoping she would see at least one sample taken from the Pacific garbage patch without any trash in it. “Just one area — just one,” she said. “That’s all I wanted to see. But everywhere had plastic.”

    The Pacific garbage patch gained prominence after three independent marine research organizations visited it this summer. One of them, Project Kaisei, based in San Francisco, is trying to devise ways to clean up the patch by turning plastic into diesel fuel.

    Environmentalists and celebrities are using the patch to promote their own causes. The actor Ted Danson’s nonprofit group Oceana designated Mr. Moore a hero for his work on the patch. Another Hollywood figure, Edward Norton, narrated a public-service announcement about plastic bags, which make their way out to the patch.

    Mr. Moore, however, is the first person to have pursued serious scientific research by sampling the garbage patch. In 1999, he dedicated the Algalita foundation to studying it. Now the foundation examines plastic debris and takes samples of polluted water off the California coast and across the Pacific Ocean. By dragging a fine mesh net behind his research vessel Alguita, a 50-foot aluminum catamaran, Mr. Moore is able to collect small plastic fragments.

    Researchers measure the amount of plastic in each sample and calculate the weight of each fragment. They also test the tissues of any fish caught in the nets to measure for toxic chemicals. One rainbow runner from a previous voyage had 84 pieces of plastic in its stomach.

    The research team has not tested the most recent catch for toxic chemicals, but the water samples show that the amount of plastic in the gyre and the larger Pacific is increasing. Water samples from February contained twice as much plastic as samples from a decade ago.

    “This is not the garbage patch I knew in 1999,” Mr. Moore said. “This is a totally different animal.”

    For the captain’s first mate, Jeffery Ernst, the patch was “just a reminder that there’s nowhere that isn’t affected by humanity.”

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    Nov 10, 2009 5:48 PM GMT
    Scare tactic? No. It's documented - google it.
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    Nov 10, 2009 6:01 PM GMT
    Not sure how to take the intro to the OP... this stuff is happening. Should that not change our behaviour patterns?
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    Nov 10, 2009 6:56 PM GMT
    I have a question, is this garbage actually dumped in the oceans, or is most of this stuff more of an accumilative affect from what's more 'accidently' falling in the bodies of water, then the Ocean somehow 'sweeps' it up into these rotating pools? Surely we're not purposely dumping millions of tons of garbage into the oceans.
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    Nov 10, 2009 7:39 PM GMT
    Cruise ships dispose of their garbage in the ocean.
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    Nov 10, 2009 8:18 PM GMT
    Lostboy saidNot sure how to take the intro to the OP... this stuff is happening. Should that not change our behaviour patterns?

    Sorry for the confusion. I was being partly sarcastic. I posted the article to alert people about this problem (lots of guys already know).

    The sarcasm on my part is because often, discussions about climate change and going green always seem to disintegrate into emotional political arguments and denial that there even is a problem.

    So, who's garbage is it? Republican or Democratic? Or to phrase it differently, is it Bush's garbage or Obama's?

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    Nov 10, 2009 11:49 PM GMT
    Yes, they're scare tactics. No, these people aren't "scientists." These are fund-raising ploys. In fact it's not clear that there is any "problem" to deal with. All of the media stories I've seen about this are over-hyped and misleading, at the very least. They're breathless summaries of self-promoting press releases from a few cousteau-wanna-be's.

    For example, just starting with the title of this piece: there are no "islands" of trash. There are regions where floating debris collects - these have been known for hundreds of years - but the density is not great enough that you could look out from a ship and see trash at any given time. The discussion of "toxins" and "toxic chemicals" is pure nonsense. People see plastic out there and have a big emotional response. But in fact, floating at the sea surface is an ideal environment for degradation of plastic. Under those conditions, it will decay much faster than wood, for example.

    And, by the way, most of the so-called "biodegradable plastics" on the market, aren't any more biodegradable than regular plastics. (They MAY degrade faster under UV light.) Most recyclers won't take them, so they end up disproportionately in dumps. Plastics should be used for things of moderate durability - things that you would like to last for a few years. Not for things that you'd use once then throw away.
  • mcwclewis

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    Nov 11, 2009 12:03 AM GMT
    Maybe it's being used as a scare tactic, maybe it's used to push forth someone's political agenda, but that doesn't change the fact that we throw too much shit where it doesn't belong.

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    Nov 11, 2009 12:04 AM GMT
    In the Navy, we would through everything over board; of course, we would

    wait till we were at least 50 miles out.
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    Nov 11, 2009 12:09 AM GMT
    I've encountered a different problem, which is a total lack of recycling options in areas like Miami Beach. So, even people who care about the environment, aren't given much choice but to throw plastics, paper, etc. in the normal trash.

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    Nov 11, 2009 12:17 AM GMT
    I understood the floating plastic is about the size of Texas...or perhaps that it is getting close to the size of Texas. Scared of that. I don't have any children so I don't need to care about the environment. Funny how Republicans are on about generational theft in all matters except the environment.
  • dmlove02

    Posts: 45

    Nov 11, 2009 3:06 AM GMT
    Read "The World Without Us" mentions this among many different things we should be aware of in order to enact change. Those 'islands' of trash are just the litter that is FLOATING. After a certain amount of decomposition takes place (which is often minimal when plastics are involved) the trash can lose bouyancy and sink, further hampering and UV degredation that could occur to break things down further. Just imagine how much trash is UNDER the surface of the water!
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    Nov 11, 2009 3:27 AM GMT
    Check out

    Google Project Kaisei and check out the youtubes.

    I personally know the co-founder of the project. I posted this topic 4-5 months ago in this forum and got ZERO views.

    It is a world wide problem, and EVERYBODY is responsible.

    What they saw out there on their august 09 expedition is scary stuff..... and very depressing.