Saturday, September 22, 2007
This is an article posted by Jacob Silverman for Howstuffworks.com
"In the broad expanse of the northern Pacific Ocean, there exists the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a slowly moving, clockwise spiral of currents created by a high-pressure system of air currents. The area is an oceanic desert, filled with tiny phytoplankton but few big fish or mammals. Due to its lack of large fish and gentle breezes, fishermen and sailors rarely travel through the gyre. But the area is filled with something besides plankton: TRASH, millions of pounds of it, most of it plastic. It's the largest landfill in the world, and it floats in the middle of the ocean.The gyre has actually given birth to two large masses of ever-accumulating trash, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches, sometimes collectively called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Eastern Garbage Patch floats between Hawaii and California; scientists estimate its size as two times bigger than Texas [source: LA Times]."
"The Western Garbage Patch forms east of Japan and west of Hawaii. Each swirling mass of refuse is massive and collects trash from all over the world. The patches are connected by a thin 6,000-mile long current called the Subtropical Convergence Zone. Research flights showed that significant amounts of trash also accumulate in the Convergence Zone.
The garbage patches present numerous hazards to marine life, fishing and tourism. But before we discuss those, it's important to look at the role of PLASTIC. Plastic constitutes 90 percent of all trash floating in the world's oceans [source: LA Times]. The United Nations Environment Program estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean hosts 46,000 pieces of floating plastic [source: UN Environment Program]. "
HANG ON! Did he just say 46,000 pieces... EVERY SQUARE MILE!???
I thought so, resume:
"In some areas, the amount of plastic outweighs the amount of plankton by a ratio of six to one."
Ummmm.... okay,if you're not unnerved...
"Of the more than 200 billion pounds of plastic the world produces each year, about 10 percent ends up in the ocean [source: Greenpeace]. Seventy percent of that eventually sinks, damaging life on the ocean floor [source: Greenpeace]. The rest floats; much of it ends up in gyres and the massive garbage patches that form there, with some plastic eventually washing up on a distant shore.
The main problem with plastic -- besides there being so much of it -- is that it doesn't biodegrade."
Oh and btw, it secretes TOXINS! Sorry for interrupting. Please, continue.
"No natural process can break it down. (Experts point out that the durability that makes plastic so useful to humans also makes it quite harmful to nature.) Instead, plastic photodegrades. A plastic cigarette lighter cast out to sea will fragment into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic without breaking into simpler compounds, which scientists estimate could take hundreds of years. The small bits of plastic produced by photodegradation are called mermaid tears or nurdles.These tiny plastic particles can get sucked up by filter feeders and damage their bodies. Other marine animals eat the plastic, which can poison them or lead to deadly blockages. Nurdles also have the insidious property of soaking up toxic chemicals."
Oh good he mentions the toxins...
"Over time, even chemicals or poisons that are widely diffused in water can become highly concentrated as they're mopped up by nurdles. These poison-filled masses threaten the entire food chain, especially when eaten by filter feeders that are then consumed by large creatures."
How LOVELY! And we keep making MORE of the stuff, thinking its just great. I mean hey, it doesn't break! right? Wow how man has come up with some great stuff! We're surrounded by plastic...shoot me now.
Too read more by Jacob Silverman on the subject go to: