Saturday, January 27, 2007

Ever Heard Of The North Pacific Gyre?

If you're having a depressing day, don't read this post. Okay, I gave you fair warning.

A friend sent me the November 2006 issue of Best Life magazine so I could read an article about the North Pacific Gyre. The gyre is a "slow, deep, clockwise-swirling vortex of air and water caused by high-pressure air above it." For a nautical reference, this is the doldrums.

In essence, it is a Garbage Patch of bottle caps, cigarette lighters, tampon applicators, colored scraps, and other forms of junk. All of the plastic that makes its way to the oceans wind up in one of five gyres. The gyre in the North Pacific is twice the size of Texas. And there are similar areas in the South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean that cover a total of 40% of the sea. That corresponds to a quarter of the earth's surface. "So 25% of our planet is a toilet that never flushes."

By weight, this swath of sea contains six times as much plastic as it does plankton. That affects sea life, fishing, and the human race's ability to feed itself. It affects other wildlife, too. One animal dissected contained 1,603 pieces of plastic. I'm surprised it lived that long to eat that much...I think I'd keel over if I ate only one bottle cap!

Why should you care?
#1: Plastic never goes away. It doesn't biodegrade. Except for the little bit that has been incinerated, every bit of plastic that has ever been produced still exists!
#2: Estimates are that 70% of plastic will sink, creating an ocean floor covered with man-made material with unknown consequences and no way of cleaning it up.
#3: Plastic is produced and shipped in little pellets called "nurdles" that end up in the oceans. These pellets absorb poisons like DDT. They are now found contaminating beaches around the world and they make it into the food chain right up to that fish you ate last night for dinner.

So your thinking: I never go to the beach and I hate to eat fish so I'm safe. Ah, not so fast my friend. That new car smell? It's vapors coming off the interior plastic. These carcinogenic residues have unknown effects on humans.

The article also included some alarming photos: The skeleton of a dead albatross with plastic items still within it's rib cage. You've probably seen pictures of birds, fish, or dolphins with a 6-pack plastic holder caught around its nose like the photo above. But how about a turtle, who got a plastic ring around its belly when it was little and is now shaped like an hourglass where even a growing shell wasn't strong enough to break through.

I've made myself feel sick.


JoeBlogs said...

That's why they charge for plastic bags in some shops.

ArichNY said...

YIKES! Maybe Halliburton can get a contract to shoot it all into outer space...or maybe just to the moon and litter there? After all, it's only made of green cheese? Who needs it?
This is where we need Professor Brown to burn it all as fuel in his DeLorean time machine.

Pete said...

is it then any wonder why the american plastics coucil makes those heart wrenching commercials showing how plastic saves lives?