Cli·mate, noun, \’kli-mǝt\: (3) the prevailing influence or environmental conditions characterizing of a group or period.
Change, transitive verb, \’chānj\: (1)(b): to make radically different.
There is a floating patch of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean that may be larger than the continental U.S.
Got your attention?
It should not be surprising to anyone that the solid waste we produce on land winds up in the world’s oceans. Roughly 20% of this garbage is dumped from boats. The remainder is washed into the ocean through drainage systems or is nonchalantly pitched into the sea by some beachgoer thinking, “The ocean is so big. I am sure it doesn’t matter if I toss one little candy wrapper into it.” But it does matter.
It is true that organic waste matter breaks down over time. However, synthetic plastic materials take years, sometimes decades, to break down in water. During that time period, it remains in solid form. Many of the ubiquitous plastics used today for manufacturing are made out of small plastic pebbles called “nurdles”. These plastic parts have been dubbed “mermaid tears” by fishermen, a name I would argue is far too romantic for such an insipid little piece of refuse.
Due to the currents of the ocean, a natural “gyre” or vortex exists between the U.S. and Japan. This area tends to be a relatively calm area of the ocean where solid particles accumulate over time. Prior to the mass of plastic waste being present there, one could imagine an area ideal for deep sea fishing where the currents in the “pelagic” zone just below the surface were relatively calm. Today, this area is contaminated with 100 million tons of chemical-based debris and plastic pellets…or mermaid tears if you will.
The major issue with the Pacific Garbage Patch is the threat it poses to marine wildlife. Nurdles are eaten by fish, sea turtles, and marine birds. A large marine bird like an albatross may be able to ingest one or two plastic pellets at a time without it posing great risk. But over time, these pebbles build up in the bird’s digestive system ultimately resulting in a painful death. A study in 2009 of the Laysan Albatross found that one third of the chicks die mostly from being fed plastic by their parents.
In addition to the effect on sea fowl, the garbage patch may cause the spread of harmful toxins through the food chain eventually reaching our dining tables. On the microscopic level, nurdles can absorb dangerous pollutants from sea water such as PCB, DDT, and PAH. These toxins are then ingested by smaller fish or jellyfish that are then eaten by larger fish such as tuna, which are then wrapped in a sushi wrap at your local deli.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch represents a blight on the world’s greatest natural resource. Next time you stroll down Mission Beach and see a tourist drop a plastic wrapper in the sand, you have my permission to curse him out.
LOCAL – PLASTIC BAG BANS
While we are on the topic of plastic, the local and national movement away from plastic and towards reusable shopping bags is gaining steam. Back in May, the Solana Beach City Council voted to outlaw single use plastic bags at grocery stores, food vendors, and pharmacies. The ban included all retail establishments within the city and started in November.
In August, a young activist in Chicago persuaded the governor of Illinois to veto legislation that would have prohibited cities from enacting plastic bag bans. 13-year-old Abby Goldberg created an online petition at change.org titled “Don’t Let Big Plastic Bully Me”. In one month, she had gathered 150,000 signatures of support. After considering her petition, Governor Pat Quinn decided to veto the legislation.
It is estimated that we use and throw away 102 billion single use plastic bags per year in the U.S. globally—this number is between 500 billion and 1 trillion per year. These lightweight bags are usually made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic, a non-renewable resource. The
Powered by Facebook Comments