Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

I heard about this on the radio this morning on the way to work, it's real and it's scary...

Imagine a heap of trash and plastic bottles twice the size of the state of Texas floating around in the ocean 1,000 miles off the coast of California, and you’ve got what is being called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Despite its size and density, the patch is not visible from satellite photography because it consists of very, very small pieces, almost invisible to the naked eye and most of its contents are suspended at or beneath the surface of the ocean.

Before you dismiss this as a freak occurrence, you should know that there is a similar patch in the Atlantic and probably one in every ocean on the planet. Like other areas of concentrated marine debris in the world's oceans, the Eastern Garbage Patch has formed gradually over time as a result of marine pollution gathered by the action of oceanic currents. Thanks humankind, for outstanding achievement in trashing our mother earth.

Forget beautifully carved boats with gold and urns of olive oil. Our civilization’s legacy will be the tons of crap future archeologists will find on the floors of the world’s once-beautiful oceans.

There is quite a bit of information about this on the internet. Thankfully there are some efforts to address the unfathomably huge task of cleanup. In April 2008, Richard Sundance Owen, a building contractor and scuba dive instructor, formed the Environmental Cleanup Coalition to address the issue of the pollution in the North Pacific. ECC is collaborating with other groups to come up with methods to safely remove plastic and persistent organic pollutants from the oceans. The JUNK raft project was a trans-Pacific sailing voyage from June to August 2008 made to highlight the plastic in the patch, organised by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. Project Kaisei is a project to study and cleanup the garbage patch launched in March 2009. In August 2009 two vessels from the project, the New Horizon and the Kaisei, embarked on a voyage to research the patch and determine the feasibility of a commercial scale collection and recycling operation. The Plastiki is a boat building project by David Mayer de Rothschild hoping to highlight cleanup issues and sustainable plastic technologies.

One way to address the problem, Capt. Charles Moore says, is for each consumer to drastically reduce the amount of plastic they send out into the environment. "As responsible as we like to think we can be, given the huge amount of plastic packaging we have to wade through every day, and the tiny little bits and edges and parts of plastic packages that we have to tear apart to get at our goods, it's very difficult even for the most responsible consumer not to contribute to this ocean's plastic load." I think that something need to be done in the manufacturing process to cut down on the use of plastics in packaging.

Talk to your family and friends. Make a personal commitment to reduce and reuse and recycle. Just a faddish phrase, but make it real for yourself.

An easy way to start is to shop with tote bags that you can use for years and forgo those cheap plastic bags. Many grocery stores will recycle plastic bags or give the shopper five cents back for bringing their own shopping bag.


fernvalley01 said...

Sad thre legacy that we are leaving ! I do hope we find a way to "clean up our act"

Kathleen Coy said...

Wow. :-(
Great post though, thanks for sharing.

jrosey said...

Wow. So disheartening. Up here in the PNW we're big on recycling, but I know a lot of the country is still very far behind. We recently had an out of state visitor who said that his county doesn't even offer recycling! I had to give him a tutorial on what could be recycled, as we have two bins; one for combined recycle and one for garbage. I was amazed. We also compost. But I often still feel guilty about the waste that I create. I totally agree that there's only so much the consumer can do; I think that manufacturers have a major responsibility to create more earth friendly products. I think we're heading on the right track since now it's "cool", but I hope the momentum keeps going.

WarPony said...

I first heard about this last year and thought it was being exaggerated. Surely there wasn't actually a floating mass of garbage bigger than the state I live in floating about out there! Then after researching I discovered there are more than just one. It kind of makes me feel sick to even think about it.

Julia said...

I am totally aware of this! I use my own bags for groceries and have almost eliminated baggies! My aunt who has a house in HA has emailed me about this issue. It is disgusting.

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