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August 06, 2008

Plastic Island - Nasty, Gargantuan & Growing

ReusableBags.com, 08.01.08 Latimes_alteredoceans_3

A couple of websites recently caught our attention, each detailing the Sci-Fi-esque (but very real) floating plastic island located approximately 500 nautical miles off the California coast. "The island" is a grotesquely large patch of floating plastic trash held together by currents stretching across the northern Pacific almost as far as Japan. Discovered by Charles Moore, this "plastic island" is made up of about 7 billion pounds of plastic garbage.

Sea preserves a plastic plague - LA Times 08.03.07

The LA Times produced a fantastic five-part multimedia series on the state of our altered oceans. Part four delves into the “plastic island”, officially called a gyre. This disturbing presentation features great videos, haunting photography and lots of helpful information.
Link: Sea preserves a plastic plague

Plastic patch in pacific grows to twice the size of the US - Daily Kos 02.06.08

Another great site investigating this mess is the Daily Kos. They feature an interview with Marcus Eriksen, one of the research directors at the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (the same folks sailing the “Junk Raft”). Eriksen said: "The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States."
Link: Plastic patch in pacific grows to twice the size of the US

The trash vortex - Greenpeace International 11.12.06Greenpeace_trash_vortex

Greenpeace created this cool, simple visual explaining “the island”—“Plastic trash and other flotsam that is either directly thrown or washed by rivers into the North Pacific, is swept up by the currents of a gigantic swirling vortex called the North Pacific Gyre. In the centre, the calm, just northeast of Hawai’i the result is a trash carpet that scientists calculate has now reached the size of Texas.”
Link: The Trash Vortex

Our Take: There is a similarity between this huge plastic island in the middle of the ocean and the enormity of plastic bag consumption. Scientists can't agree on the size of "the island" just like no one knows exactly how many plastic bags are being produced and consumed. The one thing everyone agrees on is that the scale of both is huge and deserves our attention. This "island" is the direct effect of our overconsumption. By achieving a significant reduction in use-and-toss items, we can actually make a difference. 

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Comments

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Based on some serious health problems that I gradually began to associate with drinking bottled water from plastic bottles I suspect that this plastic island may be a much bigger environmental disaster than we imagine. The corrosive salt water and continous abrasive motion has to deteriorate the plastic and leech a tremendous amout of DPA from the plastic jugs, bottles etc into the sea. Could that explain the large numbers of whales "committing suicide" by beaching themselves? Have they done that down through eons or is this a fairly recent pattern? If so when did it start and what environmental or atmospheric change coincided with the onset of this behavior?

I suspect the severe respiratory problems, fire in my lungs, bright red inflammation of my face, severe sinus congestion, throat inflammation and sore throat and the loss of some intestional "lining" was triggered by drinking water from plastic jugs which were repeatedly subjected to extremely high temperatures in my truck. My suspicions were further strengthened a couple days ago after reading an article in the Springfield Missouri News Leader by a pet veteranary who treated a small dog which was bordering on the brink of death. The dog had been drinking water out of a plastic dish. When the dog's plastic water dish was replaced by a non plastic dish the dog started to recover and eventually made a full recovery.

If the DPA from plastic bottles was what caused my extremely serious problems -, and I'm almost certain that it was -, and if it was killing this dog --, and the veterenarian insists that it was -, then I think it is clear that this huge island of plastic which is being constantly corroded and eroded by salt water, heat from the sun and constant motion has to be doing serious harm to sea life. Is it driving the whales to commit mass suicide in their quest to escape their unseen antagonist?

Ivan, Sparta, Mo

Plastics should not be produce anymore because it can only cause harm in our environment and to our health too. The idea of creating disposable containers such as bags, bottles, etc. can't be considered a good solution to lessen difficulty in carrying our pack lunches,when after consuming the food we prepared/or bought in a store. At some point, we thought that its somehow a good idea but sadly that's what we all know, we usually never tried to see the other side,which is the consequence. After we disposed it in the garbage, it may take two or three days before it will be collected by the garbage collector. So, what's next? Where will they bring it? It can't be burn because our ozone layer will be affected. Nonetheless, it may end up to cause a much more damage to us. So, how can we prevented this circumstances? Well my idea is, Use an earth-friendly containers which can be reused. If we spread this idea, we can build a better world.

I would like to buy a poster displaying the plastic island for a conservation project. Can you direct me to a site?

Colour the dog lantern black. the dog is smart

You have inspired me to adapt this project for my high school level design class.

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This original idea that people were that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It's not quite like that. It's almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is perhaps twice as large as the American continent.

So fun article is! I know more from it.

Thanks for you sharing. This kind of topic is good for people to learn more about it, and that people should be every day less ignorant..

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