A Sea of Plastic is Killing our Oceans…

I don’t often write about environmental issues,  as there are those who are much better at it than I. However, like many of you, I am concerned about our planet. I actively recycle and find myself many times in rather heated debates with certain people who would just let the earth suffer a slow death. I am glad that there are so many people dedicated to exposing the wanton pollution that is destroying our planet, and lately you’d have to be living in a cave to be unaware of the damage done by oil spills, exhaust gases and non-biodegradable products that are choking our landfills. There is another source other than BP that is polluting our oceans, and doing so on a much larger scale. However, it is getting very little press. It’s called “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

A Vortex Of Death…

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a gyre of marine litter in the central North Pacific Ocean. Current estimates state that it is larger than the U.S. state of Texas, with some scientist claiming it larger than the continental United States. The Patch is characterized by exceptionally high concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge, and other debris that have been trapped by the currents.

After checking and crosschecking several respected environmental websites, the best guess is that it contains approximately 3.5 million tons of trash, just floating around out there. Items like shoes, toys, bags, pacifiers, wrappers, toothbrushes, and bottles. My research shows that there are a few major sources responsible for this floating landfill. The world’s navies and commercial shipping fleets contribute close to 700,000 pieces of trash thrown overboard every single day. That sounds like a lot, but it only amounts to about 20%. It has been estimated that about 80% of it was initially discarded on land.

Carry On…

The garbage that we throw out of our car windows, toss onto the ground or is carelessly transported by inadequately sealed trucks and trains on the way to landfills get blown by the wind. It gets into rivers, streams and storm drains and then rides currents out to sea. Another, more direct source, is litter dropped by people at the beach. Data regarding the dumping of refuse by the countless number of cruise ships is incomplete, but you don’t have to be a mathematical statistician to guess on their contribution to the problem.

It has been estimated that the plastic in the Garbage Patch is killing about a million seabirds a year, as well as approximately 100,000 marine mammals, including turtles, which choke to death on items like bottle caps, pocket combs, cigarette lighters, tampon applicators, cottonbud shafts, toothbrushes, toys, syringes and plastic shopping bags. How do we know this? These items, and many others, are routinely found in the stomachs of dead seabirds and other marine mammals, such as the aforementioned turtles, dolphins and even whales. To give you a better idea, a study of fulmar carcases that washed up on North Sea coastlines found that 95 per cent had plastic in their stomachs. This does not even take into account the loss of marine life due to being poisoned by the oily toxins that accumulate in the plastic.

They feed, and they die. They feed, the end up on our dinner plates, we ingest poison. Nobody wins.

We Must Do Better…

It would appear that Americans and the Japanese are largest contributors. The sad part is that advances in the Plastics Industry have seen the development and manufacture of products that are biodegradable and recyclable. Developed nations have enacted strict penalties for pollution don’t really seem to working toward slowing the growth of the Garbage Patch because little or nothing can be done to enforce anti-polluting laws in international waters.

The only real solution would be to remove what amounts to be endless miles of trash, which has its own myriad of environmental problems. Not to mention the billions of dollars it would cost. As well, getting international cooperation would be problematic because it isn’t good press. There are no pictures of birds covered in oil or cute animals to save. You can’t see an island of garbage on satellite maps because the plastic degrades into tiny, bite-sized particles, and they simply don’t look horrific on camera.

Human beings are the only ones to blame for this, and it is a sad legacy we are leaving that makes a statement about our general disregard for our home. There is a wealth of information on the Internet about this problem, and I urge you to use your favorite search engine to learn as much about this problem as you can, and post it on your social networking site of choice, tell your family, your friends and neighbors. Perhaps more awareness about this immense floating island of human, non-biodegradable garbage will have some positive effect on the situation.

Capt. Moore and TED...

Here’s a video by Captain Charles Moore from TED Talks:

Maybe knowing that we are slowly poisoning ourselves and not just marine life will give us pause regarding the careless attitude that we have about what is done with our trash.

14 Replies to “A Sea of Plastic is Killing our Oceans…”

  1. Row, row, row your boat,
    Through a sea of shit,
    Unmerrily, unmerrily, unmerrily, unmerrily
    Boy, you feel a git!

    Whoah! This is pretty scary and very impressive in a horrid kind of way.

    I’ve heard of landfill causing problems but sea-fill!?

    Space junk is one bad rubbish problem I was aware of but this seems worse and is news to me. Thanks, I guess.

  2. The flotsam that washed back out to sea from the Japanese tsunami last year ought to be arriving any time now.

    Just thought I’d cheer you all up.

  3. Out of sight, out of mind … people will simply do nothing until it actually begins to have deleterious effects that people can see for themselves. Sad, sad, sad …


    I have said before, that while I don’t call myself an atheist, I caucus with them because they share my disgust for religion. You may remember that I have said that freethought is bigger than religion or the questions that surround it. Freethought is questioning everything that is believed, and test it against science to see if it is real. You have picked a perfect topic to demonstate that in the broad spectrum.

    Remember the sixties, when Los Angeles had an orange sunset every night? It wasn’t the weather, it was unregulated pollution blown out to sea by the prevailing wind. It was poisening the population, all of them to some degree, and it was only getting increasingly worse. California enacted changes, some say too much, others not enough. But, the point is when those industries were forced to stop poisoning their city, the cost of doing business went up sharply. That of course made them less competitive on the world market. So they took their manufacturing to other countries, where the laws allow you to dump anything into the air, dump industrial waste into the drinking water, and fire an employee for getting killed on the job. That’s the nature of this global market.

    It is already rebounding in a significant way. Manufacturers who went to foreign markets are finding the price of labor on a steady rise, and the anger of the general population for having to wear gas masks (China Olympics). I believe the pendulum economically is swinging back in our direction. But, that is somewhat beside the point you were making. That all of us need to protect our house, because we have no backup. That is a game bigger than religious controversy. Human nature: Out there is a human that that would strip the entire planet of it’s resources regardless of the consequences, if it made him the most influential person on the planet.

    That’s why I also have said, rid the planet of religion, you have not cured the human condition.


    • That’s why I also have said, rid the planet of religion, you have not cured the human condition.

      Therefore it ain’t worth striving for?

      • JM said: “Therefore it ain’t worth striving for?”

        A strange and antagonistic reply. An obvious attempt to spin something I did not say. If you want to debate with me, next time, bring a point.


    • That is true, of course, but I don’t think anyone is saying that. The plastics takeover has become an economic reality. Curing it would take a radical shift in our very way of life. We now inhabit a throw-away culture that fixes nothing, but disposes everything and just keeps making more and more crap, which eventually must be thrown out in turn. It’s hard enough just getting people to take cloth bags to the grocery store. We’ve grown used to our fast food containers, cups and utensils and all the Walmart junk that lasts a few months or a year at most. All are thrown out and replaced by more crap.

      • Hunt said:

        “All are thrown out and replaced by more crap.”

        I live in a microcosm, but the city instituted a program. They bought every household on the garbage route two new 55 gallon trash cans. One blue and one gray. The blue is for recycle, and the gray is for trash. They pick up the trash each week, and recycle every other week. Heres what they want in recycle, paper, plastic, and metal. What they do not want is styrofoam and glass.

        This kinda blows my mind, because when the world started recycling, it started with glass. Whatever. But, I often purchase ramen as a quick easy snack, and it comes in styrofoam containers, and I get my spaghetti sause in glass containers. Other than that, my whole trash bag is recyclable. I wonder why they don’t pick up the recycling every week, and the trash every month.

        My point is, that what you say is true, but it is changing rapidly. It happens at a point when someone can re-use something more cheaply than have it made new. It’s always the bottom line.


  5. I’ve attended a couple talks by Capt. Moore when he’s been here in Hawaii. He always provides more information than can be absorbed by non-experts like me. It gets really frightening when he shows how parts of the lower food chain are also ingesting this junk and how it could threaten the entire marine ecosystem.

    From what I’ve heard him say, and what I’ve observed elsewhere, most of the junk comes from: landfill erosion, decay of floats used in fishing and aquaculture, shipping container accidents!!! (can’t find the Youtube video I saw the other day, but every year massive amounts of junk are dumped into the oceans just from huge shipping mishaps. Then there’s also the fact that a lot of crap is probably deliberately dumped in the oceans just to get rid of it. On the south shore of the Big Island, beaches are wall to wall junk. We can clean them up, but each storm brings more crap. It’s endless.

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