The Plastic Island Part 2

Ocean Plastic

On the 22 February (Welcome to Plastic Island) I reported on the huge islands of floating plastic rubbish that pollute our world seas, and today more information has come to light. It would seem the problem is far bigger than first thought, as it has now been determined the patch of floating plastic in the Pacific is now twice the size of the US State of Texas, and increasing rapidly. This means the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ as it is now called, extends now for 1,392,400 sq/km and that is about six-and-a-half times the size of Great Britain and almost 1% of the entire ocean.

Your Beach?

But I hear you say, 1% of the largest ocean on the planet is not much, but the size is increasing rapidly with every passing year. Should it continue to increase at its present rate, by the year 2050 you may well be able to walk from Hawaii to the American mainland. Walk along any beach after the winter storms and you will find it littered with plastic rubbish, and then imagine this is but an infinitesimal fraction of the rubbish littering our oceans.

Imagine the Ocean Like This

Beginning just 500 miles off the Californian coast, this area is now the largest conglomeration of rubbish on the planet, with an estimated 100,000,000 tons of bottles, plastic bags, flip flops, shampoo bottles, plastic swimming pools, children’s toys, plastic cups and tyres among other things. If its made of plastic you will find it there. Among the debris can be found items with Chinese and Japanese markings, which show some of it has travelled the entire width of the Pacific before being caught up in the vortex, or gyre.

The area is so clogged with plastic that it resembles more a thick soup than water, and much of the older rubbish floats just below the surface because it has been broken down by the sun. Most worrying to scientists, is plastic very often contains toxic chemicals that can have a devastating effect on fish stocks.

Death by Plastic

Considering that 60% of all fish caught in all the oceans comes from the Pacific, this could have an alarming effect on the economies of many countries in the future. Fish and seabirds exists on the tiny plankton that abound in the world’s oceans, but the catastrophic fact about these ocean garbage patches is, that once the plastic is broken down and reduced in size by the sun, it often resembles food to the fish and birds. In the contaminated areas and their surroundings, the level of plastic pellets is six times higher than the plankton. Sampling recently revealed a single fish had ingested 26 pieces of plastic and there is little doubt this debris will eventually work its way into the food chain, if it hasn’t already.

Ocean Rubbish Gyres

Also disturbing, is a similar plastic vortex which has been found in the Central Atlantic Ocean with the high probability of another being in the southern part, plus one in the Indian Ocean. Oceanographers are convinced more will be discovered in time. It does not matter from which point you throw a plastic bottle into the sea, at some point in the future it will end up in one of these plastic dumps in mid ocean. Plastic does not degrade like most other materials, once its made its here forever, with the only successful means of getting rid of it being burning. The trouble there is we are then contaminating the air with the toxic content.

A team of volunteers from the Kaisai Conservation Project intend to send two ships to the area in an attempt to find out if this plastic waste can be turned into fuel. I for one hope this project turns out to be successful, and that soon we see ships trawling the seas collecting this rubbish and cleaning up our most precious asset from whence all life came.

If you are interested in knowing more, I would recommend the following YouTube video:

Until the next time – and remember, we only have one world!!!

Roy.

4 Responses to “The Plastic Island Part 2”

  1. Florina Says:

    Then instead we must all rise, create a demonstration to ban plastic all together, but unfortunatley that won’t happen, because the industry will perhaps lose millions of dollars, and that of course wouln’t go down very well for them. I agree with Roy, why for god’s sakes don’t the industries just start packing everything in biodegradable material?

    Like

  2. monkeyface Says:

    Yeah… this is deeply disturbing. Especially the birds dying of starvation with
    their bellies full of plastic… don’t buy plastic containers, its that simple.

    Like

    • Hi Monkeyface,
      I agree, but unfortunately its not that simple. Considering the majority of goods are sold in plastic bottles and containers, it would in most cases be difficult to leave the plastic behind in the shop.
      I think perhaps its up to the goods manufacturers to stop the widespread use of plastic and move on to more biodegradable methods of packing. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening.
      Roy.

      Like

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