Archive for Plastic Islands

Going Green – The Way Back

Posted in Atlantic, Britain, England, Environment, Europe, Illegal Dumping, Insanity, Modern World, Oceans, Old Age Pensioner, Pacific, Plastic, Plastic Rubbish, Senior Citizen, UK, USA with tags , , , , on 25/07/2011 by floroy1942

 It is a fact that many people think the older generations did nothing to look after the planet on which we live because we were not ‘eco’ friendly. I am here to tell those people how wrong they are. I received a very interesting e-mail from my brother over the weekend all about being ‘green’.

It is a fact that we seniors did not have separate waste bins for plastic, glass etc and we did not run our cars on biofuels, but did that make us less ‘eco’ friendly? I think not as the following will amply demonstrate.

In the line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. 

The Weekly Shopping

The woman apologized to him and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”
The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today.  Your generation did not care enough to save our environment.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

The Glass Milk Bottle-Reusable

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.  So they really were recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Stairs - Remember Them?

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind.  We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry the clothes.  Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Just One Per Home

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. 

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. 

Why Not Old Newspaper?

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. 
Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.  We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Free Water For Anyone Thirsty And No Plastic

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. 
We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. 

The Modern Mixer - Is It Really Essential?

We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.  And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then? ”

(My sincere thanks to the anonymous writer of this piece)

So you see, things were in many ways much better then than they are now. Consequently, I don’t think members of today’s generation have the right to say us old folks are to blame for today’s eco-problems, because actually, they have done it to themselves.

Admittedly, it was not because we thought about the environment as such, but more the fact that we just did not have all the things people have today. Technology has taken huge strides since the 40’s and 50’s, and we have to look there, and at ourselves, for the problems with our environment today. Many of the technological advances that have been made serve only to make us more lazy and increase the level of unemployment, so is that a good thing, do we really need these things?

Our Planets Floating Garbage Islands

There are many we could well do without, like escalators and powered grass mowers just to use two examples from the above piece. We could perhaps reduce the amount of plastic each of us uses in our daily lives, like supermarket carrier bags, plastic cups and bottles. After all, what is wrong with paper bags and glass bottles  that can be reused?

So you see, the current generation is more to blame for the state of our world than the old folks. Next time you buy an electric apparatus take a moment to think; Do I really need this?

It would seem the only way forward for us to be totally in tune with our world, is to take a few steps back and live like we used to.

Roy.

Death Knell For Plastic Bags?

Posted in Atlantic, Britain, England, Environment, Europe, Government, Illegal Dumping, Insanity, Modern World, Oceans, Pacific, Parliament, Plastic, Plastic Rubbish, Spain, Toxic Waste, UK, UN, United Nations, USA with tags , , , on 31/12/2010 by floroy1942

Ever since the common plastic shopping bag was first introduced en masse by high street stores and supermarkets in the mid-1970’s, it has taken a firm grip on our lives and environment.

The 'Essential' Plastic Shopping Bag

Now, the Italian government has announced an outright ban on these everyday items from tomorrow, January 1st, and although it is the first European country to do so, it is not the first world-wide. Eritrea, Rwanda and Somalia banned them as far back as 2005, followed by Tanzania a year later. Strange that it should be African nations that first took positive action against this danger to our environment!

Bag Production - A Major Industry

It is not until you get into numbers that the impact of these shopping aids becomes apparent. The Italian people for example use a staggering 20 billion bags a year, which is about 300 per person. Across Europe the estimate is 100 billion! In 2008, when China introduced a levy for plastic bags, they were using 3 billion a day!

While many countries have over the years introduced a surcharge on plastic shopping bags in an effort to cut consumption, it has been of little use in curbing our habits. There seems little doubt that only an outright ban such as in Italy will work, and it is up to other countries to follow suit. Italian shoppers will now have to use bio-degradable, cloth or paper bags.

Plastic In The City Of Naples

Some of the more developed nations have introduced recycling as the answer to the plastic menace, and although some relief has been seen in the number of plastic bags in city dumps, it has had minimal effect overall. When you consider it, we even add to the mountain by putting all our rubbish in plastic sacks anyway!

There is little doubt that even the very disposal of plastic bags costs a huge amount of energy. According to the Italian environmental organization Legambiente, the ban on bags will reduce the CO2 emissions for Italy by 180,000 tonnes a year.

The Plastic Raw Material

Plastic, as we all know is a by-product of oil, and in 2007 it was estimated that from the world’s oil production of around 84,5 million barrels a year, some 4% goes into the production of all types of plastic. While this may seem an insignificant amount, it should not be forgotten that another 4% is used in the energy required to produce the final product.

Oil, like many other sources of power, will run out eventually as the planets reserves are used up. At the current state of man’s development, life as we know it would cease entirely without oil and its by-products.

As you read this, take just a second and think about all the devices in your home that have plastic parts and would cease to function without it. Once having established that, spread your mind wider and look outside your immediate environment at all the things in your town or city that cannot work without plastic.

 

Also The Cost Of Plastic Production

We as a race, would be thrown back to the time of the horse and our own two feet, to say nothing of candles for light and open fire for heat. It’s scary to say the least

 

A Plastic Bags Best Friend - The Supermarket

When shopping, my wife and I always end up with at least five or six bags from the local supermarket, even though we always ask the cashier to pack the items into as few bags as possible. Like many supermarkets, they are on special hooks that allow the cashier to operate as quickly as possible, and it is very common for them to exit the system containing only one or two items.

 

Maybe Not Quite As Strong - But Otherwise.....

Prior to the introduction of the plastic shopping bag, people used paper carrier bags which by their very nature were biodegradable. Now, we poison the earth and oceans with an item that does not degrade, and becomes toxic. Discarded plastic will be with us for centuries, and there is not much we can do about it.

Today we seem incapable of living without this lowly item, but as the discovery of the Pacific Plastic Island clearly shows, we must change our habits. The size of a large country, it is reservedly estimated to contain 100 million tons of floating plastic. I refer you to one of my previous blogs on the subject.

(You will need to cut and paste the link into your browser)

https://floroy1942.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/

welcome-to-plastic-island/

 

When We And Our Children Are Dead, It Will Still Be Here!

While doing research for this article I came across an interesting video that describes the life of a plastic shopping bag. It was made by Ramin Bahrami and although somewhat romanticised, gives some insight into the life of a shopping bag made of plastic.

http://futurestates.tv/episodes/plastic-bag

With the exception of a few countries where a proportion is recycled, they all end up in rubbish tips, and sadly, in the oceans of the world. Perhaps it is time for this environmental problem to be handled by the United Nations, who could if they can agree, do something positive for our planet by introducing a world-wide ban on these items.

 

Guaranteed Not Part Of A Six-Pack

Before I finish let me highlight the tragic effects of our plastic rubbish is having on the animal population of our planet.

 

Nice Scarf? Not Really. Just Another Creature Suffering.

There is evidence enough of the cruel way in which many birds and animals die trapped in our plastic garbage. If we saw it with our own eyes we would call it sadistic, but never think about what can happen each time we throw away a plastic bag or six pack holder. So far as the latter is concerned, I always snip open each circle with the scissors before discarding it.

The cost to the environment is incalculable, but future generations will have to deal with our excesses of today.

Roy.

The Plastic Island Part 2

Posted in Environment, Illegal Dumping, Oceans, Toxic Waste with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 07/03/2010 by floroy1942

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.

Welcome to Plastic Island

Posted in Environment, Modern World, Toxic Waste with tags , , , , , , , , on 26/02/2010 by floroy1942

Have you ever wondered what happened to the plastic bottle that drifted away after you dropped it in the sea during your last visit to the beach? Well, I can’t tell you exactly where it is now, but I can make a fairly good guess as to where it will end up. If you were on the North American continent east coast or anywhere on the west coast of Europe or North African it will eventually end up some 1,000 miles SSW of the Azores.

If you were on the east coast of South America or the west coast of Central/Southern Africa it will end up some 1,100 miles SW of the island of St. Helena. Now how could he know that I hear you gasp???

Yesterday the report of a 22 year study was released by a group called the Sea Education Association (SEA) at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland USA. In 1997 oceanographers discovered a huge island sized patch of floating plastic debris half way between Hawaii and the American west coast. They gave their discovery the name ‘gyre’ due to its location and how it is formed, and have now found a similar ‘gyre’ in the Atlantic.

After a study of ocean currents, scientists believe there is now a minimum of five floating conglomerations of plastic in all the world’s oceans. Apart from the one in the Pacific and the recently discovered one in the North Atlantic, there is thought to be one in the South Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean. It seems a fair bet there will be more.

We drop a piece of plastic into the sea or local river and forget about it, but that plastic will travel thousands of miles before it reaches its final destination. It travels down rivers to the sea, and is then caught by the currents that carry it out to the deep ocean where eventually it is caught in a place where currents are weaker but surrounded by strong ones. It then moves into a circular motion from where it cannot escape.

During the study period, scientists retrieved 64,000 pieces of plastic rubbish during 6,100 sweeps of the North Atlantic. They consisted of everything from bottle caps and toothbrushes to crates plus a conglomeration of unidentifiable bits.

The maximum density of rubbish they found was 200,000 pieces per square kilometre. Because a large amount drifts just below the surface of the sea it was impossible to get an accurate measurement of the size of these plastic islands.

Trapped In Our Plastic Waste

Trapped In Our Plastic Waste

We have known for decades that our carelessness with plastic waste has had a major environmental impact, but in regard to the sea, the extent has only recently become known. Evidence has been found to confirm that many marine birds have ingested pieces of plastic thinking it was food, or swallowed it accidentally when the plastic became entangled in seaweed. They subsequently died. Large samples of fish sent for stomach analysis have confirmed that more than a third had ingested plastic. The reason is, after prolonged exposure the plastic is reduced in size by a process called photo-degradation, until it becomes about 1 centimetre across.

Relevant YouTube video:

There is little doubt that we are contaminating the seas daily with tens of thousands of tons of plastic garbage that has to go somewhere. The magnitude of this contamination has until now not been fully understood. The one remaining question is; What do we do about it? It would be prudent to clear it up, especially as nature has provided part of the answer by bringing it all together, but I fear international agreement for such a project will be a long time coming.

Next time, hang on to the bottle!

Roy.

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