A blog set out to explore, archive & relate plastic pollution happening world-wide, while learning about on-going efforts and solutions to help break free of our addiction to single-use plastics & sharing this awareness with a community of clean water lovers everywhere!

Monday, April 21, 2014

22 Facts About Plastic Pollution (And 10 Things We Can Do About It)

| on EcoWatch.com
It seems nearly impossible to escape plastic in our every day lives, doesn’t it?
And we can’t escape plastic pollution, either.
Plastic is literally at my fingertips all day long. Plastic keyboard. Plastic framed computer monitor. Plastic mouse. The amount of plastic I encounter daily doesn’t end there. Chances are, you can relate. Plastic is an epidemic.

But where does all this plastic go? We ship some of it overseas to be recycled. Quite a bit ends up in landfills. And more than you can imagine ends up on the loose as plastic pollution, eventually making its way into our waterways.

Tiny plastic beads used in hundreds of toiletries like facial scrubs and toothpastes have even been found in our Great Lakes—the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world! Giant garbage patches (one twice the size of Texas) can be found floating around in the oceans. And all this plastic pollution is not only a problem for the earth, it’s bad for our health.

Green Diva Meg and I chatted about the plastic in our oceans on the recent Green Divas myEARTH360 Report podcast, which inspired me to uncover more facts about plastic in all of our lives and how it ends up in our precious water. Have a listen:

22 Preposterous Facts about Plastic Pollution.
  • In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments—like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles—are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.
  • Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
  • 50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.
  • Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.
  • We currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce.
  • The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.
  • Plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate.
  • The production of plastic uses around eight percent of the world’s oil production (bioplastics are not a good solution as they require food source crops).
  • Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year (source: Brita)
  • Plastic in the ocean breaks down into such small segments that pieces of plastic from a one liter bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world.
  • Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
  • 46 percent of plastics float (EPA 2006) and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating in the ocean gyres.
  • It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade.
  • Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences in the oceans making up about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces. 80 percent of pollution enters the ocean from the land.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one.
  • Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.
  • One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
  • 44 percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.
  • In samples collected in Lake Erie, 85 percent of the plastic particles were smaller than two-tenths of an inch, and much of that was microscopic. Researchers found 1,500 and 1.7 million of these particles per square mile.
  • Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated).
  • Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical).
  • Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Is it possible to go plastic-free?
Listen to the Green Divas feature interview with Beth Terry, author of Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can, Too.

Ten Ways To “Rise Above Plastic.”
  • Choose to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water. Cloth bags and metal or glass reusable bottles are available locally at great prices.
  • Refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other “disposable” plastics. Carry reusable utensils in your purse, backpack or car to use at bbq’s, potlucks or take-out restaurants.
  • Reduce everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons by replacing them with a reusable lunch bag/box that includes a thermos.
  • Bring your to-go mug with you to the coffee shop, smoothie shop or restaurants that let you use them, which is a great way to reduce lids, plastic cups and/or plastic-lined cups.
  • Go digital!  No need for plastic cds, dvds and jewel cases when you can buy your music and videos online.
  • Seek out alternatives to the plastic items that you rely on.
  • Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics. Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates.
  • Volunteer at a beach cleanup. Surfrider Foundation Chapters often hold cleanups monthly or more frequently.
  • Support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills.
  • Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends about why it is important to reduce plastic in our lives and the nasty impacts of plastic pollution.
Watch Rise Above Plastics—Plastics Kill from Surfrider Foundation:


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Plastic Pollution in the Great Lakes: What’s Happening and What Can Be Done

From the Pacific Ocean garbage patch to litter at our local parks, plastic pollution has become a major problem facing the environment. As the weather warms up and you step outside to visit your favorite park or walk down your street, you have probably witnessed first-hand the amount of plastics that end up in the environment.

Plastic pollution, from the common plastic bag (see here) to the tiny microbeads found in face wash (see here), is impacting the water quality of the Great Lakes and its inhabitants.

What exactly happens when these plastics end in up in the largest surface freshwater system in the world? And what about the plastics you don’t see when you visit the Lakes? Learn the answers to these questions in a webinar hosted by the Alliance for the Great Lakes on April 29th at 1:00 pm which will feature innovative research being done across the Great Lakes on plastic pollution.

Right here on Lake Erie, Dr. Sherri A. Mason, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at SUNY Fredonia, has led the first-ever survey for plastic pollution within the open waters of the Great Lakes.

Her research has found high concentrations of tiny plastic particles in the lakes, including microbeads from personal care products. These “microplastics” may absorb toxins that threaten fish and other wildlife. And over on Lake Michigan, Dr. Timothy Hoellein, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Loyola University Chicago, has been analyzed the type and amount of trash collected by Adopt-a-Beach™ volunteers at five beaches in four states.

His data looks at where litter comes from and how it can inform strategies to keep plastics and other trash out the Great Lakes. Both of these researchers will be presenting the findings on a live webinar on Tuesday, April 29, at 1 pm Eastern Time. Please visit www.greatlakesevents.webex.com for more information on this webinar.

But what if you already know the challenges these plastics pose and are ready to take action? Each year volunteers across the Great Lakes participate in marine debris collection and beach health assessments to not only collect plastic but track where and what debris they are finding.

Long standing seasonal events like the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper Shoreline Sweeps (coming up on April 26th) and the Great Lakes Beach Sweep (September 20th) have engaged citizens for years but if you would like to help gather marine debris and data throughout the year, the Alliance for the Great Lakes will be hosting an Introductory Training in the Adopt-a-Beach™ program on April 16th at 6:00 pm Woodlawn Beach.

Adopt-a-Beach™ is a year round program where volunteers visit their favorite Great Lakes beaches and shorelines to conduct litter collection and monitoring and perform a citizen science beach health assessment. The data they gather is then entered into an online database for analysis and shared with beach health officials.

With marine debris, plastic pollution, and poor water quality as major issues facing Great Lakes ecosystems and habitats, Adopt-a-Beach™ offers citizens an opportunity to take an active role in finding solutions to these problem throughout the year. Volunteers come out in groups of all sizes from individuals to school groups to business and community organizations. For more information, please visit www.greatlakesadopt.org.

Research and citizen action like this can make a difference. As we have seen with the proposed legislation on banning the use of microbeads, change can happen. Learn more about this issue and how you can become a part of that change by joining the webinar on the 29th or an Adopt-a-Beach training!

Nate Drag, New York Outreach Coordinator, Alliance for the Great Lakes, ndrag@greatlakes.org, 716-261-9393.

The M.V. Recyclone: Dyson unveils trash-sucking river barge concept

Published Wed, Apr 16, 2014 on mnn.com by Matt Hickman
Dyson vacuum cleaners can suck crumbs and gunk off of floors like no other. But can they also help to remove plastic waste from highly polluted rivers?

Rendering: Dyson

When not dazzling the public with low-noise bladeless fans, the perpetually innovating tech wizards over at Dyson have unveiled a new concept that harnesses the company’s famed cyclone vacuum technology and brings it out of dirt-ridden homes and into … plastic-polluted rivers.
Still just a concept that would need to be prototyped, tweaked, and tested before it actually sets sail, Dyson’s M.V. Recyclone barge is essentially a giant floating vacuum cleaner specifically designed to suck up plastic — and other forms of debris — from polluted rivers before said plastic and debris reaches the ocean where it can do even greater damage. 
Inventor/designer/engineer vacuum cleaner demigod James Dyson first unveiled the vacuum-barge concept in TIME magazine’s Ideas Issue, published last month, explaining:
The amount of plastic debris in the oceans has grown a hundredfold in the past 40 years. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade but instead floats in giant, immeasurable patches for birds and sea life to ingest. Take the Eastern Garbage Patch, for instance, a large gyre of marine debris located near the Midway Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Albatrosses in the area give birth to 500,000 chicks every year, and nearly half of them die–many of them after consuming plastic fed to them by their parents, who think it’s food.
The concept I propose, the M.V. Recyclone, would combat this ever growing problem of plastic waste making its way to our oceans by filtering out debris from the rubbish-stricken rivers that feed into them. By focusing on the polluted rivers, the M.V. Recyclone could tackle a concentrated stream of plastic, catching it before it spreads.
Dyson elaborates more on nuts and bolts of the concept in a recent email to Co.Exist:
Large skim nets unfurl from the rollers at its stern and are anchored on each side of the river. Hydraulic winches wind them in and out. The nets face upstream and skim the surface of the river for floating debris. The plastic waste is shredded on board and then different grades of plastic are separated by a huge cyclone — very similar to the way our cyclonic vacuums work.
Again, the M.V. Recyclone is still very much just an intriguing design concept at this point with not much more to show than a series of sketches. But as anyone who has invested (these lean, mean cleaning machines don’t come cheap cheap) in a Dyson vacuum cleaner over the years could probably tell you, no one does sucking more powerfully and more efficiently than Sir James Dyson.
And this isn't the first time that a major vacuum manufacturer has turned its attention to the scourge of plastic polluting our oceans: Back in 2010, innovation-minded Swedish home appliance company Electrolux launched a special (read: not for sale) collection of awareness-raising vacuum cleaners partially constructed from plastic waste harvested from the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean along with the Baltic, North, and Mediterranean Seas.
Via [The Verge] via [Co.Exist]
Related stories on MNN:
The opinions expressed by MNN Bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of MNN.com. While we have reviewed their content to make sure it complies with our Terms and Conditions, MNN is not responsible for the accuracy of any of their information.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Students use plastic bags to help homeless

Published April 12, 2014 in The Augusta Chronicle By Tracey McManus

Westside High School seniors Amanda Dojack and Tyler Milks, whose team won first place this month in a Georgia Future Problem Solving Program competition, sit on a sleeping mat that they made from discarded plastic bags.  CHRIS ALUKA BERRY/SPECIAL
Westside High School seniors Amanda Dojack and Tyler Milks, whose team won first place this month in a Georgia Future Problem Solving Program competition, sit on a sleeping mat that they made from discarded plastic bags.

When seven Richmond County high school students began researching what was circulating in the world’s oceans, they didn’t just get mad.They got creative.

For 15 months they pored over reports and figures and learned that 46,000 pieces of plastic litter float on every square mile of ocean. They cringed at the fact that plastic particles outnumber plankton 60 to 1.

And when the students, in gifted programs at three different schools, discovered the Clean Air Council estimate that less than 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled each year, they came up with a plan.

In an effort to take as many bags out of circulation as possible, the seven students collected more than 6,000 from across the Augusta area to weave together into 15 sleeping mats to donate to the homeless. The project earned them first place in the Georgia Future Problem Solving Program’s Community Problem Solving competition this month and will advance them to the international phase in June.

“A lot of people don’t grasp the severity of it,” Amanda Dojack, a senior at Westside High School, said about the pollution. “If you just type in Google ‘plastic bags,’ it’s just horrifying. To know we are making a difference feels really good.”

To make the mats, Dojack said they cut each bag in half, knotted the pieces together, crocheted those scraps into a chain stitch and wove them on a homemade loom.

Each mat takes about four hours to make and is composed of more than 450 plastic bags.
The result is a waterproof, heat retaining bed that is surprisingly cushiony. Tyler Milks, also a senior from Westside, said it was important for the project not only to propose a solution for plastic bag waste but to also help improve the lives of the needy.

“I’m downtown a lot and see homeless people there, always asking ‘Do you have change? I need a bed to sleep in tonight and the Salvation Army charges $7 to stay,’ ” Milks said. “If they can’t afford a place to stay for the night, this could help them.”

In their quest to collect bags, the students – also from Glenn Hills High and Richmond County Technical Career Magnet schools – educated their peers on the grisly statistics they uncovered.

Classes at school heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vortex of trash, chemical sludge and plastic the size of Texas floating in the ocean. The students stood outside of grocery stores and informed customers about how the plastic bags they return to the store to be recycled are more than likely ending up in a landfill.

They also approached grocery store managers and asked if they’d be willing to donate used bags to their project.

Richmond County high school gifted teacher Ann Beth Strelec said beyond the Georgia Future Problem Solving competition, her students’ project is helping educate the public about an environmental crisis many may not know exists.

“Gifted kids are very sensitive to things like that because they’re big global thinkers,” Strelec said. “The more research we did about plastic in the ocean and people not taking it seriously, it just made them mad. We’re all just mindlessly taking our bags back to the grocery store thinking we’re doing our part and not realizing they’re not being taken care of.”

The Future Problem Solving Program Inter­national was founded in 1974 and challenges students to think creatively and develop future solutions in a competitive format. The program has three categories, each with a six-step problem solving process.

For the state phase, the students had to submit a six-page, 1,500 word report that chronicled their research and the logic behind the sleeping mats.

In June, the seven Richmond County students will present their project to the International panel at the competition held in Iowa.

Dojack said the group is hoping their project lives on after they have moved away to college.
“A lot of people can’t wrap their mind around this issue,” she said. “Hopefully we can keep this going.”

Friday, April 11, 2014

Scientist Recommend Crackdown on Plastics

Published in the Epoch Times by Chris Samoray, news.mongabay.com | April 2, 2014

Every year, 20 million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans. In 2012, the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development dubbed marine plastic litter “a major environmental issue that the world must address,” and asked for management action by 2025. One group of researchers started early and was among the first to take on the Rio +20 call to tackle marine plastic pollution, presenting a “Top Ten” list of recommendations ranging from international treaties to public education and awareness programs.

“Plastic marine litter is far more than an aesthetic problem,” writes the team from the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability in a study published in UCLA’s Pritzker Environmental Law and Policy Briefs. “Increasing harm to marine wildlife and rising economic costs provide an enormous incentive to tackle the global plastic marine litter problem more aggressively.”

The team suggests that international cooperation is among the most urgent action needed to better control marine plastic waste. One of their recommendations is an international treaty on par with the 1989 Montreal Protocol—an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer—that would employ strong monitoring, tracking and reporting practices, along with marine litter standards enforceable on a global scale.

Another international treaty the team proposes would ban some of the most common and damaging types of plastic pollution such as single-use plastic bags, foam food containers and fish-egg-sized pellets of plastic used for manufacturing purposes. These materials are often confused as food by marine organisms and can cause digestive problems or other health complications if consumed. Additionally, the treaty would mandate a transition to plastics that are recycled by a rate of at least 75 percent.

But implementing programs on this magnitude isn’t simple, according to Mark Gold, lead researcher and Associate Director and Coastal Center Director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA.

“The obstacles are enormous,” Gold said. “There are no effective multi-national environmental laws except the Montreal Protocol and the Antarctic Treaty. Lacks of mandatory monitoring, adequate reporting and enforcement have been enormous obstacles for these multi-national environmental agreements. Lack of funding to implement these programs is a major issue as well.”

In addition to efforts at the international level, the study also includes local action recommendations, such as an “Ocean Friendly” certification program, increasing funding for marine litter remediation programs, accelerating and expanding clean-up efforts and raising public awareness through education.

One of the main goals of the Ocean Friendly certification program would be to reduce plastic production by consumer-driven incentives for companies to use recycled or biodegradable materials in product packaging. To help fund remediation programs, the team suggests implementing a port fee of one dollar per shipping container or imposing taxes on the most common types of plastic litter.

Aside from the “Top Ten” list, Gold challenges consumers to change shopping habits and use reusable bags, avoid buying products or food in single use plastic packaging and, if possible, buy in bulk to reduce packaging. Gold also recommends foregoing straws or plastic cutlery, and suggests opting for reusable water bottles or canteens instead of plastic bottles.

Another option for consumers is volunteering with a cleanup program. One of the largest volunteer events is International Coastal Clean-Up Day, which occurs this year in September. Under this program, nine million volunteers from 152 countries have removed 145 million pounds of shoreline trash over the past 25 years.

“[Marine plastic litter] is a new environmental problem of the last 40-50 years,” Gold said. “Everyone should care about these issues because everyone [needs] water.”
  • Gold, M., Mika, K., Horowitz, C., Herzog, M., Leitner, L. (2013). Stemming the tide of marine plastic litter: A global action agenda. Pritzker Environmental Law and Policy Briefs, Brief 5.
This article was originally posted and written by Chris Samoray, a contributing writer for news.mongabay.com. Please go to their website for the original article.

Want to see an ocean garbage patch in person?

A new contest from the 5 Gyres Institute offers to let one winner join a three-week research voyage — described as a 'hardcore sailing adventure' — through garbage patches in the North Atlantic Ocean. 
marine debris
A view of marine debris from below, as fish or sea turtles might see it. (Photo: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Are you at least 18 years old, capable of swimming 660 feet and concerned about plastic pollution in Earth's oceans? If so, the 5 Gyres Institute has a new online contest that may interest you.
While the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the most famous, it's just one of several ocean vortices, or gyres, whose currents pick up marine debris and amass it into giant, nebulous swirls of junk. These garbage patches mostly contain countless plastic specks that slowly crumble without decomposing, but they also lure larger detritus such as bags, bottles, lost fishing nets and shipping containers.
This can harm wildlife in a variety of ways. Sea turtles choke on plastic bags, seabirds fatally fill their stomachs with plastic scraps and marine mammals become hopelessly entangled in stray fishing lines. Even the tiniest bits of plastic are dangerous, absorbing toxins like mercury from water and tempting fish to eat them. As larger predators eat those fish, the toxins bioaccumulate up the food chain.
The 5 Gyres Institute is helping lead efforts to investigate this plastic plague, including a series of expeditions into Earth's five major subtropical ocean gyres to study what's out there and how it's affecting wildlife. The California-based group is also big on educating the public, since ocean pollution is a crowd-sourced problem that's difficult to prevent without widespread cooperation.
The new contest by 5 Gyres aims to address both missions: The group is requesting brief videos from members of the public, between 30 and 45 seconds long, explaining why they should be chosen to join its next research expedition. That expedition — a three-week sailing trip across the North Atlantic Ocean — will depart June 7 from Bermuda and end June 29 in Iceland. It will enter the North Atlantic Gyre as well as the Viking Gyre, two areas where marine debris has yet to be studied.
"The video doesn't need to be fancy, just a quick and sincere appeal to gather online votes," says Stiv Wilson, 5 Gyres' policy director. "Whoever gets the most votes wins a spot on the expedition plus airfare to Bermuda and back from Iceland. That's a prize worth $10,000."
All onboard meals as well as foul-weather gear will be provided for the winner — who must be at least 18 years old — but 5 Gyres is careful to warn this is "not a pleasure cruise."
"[T]he voyage is a 'hardcore sailing adventure' aboard 5 Gyres' partner vessel, the Sea Dragon, a working ship where crew will be expected to participate in every aspect of the expedition," the group explains in a statement. "This will include participating in plastic research, ship navigation and handling, and sharing of all onboard duties such as cooking and cleaning. No sailing experience is required but participants must be able to swim at least 200 meters."
5 Gyres will be accepting applications until 11:59 p.m. PDT on April 22, which is Earth Day (or 6:59 a.m. UTC on April 23). To submit your video or to vote for others, check out the contest homepage.
Russell McLendon is science editor at MNN. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.
Related plastic pollution stories on MNN:

Plane Search Shows World's Oceans Are Full of Trash

Photo of a plastic bag floating in the sea.
A plastic bag floats underwater at Pulau Bunaken, Indonesia; marine life ingests such debris, with catastrophic consequences. Photograph by Paul Kennedy, Getty Laura Parker

Before Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing, sea trash was not a global headliner.

But as hundreds of objects sighted off the Australian coast as possible aircraft debris turn out to be discarded fishing equipment, cargo container parts, or plastic shopping bags, a new narrative is emerging in the hunt for the missing plane: There's more garbage out there than you think. Most of it is plastic. And marine life ingests it, with catastrophic consequences.

"This is the first time the whole world is watching, and so it's a good time for people to understand that our oceans are garbage dumps," says Kathleen Dohan, a scientist at Earth and Space Research in Seattle, Washington, who maps ocean surface currents. "This is a problem in every ocean basin."

Dohan plotted the movement of debris in a time-lapse video that shows where objects dropped into the ocean will end up in ten years. The objects migrate to regions known as garbage patches. The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans have two patches each, north and south. The Indian Ocean's garbage patch is centered roughly halfway between Africa and Australia.

The term "patch" suggests this floating detritus is packed together in an oceanic version of a landfill. Instead, these "patches" are actually huge zones where debris accumulates but floats free, circulating continuously. So it's possible for sailing ships and other small boats to inadvertently sail into a garbage patch region and encounter rubbish.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch the Largest
That was the case in last summer's Transpacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii, when logs, telephone poles, and other wood debris from the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami drifted into the Texas-size Great Pacific Garbage Patch halfway between Hawaii and California.

"There were a dozen or more reports about collisions, and some of the boats were damaged by this floating wood," says Nikolai Maximenko, an oceanographer at the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, who has been studying the earthquake debris' drift across the Pacific.

Maximenko estimates that 100,000 to one million large wood objects, including timber and beams from houses, are still floating in the area.

"There is an analogy between that and the Malaysian plane," he says. "In both cases, we were not able to find anything identifiable on satellite images. We do not have an observation system to track individual objects. This system needs to be built."

Although the formation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was predicted in the 1970s by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, it wasn't documented until 1999 by a sailor named Charles Moore, who competed in the Transpacific race.

Plastics Ingested by Birds, Turtles, Whales
About 90 percent of the debris in all five garbage patches is plastic, says Marcus Eriksen, a marine scientist and founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, which works to reduce pollution from disposable plastics. "This is relatively new if you think about plastic. 

Only since the 1950s [have] consumers [used] plastics. Now, a half-century later, we are seeing an abundant accumulation of microplastics from all single-use, throwaway plastics like bags, bottles, bottle caps, kitchen utensils. I have pulled cigarette lighters from hundreds of bird skeletons."

He says sea turtles and California gray whales are also big unintentional consumers of plastic.

"You can see fish bites, so gradually, the plastic breaks into smaller and smaller pieces," says Maximenko. "After it reaches certain sizes, it can be ingested and then it quickly disappears."

The highest concentration of plastics can be found in the North Atlantic garbage patch, which receives most of its content from the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe.

Indian Ocean Garbage Patch a Mystery
Because of its remoteness, the Indian Ocean garbage patch remains more of a mystery. It was discovered in 2010 by Eriksen and his crew, who sailed west from Perth, Australia, toward Africa to document it. Eriksen says it comprises a massive area, at least two million square miles (about five million square kilometers) in size, but with no clear boundaries.

"It's very fluid and changes with the season," Eriksen says. "You could drag nets in one spot and come back the next day and it's different."

It also has gaps near Indonesia with very little debris. Maximenko theorizes that much of the marine debris generated by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami has been salvaged by people living along the Indonesian coastline.

The contents of the garbage patch circulate constantly, riding the current known as the Indian Ocean gyre from the Australian side to the African side, down the African coast and back to Australia, Eriksen says. The full rotation takes about six years, unless the debris gets stuck in the center of the patch, where it could remain indefinitely.

If the Malaysian Boeing 777 crashed into the zone off the west coast of Australia where searchers are now looking, and if some of that debris remains undiscovered, it is already on its journey west toward Madagascar to join the rest of the junk in the Indian Ocean garbage patch, arriving in about a year.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Missouri River Plastic Gyre "The Trash Trap"

Published on Apr 7, 2014 by Missouri River Relief

This weekend, the group that I work with joined the 24th Annual Project Blue River Rescue in Kansas City. Our site was on the Missouri River downstream of where the Blue River joins it, a place we call the "Trash Trap" at mile 350.9.  This is truly the "Plastic Soup" you can only imagine when you hear about it.  The same stuff that is filling our oceans, only now its in every stream, tributary & river that feeds into the ocean. 

You're not gonna believe it until you see it.   Please....pick up trash before it gets into our rivers and streams. It's so much easier there.


Search for Missing Malaysian Jet Brings Attention to Trash in the Ocean

Published Wednesday, April 02, 2014 in AllGov.com
Plastic debris from the Atlantic Ocean (photo: 5gyres.org via AP)
If there’s any good to come from the frustrating search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight, it’s this: Each time debris spotted in the ocean turns out not to be from the aircraft, it demonstrates to the millions of people following the story that’s there another important one to know about: garbage.

Scientists have been trying for years to draw attention to the growing problem of trash, big and small, floating throughout the world’s oceans. Inadvertently, the search for Flight 370 has brought this environmental issue front and center each time objects spotted west of Australia have had nothing to do with the plane, but everything to do with how mankind has treated the ocean as a dumping ground.

The debris spotted on several occasions are part of a swirling mass, or gyre, in the southern Indian Ocean, one of five such gyres churning on the high seas.

The largest gyre, according to experts, is located between Hawaii and California. It’s about 270,000 square miles in size, making it about as big as Texas.

These gyres contain mostly tiny pieces of plastic, the result of larger items gradually broken down over time by the sun and waves. But there are also larger items—like refrigerators and lost shipping containers—which can be found bobbing along the surface, kept afloat due to the air pockets trapped inside them.

The number of steel shipping containers that fall overboard off of cargo ships each year is staggering: from 700 to 10,000. With them go their contents, be it computers, toys, clothing, appliances and more.

One container released a seemingly endless supply of Legos into the sea, another dumped 2,000 computer monitors, and yet another unloaded thousands of Nike sneakers into the ocean, according to one oceanographer.

Natural disasters also contribute to the garbage problem. The 2011 tsunami that struck Japan swept 10 million tons of debris—including homes, cars and trees—into the Pacific.

“The ocean is like a plastic soup, bulked up with the croutons of these larger items,” Los Angeles captain Charles Moore told the Associated Press. “It’s like a toilet bowl that swirls but doesn’t flush,” added Moore, whose environmental activism has brought attention to the northern Pacific gyre.

Appropriately, perhaps, he has found toilet seats in the ocean, along with light bulbs, fishing paraphernalia, and defrosted orange juice preserved inside a floating fridge.

Denise Hardesty, a research scientist for Australian science agency CSIRO, says the non-biodegradable items will remain in the ocean for centuries.

“It takes 400 or 500 years for lots of types of plastics to completely break down,” Hardesty told the AP. “It just goes into smaller and smaller bits. You even find plastics in plankton — that's how small it gets.”
These small items are dangerous to aquatic life, noted Hardesty.

Two-thirds of the sea birds she has examined had ingested plastic. One bird had swallowed a glow stick that was several inches long, and another bird was found to have consumed 175 plastic pieces.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
What is the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch? (by Russell McLendon, Mother Nature Network)
Natural and Plastic Flotsam Stranding in the Indian Ocean (by David K.A. Barnes, The Effects of Human Transport on Ecosystems: Cars and Planes, Boats and Trains) (pdf)
Plastic Pollution in the Atlantic Ocean (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)



Talia 4 days ago
Why don’t we stop looking at this plastic soup as only an ecological problem, but start looking at this as a huge source of (free) manufacturing materials? Two Lehigh grads are doing this, with their company. Check their story out here. >>> http://www.lehigh.edu/engineering/news/alumni/alum_20131112_sustainability_bureo.html