View Full Version : The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

04-04-2009, 05:03 PM
We got a lot more than just economic problems to deal with. We need to look into solutions to reduce our waste footprint, not just carbon footprint.



And though oil spills continue to occur with increasing frequency--the most recent happened off the coast of Australia just two weeks ago--oil is not the biggest polluting threat to the world's oceans, at least not in its liquid form. Plastic is.
I was shocked to learn there is an area in the Pacific Ocean called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that contains an estimated 4 million tons of floating plastic waste. A circulation of ocean currents causes trash discarded along the Pacific Rim to gather in this area, known as the North Pacific Gyre.
The most densely polluted area is roughly twice the size of Texas and is alternately called the Eighth Continent, the Plastic Vortex or Garbage Island.

Although floating plastic bags, bottles and foam can be seen in every direction, it's the plastic that has broken down into much smaller pieces that is the greatest cause for concern. Plastic does not biodegrade into raw minerals that can be reused by microorganisms. Rather, it photodegrades, as sunlight causes it to become brittle and break into ever smaller pieces.


Organic toxins aside, medical researchers don't yet know what the effects of eating plastic are, but we all know it can't be good. Much attention has been focused lately on the health risks associated with bisphenol A (BPA)--an ingredient used in the production of polycarbonate, which is an unrecyclable type of hard plastic. Epoxy coatings used inside some food cans and water pipes also contain BPA. Several million tons of BPA are produced each year, and in 2008 the federal government issued a warning about its potential health effects.

Some studies have shown that even low doses of BPA can affect maturation, hormone levels, fertility, immune function and brain structure in mice. In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found "widespread exposure to BPA in the U.S. population." CDC scientists detected BPA in the urine of nearly 93% of the people tested with the highest levels in children and teens.
If the plastic is spread around the world's oceans as widely as reported, cleanup is impossible. However, this summer an expedition will test methods for capturing some of the Plastic Vortex. Project Kaisei hopes to skim the plastic from the North Pacific waters and convert it to diesel fuel that can power continued cleanup. The expedition will be filmed for National Geographic and the group is currently trying to raise funding on their website www.projectkaisei.org.

Ultimately the reduction of plastics is the only plausible solution. Consider these statistics: Every year over 60 billion tons of plastic are produced, much of it for one-time use, and less than 5 percent of the world's plastics are recycled.
National Geographic estimates that more than 85 million plastic bottles are used every three minutes. Much of the plastic waste that is not incinerated (which is toxic in its own right) or land-filled makes its way downstream to the oceans. The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square kilometer of sea holds nearly 18,000 pieces of floating plastic and that there are more than 100 million tons of plastic in the world's oceans.


04-04-2009, 06:03 PM
Maybe they can just bury it all under the ground like that one episode of The Simpsons.

"The Garbage Man Caaaaaan"

04-04-2009, 10:58 PM
thats horrible

04-06-2009, 11:07 AM
I saw this on Bill Maher on Friday. I can't (but can) believe something like this exists. We have far too many issues with this world that I don't think will ever get fixed.

It's sad

04-06-2009, 11:15 AM
Im sure raising taxes will make it go away :rolleyes2:

All kidding aside if plastics are such a big problem then why are they being used. I am not going to sit here and pretend like I know a bunch about this issue because I dont, but common sense says if this is a problem then stopping putting things into plastic containers.