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DocWatch The Great Plastic Gyre(s)
turning and turning is the widening plastic gyre / things fall apart (but never biodegrades)
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Plastic Gyre, the Plastic Trash Vortex -- these names assume there's only one. But there's also one in the Atlantic, in the Mediterranean, and elsewhere. These are still spots surrounded by ocean currents, where billions of pounds of plastic -- which never biodegrades -- floats beneath the surface. The Pacific Gyre is generally described as "twice the size of Texas." That's a whole lotta plastic, pardner.g Related Scary Tags:
plastic problems  ~ contamination  ~ stupid humans  ~ toxic buildup  ~ toxic water  ~ climate impacts  ~ ecosystem interrelationships  ~ unintended consequences  ~ habitat loss  ~ bisphenol A  ~ holyshit  



Tue, Sep 1, 2015
from BBC:
Seabirds 'blighted by plastic waste'
About 90 percent of seabirds have eaten plastic and are likely to retain some in their gut, a new analysis estimates. The study concludes that matters will only get worse until something is done to stem the flow of waste to oceans. Research co-author Erik Van Sebille says oceans are now filled with plastic and it is "virtually certain" that any dead seabird found in 2050 "will have a bit of plastic in its stomach".... To the foraging bird, a discarded plastic cigarette lighter or a shiny bottle top can look like a fish. If ingested, this litter may simply stay in the gut, unable to pass through, putting the animal's health at risk. As more and more plastic waste finds its way into the oceans - about eight million tonnes a year in one recent estimate - so the hazards to wildlife increase. ...


No heartbeat. I'm pretty sure this is a disposable lighter.

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Dec 12, 2014
from Climate Progress:
The Ocean Now Has At Least 700 Pieces Of Plastic Per Person On Earth
A study published on Wednesday estimates that the ocean contains over 260,000 tons, or 5.25 trillion pieces, of plastic. The study found that the amount of microplastics, pieces of plastic that are less than half a centimeter, found on the ocean's surface were much smaller than expected.... Over 90 percent of the searches that the study did contained plastic, and polystyrene made up most of the plastics found. One of the researchers said that in some areas with larger amounts of debris, there was more plastic in the water than living creatures. ...


Planet Polystyrene

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Nov 3, 2014
from DesdemonaDespair:
Graph of the Day: Distribution of plastic pollution in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans
When marine ecologist Andres Cozar Cabanas and a team of researchers completed the first ever map of ocean trash, something didn't quite add up. Their work, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, did find millions of pieces of plastic debris floating in five large subtropical gyres in the world's oceans. But plastic production has quadrupled since the 1980s, and wind, waves, and sun break all that plastic into tiny bits the size of rice grains. So there should have been a lot more plastic floating on the surface than the scientists found. "Our observations show that large loads of plastic fragments, with sizes from microns to some millimeters, are unaccounted for in the surface loads," says Cozar, who teaches at the University of Cadiz in Spain, by e-mail. "But we don't know what this plastic is doing. The plastic is somewhere--in the ocean life, in the depths, or broken down into fine particles undetectable by nets." ...


'Tis the rime of the Plastic Mariner / who stoppeth one in four / 'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,/ what was all this waste for?'

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Dec 4, 2013
from London Guardian:
Mounting microplastic pollution harms 'earthworms of the sea' -- report
Tiny bits of plastic rubbish ingested by marine worms is significantly harming their health and will have wider impact on ocean ecosystems, scientists have found. Microplastic particles, measuring less than 5mm in size, have been accumulating in the oceans since the 1960s and are now the most abundant form of solid-waste pollution on Earth... Using the lugworm as an indicator species, the first study, from the University of Exeter, found that worms feeding in highly contaminated ocean sediment ate less and had lower energy levels. The second study, from Plymouth University, has established for the first time that ingesting microplastics can transfer pollutants and additives to worms, reducing health and biodiversity. ...


Ingesting plastic makes me invincible!

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Jan 25, 2013
from RT.com:
Fukushima debris hits Hawaii
Debris set adrift by the 2011 Japanese tsunami has made its way to Hawaii, triggering concerns over the unknown effects of the radiation it may carry from the meltdown of the Fukushima reactor. Debris has washed ashore the islands of Oahu and Kauai and the state's Department of Health has been asked to test some of the incoming material for radiation levels. Refrigerator parts, oyster buoys, housing insulation, storage bins, soda bottles, toys, fishing nets, plastic trash cans and even Japanese net boats have all washed up on Hawaiian sands in the past few weeks, triggering serious environmental concerns over both water pollution and radiation exposure.... Aside from the unknown radiation risks, some of the debris is bringing invasive species to Hawaii, thereby threatening the island chain's ecosystem and introducing the possibility of consuming contaminated seafood. The 24-foot boat found by the fisherman was covered in blue mussels, which are native to Japan and harmful to Hawaii's marine life - especially the corals. ...


It's cool when you can dumpster-dive right into the ocean! In Hawai'i!!

ApocaDoc
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Tue, May 22, 2012
from CNN:
Research ship finds the world's oceans are 'plasticized'
A marine expedition of environmentalists has confirmed the bad news it feared -- the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" extends even further than previously known. Organized by two non-profit groups -- the Algalita Marine Research Foundation and the 5 Gyres Institute -- the expedition is sailing from the Marshall Islands to Japan through a "synthetic soup" of plastic in the North Pacific Ocean on a 72-feet yacht called the Sea Dragon, provided by Pangaea Exploration. ...


Planet Garbage Patch!

ApocaDoc
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Fri, May 11, 2012
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Great Pacific Garbage Patch 'has increased 100-fold since the 1970s'
US scientists warned the killer soup of microplastic - particles smaller than five millimetres - threatened to alter the open ocean's natural environment. In the period 1972 to 1987, no microplastic was found in the majority of samples taken for testing, said the paper in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. Today, scientists estimate the swirling mass of waste known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG) or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is roughly the size of Texas. "The abundance of small human-produced plastic particles in the NPSG has increased by 100 times over the last four decades," said a statement on the findings of researchers from the University of California. The United Nations Environment Programme says around 13,000 pieces of plastic litter are found in every square kilometre of sea, but the problem is worst in the North Pacific. ...


I heard on FOX that the plastic is just natural variation, and will be solved by clouds.

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Apr 26, 2012
from ScienceDaily:
Wind Pushes Plastics Deeper Into Oceans, Driving Trash Estimates Up
After taking samples of water at a depth of 16 feet (5 meters), Proskurowski, a researcher at the University of Washington, discovered that wind was pushing the lightweight plastic particles below the surface. That meant that decades of research into how much plastic litters the ocean, conducted by skimming only the surface, may in some cases vastly underestimate the true amount of plastic debris in the oceans, Proskurowski said.... [D]ata collected from just the surface of the water commonly underestimates the total amount of plastic in the water by an average factor of 2.5. In high winds the volume of plastic could be underestimated by a factor of 27.... Proskurowski gathered data on a 2010 North Atlantic expedition where he and his team collected samples at the surface, plus an additional three or four depths down as far as 100 feet. "Almost every tow we did contained plastic regardless of the depth," he said. ...


That plastic could be the result of natural variation, couldn't it? Hunh?

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Jan 30, 2012
from Earth Magazine:
Tracking plastic in the oceans
Despite worldwide efforts to curtail plastic use -- to ban plastic grocery bags, to switch to reusable water bottles instead of disposable plastic bottles, and to get rid of the microplastics in cosmetics, for example -- we still produce more than 260 million tons of plastic each year. Almost a third of that plastic goes into disposable, one-time-use items. Only about 1 percent of it is recycled globally, so much ends up in landfills. Worse still, some of the plastic winds up in the world's oceans. No one knows exactly how much plastic is in the ocean. Studies over the past few decades have suggested that millions of square kilometers of ocean surface may be covered with floating garbage "patches." And there are at least five known patches: three in the Pacific, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that floats near Hawaii, a patch near Baja California, and one near Chile; and two in the Atlantic, including one in the North Atlantic near Bermuda and one between South America and South Africa. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is perhaps the best known, estimated by some researchers to be roughly the size of Texas. ...


I'm just glad there's an "away" to throw it all!

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Jul 26, 2011
from Rolling Stone:
The Plastic Bag Wars
American shoppers use an estimated 102 billion plastic shopping bags each year -- more than 500 per consumer. Named by Guinness World Records as "the most ubiquitous consumer item in the world," the ultrathin bags have become a leading source of pollution worldwide. They litter the world's beaches, clog city sewers, contribute to floods in developing countries and fuel a massive flow of plastic waste that is killing wildlife from sea turtles to camels... "There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere," the United Nations Environment Programme recently declared. But in the United States, the plastics industry has launched a concerted campaign to derail and defeat anti-bag measures nationwide. The effort includes well-placed political donations, intensive lobbying at both the state and national levels, and a pervasive PR campaign designed to shift the focus away from plastic bags to the supposed threat of canvas and paper bags -- including misleading claims that reusable bags "could" contain bacteria and unsafe levels of lead. ...


Beware the eeevil canvas and paper bags!

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Jul 15, 2011
from Daily Mail:
Victim of the great garbage patch: Turtle is just one of thousands left deformed or dead by Pacific Ocean plastic
Its shell constricted by a plastic band, this turtle is just one victim of the great garbage patch. But while the reptile may be deformed, it is more fortunate than many of the animals that come into contact with the huge sea of waste in the northern Pacific Ocean. Greenpeace workers have found countless dead seabirds, their stomachs laced with plastic items such as bottle tops, lighters and balloons.... Earlier this year, another operation in Hawaii discovered a dead turtle who had more than 1,000 items of plastic in his stomach. ...


It's zombie plastic! The undead return!

ApocaDoc
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Sun, Jul 10, 2011
from Agence France-Press:
Is ocean garbage killing whales?
Millions of tonnes of plastic debris dumped each year in the world's oceans could pose a lethal threat to whales, according to a scientific assessment to be presented at a key international whaling forum this week. A review of research literature from the last two decades reveals hundreds of cases in which cetaceans -- an order including 80-odd species of whales, dolphins and porpoises -- have been sickened or killed by marine litter. Entanglement in plastic bags and fishing gear have long been identified as a threat to sea birds, turtles and smaller cetaceans. For large ocean-dwelling mammals, however, ingestion of such refuse is also emerging as a serious cause of disability and death, experts say. ...


We just need to invent an edible plastic!

ApocaDoc
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Mon, May 23, 2011
from New York Times:
How to Rid the Seas of 'Plastic Soup'?
The problem is not just one of unsightliness, or of sea life getting caught up in plastic grocery bags or choking on plastic bottle tops or cigarette lighters. There are also the tiny fragments formed by disintegrating items. Plastic does not fully biodegrade like wood or cardboard, noted Peter Kershaw of the British marine science center Cefas, who advises the United Nations on marine environmental protection issues. For plastic to biodegrade, you need conditions that are really only found in industrial composters and landfills, including high temperatures. ''You don't have those conditions in the middle of the sea,'' he said. Instead, the plastic trash eventually breaks up into billions of fragments that hover below the surface in vast, soupy patches in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. Easily swallowed by marine life and prone to absorbing contaminants in the water, this gunk is now a key focus of scientific concern, with some researchers worrying that the stuff could end up in the food chain. ''It is everywhere and in every water sample that we have collected since 1999,'' said Marieta Francis, executive director of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in California. ...


Can't we just throw the plastic soup away?

ApocaDoc
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Sat, Mar 19, 2011
from The Vancouver Sun:
Ocean garbage: Floating landmines
No matter where you travel on the B.C. coast, no matter how remote or seemingly untrammelled and pristine the fiord or inlet, a piece of plastic, Styrofoam or other garbage has been there before you. God knows how it got there: Dumped recklessly off a vessel, swept down a river or through a storm drain, blown by the wind off the land, or brought in by the ocean currents flowing across the vast North Pacific - including debris from the Japanese tsunami, which could start arriving on our coast in two years. What we do know is that marine garbage is ubiquitous and wreaking havoc at every level of the marine environment. A new B.C. study estimates there are 36,000 pieces of "synthetic marine debris" -garbage the size of fists to fridges -floating around the coastline, from remote inland fiords to 150 kilometres offshore. ...


We are the only species that shits where it sleeps and pisses into the wind.

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Mar 11, 2011
from Los Angeles Times:
Small fish are ingesting plastic in Pacific garbage gyre
Southern California researchers have found evidence of widespread ingestion of plastic among small fish in the northern Pacific Ocean in a study they say shows the widespread impact of floating litter on the food chain. About 35 percent of the fish collected on a 2008 research expedition off the U.S. West Coast had plastic in their stomachs, according to a study to be presented Friday by the Long Beach-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation and the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project. The fish, on average, ingested two pieces of plastic, but scientists who dissected hundreds of plankton-eating lantern fish found as many as 83 plastic fragments in a single fish. ...


Ingesting plastic gives me such a satisfying feeling a fullness.

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Jan 27, 2011
from Earth Institute:
Our Oceans: A Plastic Soup
In any case, plastic marine debris is now found on the surface of every ocean on Earth.... Some plastic and marine debris comes from fishing gear, offshore oil and gas platforms, and ships. But 80 percent of it comes from the land--litter that gets stuck in storm drains and is washed into rivers and out to sea, the legal and illegal dumping of garbage and appliances, and plastic resin pellets inadvertently spilled and unloaded by plastic manufacturers. Trash Travels, Ocean Conservancy's 2010 report, states that 60 percent of all marine debris in 2009 consisted of "disposable" items, with the most common being cigarettes, plastic bags, food containers, bottle caps and plastic bottles. And no matter where the litter originates, once it reaches the ocean, it becomes a planetary problem as garbage travels thousands of miles carried by the gyres.... The majority of the plastic found in the ocean are tiny pieces less than 1 cm. in size, with the mass of 1/10 of a paper clip. ...


I think I liked the story of stone soup a lot more.

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Jan 4, 2011
from Oregon State University, via EurekAlert:
Oceanic 'garbage patch' not nearly as big as portrayed in media
There is a lot of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean, but claims that the "Great Garbage Patch" between California and Japan is twice the size of Texas are grossly exaggerated, according to an analysis by an Oregon State University scientist.... The studies have shown is that if you look at the actual area of the plastic itself, rather than the entire North Pacific subtropical gyre, the hypothetically "cohesive" plastic patch is actually less than 1 percent of the geographic size of Texas. "The amount of plastic out there isn't trivial," White said. "But using the highest concentrations ever reported by scientists produces a patch that is a small fraction of the state of Texas, not twice the size."... Recent research by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found that the amount of plastic, at least in the Atlantic Ocean, hasn't increased since the mid-1980s - despite greater production and consumption of materials made from plastic, she pointed out. "Are we doing a better job of preventing plastics from getting into the ocean?" White said. "Is more plastic sinking out of the surface waters? Or is it being more efficiently broken down? We just don't know. But the data on hand simply do not suggest that 'plastic patches' have increased in size. This is certainly an unexpected conclusion, but it may in part reflect the high spatial and temporal variability of plastic concentrations in the ocean and the limited number of samples that have been collected."... "On one hand, these plastics may help remove toxins from the water," she said. "On the other hand, these same toxin-laden particles may be ingested by fish and seabirds. Plastic clearly does not belong in the ocean."... ...


Maybe for her next study, she can take a look at that pesky melting Arctic.

ApocaDoc
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Sun, Sep 26, 2010
from Anthony Doerr, in The Morning News, via OnlyInItForTheGold:
Planet Zoo and the Cliff
During my sophomore year, 1992, 1,500 scientists, including more than half the living Nobel laureates, admonished in their Warning to Humanity: "A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated." So what have we done? Not much. From 1992 to 2007, global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels rose 38 percent. Emissions in 2008 rose a full 2 percent despite a global economic slump. Honeybees are dying by the billions, amphibians by the millions, and shallow Caribbean reefs are mostly dead already. Our soil is disappearing faster than ever before, half of all mammals are in decline, and a recent climate change model predicts that the Arctic could have ice-free summers by 2013. Unchecked, carbon emissions from China alone will probably match the current global level by 2030.... Sure, it's socially acceptable nowadays to compost your coffee grounds and turn off your thermostat and grow strawberries on the porch, but it's still considered uncool to suggest that the American capitalist system is untenable.... Maybe even more astounding, they've found antibiotic-resistant E. coli in French Guiana, in the intestines of Wayampi Indians--people who have never taken antibiotics.... Eventually the ice caps will resolidify; new species will arise, the forests will teem once more. It's Homo sapiens we need to worry about. Some geologists have taken to calling the past 8,000 years or so the Anthropocene Period -- a time when we've burned coal, impounded rivers, and reconfigured ecosystems. And now, in our lifetimes, we're learning that perhaps this period is untenable, and like billions of species before us, we are not immune to extinction. ...


In zoos, primates fling their shit everywhere. We try telling them not to, but it doesn't do much good.

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Aug 20, 2010
from The Independent:
Now Atlantic is found to have huge 'garbage patch'
A huge expanse of floating plastic debris has been documented for the first time in the North Atlantic Ocean. The size of the affected area rivals the "great Pacific garbage patch" in the world's other great ocean basin, which generated an outcry over the effects of plastic waste on marine wildlife. The new plastic waste, which was discovered in an area of the Atlantic to the east of Bermuda, consists mostly of fragments no bigger than a few millimetres wide. But their concentrations and the area of the sea that is covered have caused consternation among marine biologists studying the phenomenon.... Kara Lavender Law from the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, said the size of the Atlantic "garbage patch" was roughly equal to the one in the Pacific, where circulating currents of the North Pacific Gyre have trapped it over a wide area to the north of the equator. "The Pacific has received more attention in terms of plastic accumulation but we know less about the Pacific so it's very difficult to compare the Atlantic patch in terms of size. We had a cruise this summer to try to find the eastern extent and in fact we failed to find it," Dr Lavender Law said.... Small fragments of plastic could pose an even greater menace to marine life than the larger fragments that become entangled with animals such as albatrosses and turtles, she said. "We know that smaller pieces of plastic are eaten and it's unclear what happens to that plastic then. But clearly biological organisms were not designed to eat plastic," she said. ...


Perhaps there simply isn't an eastern limit.

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Aug 13, 2010
from Scientific American:
Plastic Surf: The Unhealthful Afterlife of Toys and Packaging
By now even schoolchildren know that the plastics we discard every year in the millions of tons persist in the environment for hundreds of years. And we have all heard of the horrors caused by such debris in the sea: fur seals entangled by nylon nets, sea otters choking on polyethylene six-pack rings, and plastic bags or toys stuck in the guts of sea turtles....Scientists fear the possible effects of this plastic confetti on zooplankton and other creatures at the base of the marine food web, which get consumed by larger organisms--turtles, fish, birds--and, ultimately, by us. ...


So if schoolkids know this, then why do they keep asking Santa for this crap!?

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Jun 25, 2010
from Discovery:
Scientists Find Hints at Coming Antarctic Garbage Patch
You've heard about the Pacific garbage patch and the Atlantic garbage patch, each a sobering sign of how when we throw things away, they don't go "away" -- they often go into the sea, where they remain for a long, long time. Much of the global ocean remains uncharted in terms of pollution, but unfortunately the more we look, the more we find. And now even the most remote, pristine waters on the planet -- the coastal seas of Antarctica -- are being invaded by plastic debris. In a series of surveys conducted during the austral summer of 2007-2008, researchers at the British Antarctic Survey and Greenpeace trawled the region, skimming surface waters and digging into the seabed. Even in the exceedingly remote Davis and Durmont D'Urville seas they found errant fishing buoys and a plastic cup. Plastic packaging was found floating in the Amundsen Sea. It doesn't sound like much, but finding trash in the far corners of the planet is a worrying sign. The research team, led by David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey, believe the debris they found represents the leading edge of a tide of man-made refuse that is just now starting to make its way into the most secluded parts of our oceans.... "The seabeds immediately surrounding continental Antarctica are probably the last environments on the planet yet to be reached by plastics, but with pieces floating into the surface of the Amundsen Sea this seems likely to change soon. Our knowledge now touches every sea but so does our legacy of lost and discarded plastic." ...


It's just our little attempt to keep the planet fresh -- with SaranWrap!

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Jun 8, 2010
from TreeHugger:
The Pacific Trash Vortex Explained (Video)
What exactly is the Pacific Trash Vortex? Well, it's a huge floating mass of trash twice the size of Texas that has the dubious honor of being the largest landfill on the planet. 90 percent of this trash is plastic, 80 percent which originates on land with the other 20 percent coming from seafaring vessels and, eh hem, oil platforms.... Who's responsible for this mess? Humans, especially those in the developed world who are consuming, discarding and replacing mostly Chinese-made plastic crap at an ever-accelerating rate. The U.S. has 5 percent of the world's population but consumes 30 percent of the world's resources and creates 30 percent of the world's waste.... No-one knows exactly when Great Pacific Garbage Patch began to form but we do know plastic has been around for the past 144 years and except for the small amount that's been incinerated every bit of plastic ever made still exists. Given we're churning out about 60 billion tons of it, much of it disposable, it's no wonder monsters the like the Great Pacific Vortex have been created. ...


Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!

ApocaDoc
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Sat, May 1, 2010
from The Boston Globe:
Concord fires first shot in water battle
CONCORD -- For years, Jean Hill has been reading about the environmental consequences of the countless plastic bottles filling landfills and polluting local waters. She has watched as other towns around the country have cut purchases of bottled water, which she views as a wasteful, environmentally damaging alternative to tap water. This week, after lobbying neighbors and local officials for months, the 82-year-old activist persuaded them to take more drastic action than perhaps any other municipality in the country: At Town Meeting on Thursday, Concord residents voted to ban all sales of bottled water....And the $10 billion bottled-water industry quickly reacted. "We obviously don't think highly of the vote in Concord,'' said Joe Doss, president of the International Bottled Water Association, a trade association that represents bottlers, suppliers, and distributors. ...


She better be careful, lest the head of a reverse osmosis filtration system be found in her bed.

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Tue, Apr 20, 2010
from KIRO TV (Seattle):
Researchers Say Dead Gray Whale Filled With Garbage
Researchers said a dead gray whale discovered on West Seattle's Arroyo Beach last Wednesday was filled with a variety of debris, reported KIRO 7 Eyewitness News. Cascadia Research Collective, which has performed hundreds of whale necropsies, said it has never seen so much debris in the stomach of a gray whale. Researchers said items found inside the gray whale included small towels, sweatpants, plastic bags, surgical gloves, a golf ball and small bits of plastic. Though the volume of junk was unusual, scientists said the debris was probably not what killed the whale. The cause of the whale's death is still being investigated. ...


I bet it was the sweatpants.

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Fri, Apr 16, 2010
from CBC:
Atlantic plastic garbage patch found
The floating garbage -- hard to spot from the surface and spun together by a vortex of currents -- was documented by two groups of scientists who trawled the sea between scenic Bermuda and Portugal's mid-Atlantic Azores islands. The studies describe a soup of micro-particles similar to the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a phenomenon discovered a decade ago between Hawaii and California that researchers say is likely to exist in other places around the globe. "We found the great Atlantic garbage patch," said Anna Cummins, who collected plastic samples on a sailing voyage in February. The debris is harmful for fish, sea mammals -- and at the top of the food chain, potentially humans -- even though much of the plastic has broken into such tiny pieces they are nearly invisible. Since there is no realistic way of cleaning the oceans, advocates say the key is to keep more plastic out by raising awareness and, wherever possible, challenging a throwaway culture that uses non-biodegradable materials for disposable products. "Our job now is to let people know that plastic ocean pollution is a global problem -- it unfortunately is not confined to a single patch," Cummins said. ...


"Confined to a single patch"!

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Thu, Apr 1, 2010
from via ScienceDaily:
Microbial Answer to Plastic Pollution?
Fragments of plastic in the ocean are not just unsightly but potentially lethal to marine life. Coastal microbes may offer a smart solution to clean up plastic contamination, according to Jesse Harrison presenting his research at the Society for General Microbiology's spring meeting in Edinburgh.... The new study investigated the attachment of microbes to fragments of polyethylene -- a plastic commonly used for shopping bags. The scientists found that the plastic was rapidly colonised by multiple species of bacteria that congregated together to form a 'biofilm' on its surface. ...


Go forth ... and colonize.

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You're still reading! Good for you!
You really should read our short, funny, frightening book FREE online (or buy a print copy):
Humoring the Horror of the Converging Emergencies!
We've been quipping this stuff for more than 30 months! Every day!
Which might explain why we don't get invited to parties anymore.
Sat, Mar 27, 2010
from GOOD, via DesdemonaDespair:
Infographic of the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre
Fabulous overview exploration of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the ocean cloud of plastic particles slowly turning, turning. "The sun breaks down plastic into smaller and smaller pieces, but can never break it down entirely. Unlike organic materials, which eventually biodegrade, the plastic breaks into ever smaller pieces while still remaining a polymer. As it breaks apart, the plastic ultimately becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms... Plastic waste enters the food chain." ...


C'mon guys -- can't we invent a plastic magnet?

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Sat, Mar 20, 2010
from :
Perils of plastics: Risks to human health and the environment
Halden's study reiterates the fact that the effects to the environment from plastic waste are acute. Measurements from the most contaminated regions of the world's oceans show that the mass of plastics exceeds that of plankton sixfold. Patches of oceanic garbage--some as large as the state of Texas--hold a high volume of non-biodegradable plastics.... "We're doomed to live with yesterday's plastic pollution and we are exacerbating the situation with each day of unchanged behavior," he said.... BPA has been recognized since the 1940s as an endocrine disrupting chemical that interferes with normal hormonal function. Adding to the health risks associated with BPA is the fact that other ingredients--such as plasticizers [like pthalates]--are commonly added to plastics.... "Today, there's a complete mismatch between the useful lifespan of the products we consume and their persistence in the environment." Prominent examples of offending products are the ubiquitous throwaway water bottles, Teflon-coated dental floss and cotton swabs made with plastic PVC sticks. All are typically used for a matter of seconds or minutes, yet are essentially non-biodegradable and will persist in the environment, sometimes for millennia. ...


Are you asking me to give up my single-use plastic toothpick?

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Wed, Mar 17, 2010
from London Daily Telegraph:
The Biggest Dump in the World
Fifty years ago, most flotsam was biodegradable. Now it is 90 per cent plastic. In 2006, the United Nations Environment Programme estimated that there were 46,000 pieces of floating plastic in every square mile of ocean. With its stubborn refusal to biodegrade, all plastic not buried in landfills - roughly half of it - sweeps into streams and sewers and then out into rivers and, finally, the ocean. Some of it - some say as much as 70 per cent - sinks to the ocean floor. The remainder floats, usually within 20 metres of the surface, and is carried into stable circular currents, or gyres "like ocean ring-roads", says Dr Boxall. Once inside these gyres, the plastic is drawn by wind and surface currents towards the centre, where it steadily accumulates. The world's major oceans all have these gyres, and all are gathering rubbish. Although the North Pacific - bordering California, Japan and China - is the biggest, there are also increasingly prominent gyres in the South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic and the Indian Oceans. Our problems with plastics are only just beginning. ...


Planet Plearth

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Wed, Feb 24, 2010
from Telegraph.co.uk:
New floating garbage patch found in Atlantic Ocean
Researchers have found a high concentration of plastic debris is floating in the Atlantic Ocean north of the Caribbean, months after concerns were raised over a vast patch of rubbish floating in the Pacific Ocean. The study's principal investigator said that the findings were based on more than 64,000 tiny bits of plastic collected over more than 22 years by Sea Education Association undergraduates. Researchers believe surface currents carry the debris to the area between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude and that waves also deliver trash to a spot between Hawaii and California known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.... The Great Pacific Garbage patch was originally discovered in 1997 by Captain Charles Moore. Roughtly the size of Texas, the patch is characterised by exceptionally high concentrations of suspended plastic, chemical sludge, and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. ...


Now kids -- no competing. You're both big enough as it is.

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Mon, Feb 8, 2010
from Der Spiegel:
Global Ocean Protection Measures Have Failed
Thousands of tons of trash are thrown into the sea each year, endangering humans and wildlife. A classified German government report obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE indicates that efforts by the United Nations and the European Union to clean up our oceans have failed entirely. Since the world's oceans are so massive, few people seem to have a problem with dumping waste into them. But plastics degrade at very a slow rate, and huge amounts of them are sloshing around in our oceans. Wildlife consumes small pieces causing many of them to die, since the plastics are full of poisons. And, as experts warn, we've reached a point where it's even getting dangerous for humans to consume seafood... Our oceans have devolved into vast garbage dumps. ...


That fills some need, doesn't it?

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Thu, Jan 7, 2010
from Santa Monica Daily Press:
Researchers set sail to study plastic
Cummins and Eriksen will be skimming the ocean's surface with a plankton net to collect plastic and fish that surface at night to forage for food. Past expeditions have found fish with plastic in their stomachs. Plastics act as magnets for toxic chemicals like PCB. Smaller fish consume plastics. Larger fish like tuna and mahi-mahi then eat those smaller fish, ingesting the toxins, which could ultimately harm humans. "We want to see if there are large concentrations of these chemicals in our food chain, ending up on our dinner plates," she said. Their journey will involve several voyages. The first will launch from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and take them across the Sargasso Sea -- an elongated region in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean roughly 700 miles by 2,000 miles -- to the Azores.... "It will be a honeymoon of sorts," Cummins said. "We got married recently in the middle of a garbage patch so it seemed fitting to make this our honeymoon." ...


If only our honeymoon [with plastic] were over.

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Wed, Dec 23, 2009
from Newsweek:
The Great Pacific Cleanup
Since the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the world's biggest communal garbage dump, was discovered swirling about 1,000 miles north of Hawaii in 1997, scientists and environmentalists have dared to dream if a cleanup might be possible. Consisting of an estimated 3.5 million tons of trash and scattered over an area roughly the size of the continental United States, the garbage comes from countries all over the world, most of it flushed through waterways leading to the ocean.... Now an unlikely partnership between ocean scientists and the waste-management industry is working on ways to clean up the mess... There's no perfect way to fish it all out of the ocean, especially not without harming ocean creatures in the process. ...


As a species we have pissed in the wind, and shat where we sleep.

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Mon, Dec 14, 2009
from Sydney Morning Herald:
Pacific swimmer to be message in a bottle
AS IF swimming 9000 kilometres from Japan to the US is not enough of a challenge, Richard Pain is also planning to plough through the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating mass of plastic junk almost the size of the Northern Territory. "I realise it's completely mad," said the filmmaker, 45, who is selling his Randwick home to raise some of the money needed for the project. "But I'm aware there is a lot of green fatigue in the broader population. This is a way to try and raise awareness by doing something more compelling. It's like trying to do an environmental version of Super Size Me." Mr Pain, a keen ocean swimmer and environmentalist, said he was unfazed by the fact no one had ever managed to swim across the Pacific. ...


Man, this guy is sure living up to his name.

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Tue, Nov 10, 2009
from New York Times:
Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of Trash
Light bulbs, bottle caps, toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks and tiny pieces of plastic, each the size of a grain of rice, inhabit the Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely dispersed trash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas. But one research organization estimates that the garbage now actually pervades the Pacific, though most of it is caught in what oceanographers call a gyre like this one -- an area of heavy currents and slack winds that keep the trash swirling in a giant whirlpool.... PCBs, DDT and other toxic chemicals cannot dissolve in water, but the plastic absorbs them like a sponge. Fish that feed on plankton ingest the tiny plastic particles. Scientists from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation say that fish tissues contain some of the same chemicals as the plastic. The scientists speculate that toxic chemicals are leaching into fish tissue from the plastic they eat. ...


What's that? You want to turn back time?

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Mon, Nov 9, 2009
from McClatchy Newspapers:
As oceans fall ill, Washington bureaucrats squabble
...Every summer a dead zone of oxygen-depleted water the size of Massachusetts forms in the Gulf of Mexico; others have been found off Oregon and in the Chesapeake Bay, Lake Erie and the Baltic and Black seas. Some studies indicate that North Pole seawater could turn caustic in 10 years, and that the Southern Ocean already may be saturated with carbon dioxide....As the grim news mounts, a storm is brewing in Washington, D.C., over who should oversee oceans policies...However, NOAA, the nation's primary ocean agency, which includes the National Ocean Service, the nation's premier science agency for oceans and coasts... is missing from the task force's list...."NOAA is the nation's primary ocean agency," NOAA administrator Lubchenco told the subcommittee. "Our name says it all." ...


In more ways than one.

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Tue, Sep 29, 2009
from London Times:
Third World population controls won't save climate, study claims
The population explosion in poor countries will contribute little to climate change and is a dangerous distraction from the main problem of over-consumption in rich nations, a study has found. It challenges claims by leading environmentalists, including Sir David Attenborough and Jonathon Porritt, that strict birth control is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The study concludes that spending billions of pounds of aid on contraception in the developing world will not benefit the climate because poor countries have such low emissions. It says that Britain and other Western countries should instead focus on reducing consumption of goods, services and energy among their own populations. ...


Door #3: Rich nations should have population controls!

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Tue, Sep 29, 2009
from DC Bureau:
Fish and Paint Chips Part II: The Politics of Ocean Trash
When it comes to reducing garbage in the world's oceans, the political angle is just as important as the scientific, to judge by industry's behavior. On Aug. 18, Seattle voters passed by a 53-47 margin a referendum to overturn a 20-cent fee approved last year by the city council for using plastic bags at supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other public information, the referendum was backed primarily by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the plastics industry trade association, and the 7-11 chain of convenience stores. The ACC made local headlines with its all-out summer media blitz to promote the referendum, ultimately spending $1.4 million before the vote was held. In comparison, the Seattle Green Bag Campaign to support the fee raised less than $100,000. In a press release trumpeting its victory, the ACC argued that whatever its environmental implications, plastic is good for the economy. ...


Sometimes... I just don't think we deserve the earth.

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Thu, Sep 24, 2009
from DC Bureau:
Fish and Paint Chips Part I: The Science of Trash
Recent research has the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concerned that the huge quantities of metal, plastic, paint chips and other man-made debris floating at sea, hundreds and even thousands of miles from land, may be working their way into the American diet. NOAA, a part of the Commerce Department, largely exists to track weather patterns and hurricanes, and its entry into the public health sphere serves as an indication of how severe the problem has become. It is not too much to suggest that millions of seafood lovers might be ingesting the very chemicals that land-based health and safety regulations are designed to keep out of reach. ...


What goes around... comes around.

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Sun, Sep 13, 2009
from Minneapolis Star Tribune, Karen Youso:
Plastic elastic and other confessions of a plastic sinner who tried, for a few days, to go without.
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean floats a mass of plastic waste twice the size of Texas. Acres of bobbing bottles, bags and Barbie shoes, it's where plastic trash comes to rest in the ocean. Actually, it doesn't rest. Despite what we've heard -- that plastic lasts a thousand years -- it doesn't. A recent study reveals that plastic breaks down a lot faster than that, but into toxic elements. To what end, nobody yet knows. Long before it's trash, however, plastic leaches toxins into our bodies (a premise strongly objected to by the FDA and the plastics industry), and nobody knows the long-term consequences of that, either.... I think I hate plastic. I'm going to forgo plastic for six days, a plastic mini-Lent, it might be called, and learn a new way of living. Split with plastic, and worries about the health effects, recycling and pollution all go away. ...


Six days without plastic is like a month without sunshine.

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Wed, Sep 2, 2009
from San Jose Mercury News:
'Pacific Garbage Patch' expedition finds plastic, plastic everywhere
Scientists who returned to the Bay Area this week after an expedition to the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" brought piles of plastic debris they pulled out of the ocean -- soda bottles, cracked patio chairs, Styrofoam chunks, old toys, discarded fishing floats and tangled nets. But what alarmed them most, they said Tuesday, was the nearly inconceivable amount of tiny, confettilike pieces of broken plastic. They took hundreds of water samples between the Farallon Islands near San Francisco and the notorious garbage patch 1,000 miles west of California, and every one had tiny bits of plastic floating in it. And the closer they sailed to the garbage patch, which some researchers have estimated to be twice the size of Texas, the more plastic pieces per gallon they found... crews on the three-week voyage discovered tiny jellyfish eating bits of the plastic debris. The jellyfish are, in turn, eaten by fish like salmon or tuna, which people eat. ...


Planet Plastic

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Sat, Aug 29, 2009
from American Chemical Society, via EurekAlert:
Plastics in oceans decompose, release hazardous chemicals, surprising new study says
In the first study to look at what happens over the years to the billions of pounds of plastic waste floating in the world's oceans, scientists are reporting that plastics -- reputed to be virtually indestructible -- decompose with surprising speed and release potentially toxic substances into the water.... "We found that plastic in the ocean actually decomposes as it is exposed to the rain and sun and other environmental conditions, giving rise to yet another source of global contamination that will continue into the future." He said that polystyrene begins to decompose within one year, releasing components that are detectable in the parts-per-million range.... his team found that when plastic decomposes it releases potentially toxic bisphenol A (BPA) and PS oligomer into the water, causing additional pollution. Plastics usually do not break down in an animal's body after being eaten. However, the substances released from decomposing plastic are absorbed and could have adverse effects. BPA and PS oligomer are sources of concern because they can disrupt the functioning of hormones in animals and can seriously affect reproductive systems. ...


At least we'll eventually be rid of that unsightly Pacific Garbage Patch!

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Fri, Aug 28, 2009
from NSF, via EurekAlert:
Scientists explore 'great Pacific Ocean garbage patch'
Scientists have just completed an unprecedented journey into the vast and little-explored "Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch." On the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX), researchers got the first detailed view of plastic debris floating in a remote ocean region.... Team members began 24-hour sampling periods using a variety of tow nets to collect debris at several ocean depths. "We targeted the highest plastic-containing areas so we could begin to understand the scope of the problem," said Miriam Goldstein of SIO, chief scientist of the expedition. "We also studied everything from phytoplankton to zooplankton to small midwater fish."... "Finding so much plastic there was shocking," said Goldstein. "How could there be this much plastic floating in a random patch of ocean--a thousand miles from land?" ...


Plastic, plastic, everywhere, and not a drop to recycle.

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Fri, Aug 21, 2009
from Mongabay:
Plastic Vortexes Leaching Chemicals into World's Oceans
While scientists have acknowledged the existence of billions of pounds of plastic containers, Styrofoam, and similar waste have created massive oceanic trash vortexes (floating islands of garbage), little is known of the effects of the dissolution of these materials into the water. Recent studies have found that under certain climate conditions, ocean plastic can decompose in under a year, leaching potentially toxic chemicals into the water.... "Most people in the world believe that this plastic is indestructible for a very long time. We are now concerned that plastic pollution is caused by invisible materials. This will have a great effect on marine life." ...


"Invisible materials" like endocrine disruptors, pthalates, methylmercury, or the other heavy metals? Or PCBs?
C'mon, what?

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Sat, Aug 1, 2009
from National Geographic News:
Giant Ocean-Trash Vortex Attracts Explorers
It may lack the allure of the North Pole or Mount Everest, but a Pacific Ocean trash dump twice the size of Texas is this summer's hot destination for explorers. The Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch, situated in remote waters between California and Hawaii, is created by ocean currents that pick up millions of tons of the world's discarded plastic... This summer, two separate expeditions will set sail for the patch to document the scope of the problem and call global attention to disastrous ocean pollution...Follow the Kaisei expedition's progress with an interactive voyage tracker: http://www.projectkaisei.org/ ...


You had me @ "hot"!

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Fri, Jun 19, 2009
from Christian Science Monitor:
The Pacific isn't the only ocean collecting plastic trash
...while the Pacific Ocean has garnered much attention for what some call the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" -- a vast expanse of floating plastic deposited in the middle of the ocean by circulating currents -- the problem doesn't stop there. New research shows that plastic has collected in a region of the Atlantic as well, held hostage by converging currents, called gyres, to form a swirling "plastic soup." And those fragments of plastic could also be present at the other three large gyres in the world's oceans, says Kara Lavender Law, a member of the oceanography faculty at the Sea Education Association (SEA) in Woods Hole, Mass., which conducted the study. ...


Keeping up w/ the plastic garbage Joneses.

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Sun, Jun 7, 2009
from CNN:
Search for downed plane highlights ocean trash problem
The massive amount of garbage in the ocean likely complicates the search for the remains of an Air France flight that went missing Monday near Brazil, oceanographers who spoke with CNN said. Earlier this week, investigators said they had located pieces of the plane in the southern Atlantic Ocean, which might have given them clues to the origin of Air France Flight 447's crash. But on Thursday, Brazilian officials said what they had found was nothing more than run-of-the-mill ocean trash.... Much of the ocean trash is plastic, which means it won't go away for hundreds of years, if ever. And the problem has gotten so bad that soupy "garbage patches" have developed in several locations, called gyres, where ocean currents swirl. One of them is estimated to be the size of Texas. There are about five or six major trash-collecting gyres in the world's oceans, with the most famous located in the Pacific Ocean about midway between North America and Asia... ...


At least the trash is trying to be tidy.

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Sun, May 3, 2009
from Times Online (UK):
Mission to break up Pacific island of rubbish twice the size of Texas
A high-seas mission departs from San Francisco next month to map and explore a sinister and shifting 21st-century continent: one twice the size of Texas and created from six million tonnes of discarded plastic. Scientists and conservationists on the expedition will begin attempts to retrieve and recycle a monument to throwaway living in the middle of the North Pacific.... Because of their tiny size and the scale of the problem, he believes that nothing can be solved at sea. "Trying to clean up the Pacific gyre would bankrupt any country and kill wildlife in the nets as it went." In June the 151 ft brigantine Kaisei (Japanese for Planet Ocean) will unfurl its sails in San Francisco to try to prove Mr Moore wrong. Project Kaisei's flagship will be joined by a decommissioned fishing trawler armed with specialised nets.... The UN's environmental programme estimates that 18,000 pieces of plastic have ended up in every square kilometre of the sea, totalling more than 100 million tonnes. ...


Perhaps we can just DNA-design a superbug that eats plastic. Surely that wouldn't have any unintended consequences.

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Sat, Apr 25, 2009
from London Daily Telegraph:
Drowning in plastic: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of France
...The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has now been tentatively mapped into an east and west section and the combined weight of plastic there is estimated at three million tons and increasing steadily. It appears to be the big daddy of them all, but we do not know for sure. Dr Pearn Niiler of the Scripps Oceanographic Institute in San Diego, the world's leading authority on ocean currents, thinks that there is an even bigger garbage patch in the South Pacific, in the vicinity of Easter Island, but no scientists have yet gone to look. ...


Well that'll balance things out at least.

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Wed, Apr 22, 2009
from Mother Jones:
Plastic? Fantastic
...Inexpensive to make and easy to discard, plastic morphed from an engineering triumph into a global scourge. In 1960, Americans sent 390,000 tons of plastics to the landfill; today we annually trash more than 28.5 million tons—around 11 percent of all municipal waste. Plastic doesn't biodegrade, and the very characteristic that makes it so versatile—its protean ability to be resilient or stiff, soft or hard, opaque or transparent—makes it extremely difficult to recycle efficiently. Even the most common recyclable categories of plastic (No. 1 water bottles, for instance) consist of incompatible polymers with different melting points. In 2007, less than 7 percent of Americans' plastic waste was recycled (mostly milk jugs and water and soda bottles), as opposed to 55 percent of paper. A 2000 survey by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) found that fewer than half of Americans had a positive opinion of the miracle material; 25 percent "strongly believed" that plastic's environmental negatives outweighed its benefits. ...


To top it off, my toy GI Joe shot me yesterday!

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Sun, Apr 12, 2009
from London Guardian:
Eco-warrior sets sail to save oceans from 'plastic death'
In a few weeks, the heir to one of the world's greatest fortunes, David de Rothschild, will set sail across the Pacific - in a boat, the Plastiki, made from plastic bottles and recycled waste. The aim of this extraordinary venture is simple: to focus attention on one of the world's strangest and most unpleasant environmental phenomena: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a rubbish-covered region of ocean, several hundred miles in diameter.... The plastic - most of it swept from coastal cities in Asia and California - is trapped indefinitely in the region by the North Pacific Gyre, a vortex of currents that circulate clockwise around the ocean. Scientists estimate that there is six times more plastic than plankton by weight in the patch and that this is having disastrous ecological consequences. Fish and seabirds mistake plastic for food and choke to death. At the same time, plastics absorb pollutants including PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and pesticides, bringing poisons into the food chain. ...


David is going up against the Goliath of pollution.

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Thu, Apr 9, 2009
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Litter on beaches in UK doubles in 14 years
The 2008 annual survey recorded and removed some 385,659 items of rubbish including plastic bags, sanitary items, fishing nets, cigarette butts and cotton bud sticks from beaches across the UK. The average amount of rubbish found was 2,195 items per kilometre (0.6 miles) -- more than two pieces for every metre (3.3ft) of beach, and more than double the 1,045 items per kilometre picked up during the first annual survey in 1994.... More than a third of the rubbish was generated by the public followed by fishing litter, sewage-related rubbish and debris from shipping. The worse problem was plastic, which accounted for more than half of the litter found. It never breaks down and is a threat to wildlife. ...


It's clear the Great Plastic Continent is not doing its job effectively.

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Sun, Mar 22, 2009
from The Japan Times:
Oceans awash in toxic seas of plastic
Go down to the beach today and you'll find plenty of garbage among the sand but that's nothing compared with the continent-sized whirlpools of lethal waste out there beyond the horizon... Umbrella handles. Pens. Popsicle sticks. Lots and lots of toothbrushes. These are just a few of the items that make up the approximately 13 million sq. km Eastern Garbage Patch, an immense plastic soup in the Pacific Ocean that starts about 800 km off the coast of California and extends westward. Sucked from the coasts of Asia and America by ocean currents, or discarded at sea, plastic debris accumulates there in an ever-growing mass that does not biodegrade and is said to be already larger than the United States. Scientists have long known that plastic in the garbage patch and elsewhere is stuffing the stomachs of seabirds and causing them to starve, suffocating fish and choking marine turtles. But what is now becoming clear is that when pieces of plastic meet other pollutants in the ocean, the results can be even more toxic. That's because, as a growing number of studies are showing, the plastic debris absorbs harmful chemicals from the seawater it floats in, acting like a "pollution sponge" that concentrates those chemicals and poses a different, more insidious threat to marine and other life. ...


Perhaps we're just building a plastic Pangea!

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Sat, Mar 7, 2009
from Yale Environment 360:
The Pacific Garbage Patch
Speaking at the recent TED Conference in California, oceanographer Charles Moore -- who discovered and publicized the huge oceanic gyre of plastic waste known as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" -- outlined the toll taken on marine life by plastic bottles and caps. Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, said that the massive use of plastic bottles -- Americans purchase 2 million plastic bottles every 5 minutes -- is leading to floating swaths of trash that are killing large numbers of seabirds and contaminating fish. Hundreds of thousands of albatross chicks die in the Pacific every year when their parents pluck bottle caps out of the sea -- thinking they are food -- and feed them to their offspring, Moore said. As the bottles and caps break down, they turn into plastic pellets that are ubiquitous in the Pacific "garbage patch," which is twice as large as Texas. One-third of the fish sampled by Moore's foundation contained plastic pellets in their stomachs, he said, adding that the pellets accumulate extremely high levels of so-called persistent organic pollutants. The solution, he said, is to change the world's "throwaway culture" and contain plastic waste on land. ...


New for Christmas '09: The Pacific Garbage Patch Dolls -- made from garbage!

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Sat, Mar 7, 2009
from Montreal Gazette:
The Styrofoam dilemma
It's in your plastic cutlery, it's under your meat, it's the lid on your latte. And it's in your world -- for at least 200 years longer than you will be -- clogging up storm drains and landfills. So why is this tenacious product, better known by its trademark, Styrofoam, still being used to wrap everything from green peppers to sirloin steaks?...Some numbers: - According to the French ministry of ecology and sustainable development, more than 14 million tons of polystyrene are produced every year around the world. Given its light weight -- Styrofoam is 95-per-cent air -- the volume it represents is huge. - Americans throw away an estimated 25 billion Styrofoam cups every year -- or about 82 cups per person. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says of the 3 million tons of polystyrene produced in the U.S., 2.3 million tons end up in landfills, with much of the remainder finding its way into waterways. - Indeed, so-called "white pollution" is the most common form of marine debris and costs local governments millions in storm-drain cleanup costs. ...


What's the dilemma? Just stop using it!

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Fri, Feb 27, 2009
from Scientific American:
The Great Garbage Patch
In 1997 Captain Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, set sail from Hawaii and discovered, in a remote part of the North Pacific, an island -- made of plastic. Moore measured about 300,000 tiny pieces of plastic per square kilometer back then, but a decade later there are approximately 2.3 million pieces of plastic per square kilometer. What is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now the size of the United States, according to Moore.... The plastic never degrades, but sunlight and wave friction break it into tiny particles, smaller than five millimeters, that remain suspended in the water. Holly Bamford, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says it's likely that filter feeders like clams or jellyfish are eating the plastic, which may prove dangerous all the way up the food chain. Ongoing studies will try to determine the patch's impact. ...


That's no patch -- that's a continent!

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Fri, Jan 30, 2009
from MauiTime Weekly (HI):
The great garbage swirl
This dry, windless area is dominated by the Northern Pacific Gyre, a wind current that encircles an area twice the size of the continental United States. This ribbon of wind traps floating debris, mostly plastic, in a perpetual clockwise swirl. Part of this massive patch sits between Hawaii and the Mainland. Rich Owen of the Environmental Cleanup Coalition, a Maui-based organization that is launching the beginnings of a cleanup effort for the area, said he first heard of the gyre from a friend. "Literally my stomach just started getting in knots," the scuba instructor says. "I felt ill."... "I actually saw a fish shit a piece of plastic when I was in Bali," he says.... Yet you can't see it in satellite photos, according to Algalita.com, the Web site of the organization for which Moore conducts research, because the debris is more "soup" than continent. Instead of forming a trash island, a literal wasteland on the surface, plastic fragments permeate the sea to great depths. And researchers say it doubles in size every time they go out there, which is on average every two years. ...


This "tragedy of the commons" has become an "embarrassment of the commons" for humanity.

ApocaDoc
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Sun, Jan 25, 2009
from Calgary Herald (Canada):
More plastic than plankton in Pacific Ocean
At least 80 per cent of the plastic in the ocean originated from the land. Thousands of cargo containers fall overboard in stormy seas each year. In 2002, 33,000 blue-and-white Nike basketball shoes were spilled off the coast of Washington. Plastic in the ocean acts like sponges attracting neuro-toxins like mercury and pyrethroids, insecticides, carcinogens such as PCBs, DDT and PBDE (the backbone of flame retardants), and man-made hormones like progesterone and estrogen that at high levels induce both male and female reproductive parts on a single animal. Japanese scientists found [plastic nuggets] with concentrations of poisons listed above as high as one million times their concentrations in the water as free-floating substances. Each year, a million sea birds and 100,000 sharks, turtles, dolphins and whales die from eating plastic.... Currently, there is six times more plastic than plankton floating in the middle of the Pacific. ...


Twice as much I could handle, even three times, but gosh, six times as much plastic as plankton? Maybe I should start getting worried?

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Dec 16, 2008
from Forbes, via CBC:
Inside the world's superdumps
The largest garbage dump in the world is roughly twice the size of the continental U.S. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a continent-sized constellation of discarded shoes, bottles, bags, pacifiers, plastic wrappers, toothbrushes and every other type of trash imaginable, floating in the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Hawaii and San Francisco.... Truckloads of printers, fax machines, hard drives and all kinds of defunct electronics arrive daily in Guiyu from warehouses in the port of Nanhai, where the imported waste comes ashore in sea-going containers. Roughly half these computers and electronic components are recycled; the rest are dumped. Nobody knows for sure, but evidence suggests most of the discarded components are dumped locally, despite the substantial risk that the waste, laden with toxic lead, mercury and cadmium, will contaminate local soil and water supplies.... Old ships are, more often than not, chock full of toxic chemicals, like insulation with asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls in hoses, foam insulation and paint. In addition, most ships contain huge quantities of heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium. If ships are not properly dismantled, they contaminate the area where they are broken down. ...


Garbage? It's out of sight, out of mind, for me. Just toss it and forget it!

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Nov 18, 2008
from Canwest News:
Continents of garbage adrift in oceans
Scientists are growing alarmed about massive floating dumps that are believed to be building up in centres of nearly all of the world's oceans. The best-known patch, known by some as the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, consists of an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic debris that has accumulated inside a circular vortex of currents known as the North Pacific gyre. Environmentalists call it the Pacific Trash Vortex....An estimated 100,000 marine mammals die each year from eating or being entangled in debris -- mostly plastic -- in the North Pacific alone. Hence the vortex's other nickname: the Plastic Killing Fields. ...


Maybe we should spend less time making up nicknames and more time finding solutions!

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Nov 6, 2008
from Times Online (UK):
Recycling waste piles up as prices collapse
Thousands of tonnes of rubbish collected from household recycling bins may have to be stored in warehouses and former military bases to save them from being dumped after a collapse in prices. Collection companies and councils are running out of space to store paper, plastic bottles and steel cans because prices are so low that the materials cannot be shifted. Collections of mixed plastics, mixed paper and steel reached record levels in the summer but the "bottom fell out of the market" and they are now worthless. The plunge in prices was caused by a sudden fall in demand for recycled materials, especially from China, as manufacturers reduced their output in line with the global economc downturn. ...


Supply and demand may require that we demand that we recycle.

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Oct 28, 2008
from Honolulu KHNL:
Researcher warns: "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" is out of control
An environmental warning tonight from the man who discovered a vortex of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean. It's twice the size of Texas, and still growing... Moore discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997 while sailing in the Trans Pacific Yacht Race to Hawaii. Since then, the sea captain says the plastic pollution pit has more than quadrupled.... Moore says the plastic problem has become so severe, there's 46 times more plastic as there is plankton. ...


Once sea levels obliterate our land, we can go live on the Garbage Patch!

ApocaDoc
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Sat, Aug 23, 2008
from WiredPRnews:
Where no cruise ship will ever go: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
In the North Pacific Ocean, in a remote area known as the North Pacific Gyre, are two giant floating "islands," each the size of Texas. They are not made of organic materials. They are made of plastic. The "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" or "Trash Vortex" is at least 20 years of accumulated junk cast off by humans, 90 percent of it plastics. Only 20 percent comes from ships and oil platforms at sea; 80 percent comes from land. Ocean currents carry debris from the east coast of Asia to the center of the gyre in a year or less, and debris from the west coast of North America in about five years. ...


Who knows, this could work out:
We may end up with a "garbage bridge" between California and Asia!

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Jun 3, 2008
from Daily Galaxy:
Is There a Solution to the "Continent of Plastic" that Pollutes the Pacific?
Are there really 'continents', or massive floating garbage patches residing in the Pacific? [T]hese unsightly patches are reportedly killing marine life and releasing poisons that enter the human food chain, as well. [T]hese plastic patches certainly aren't solid surfaced islands that you could build a house on... Ocean currents have collected massive amounts of garbage into a sort of plastic "soup" where countless bits of discarded plastic float intertwined just beneath the surface.... The enormous Texas-sized plastic patch is estimated to weigh over 3 million tons. ...


I wonder where Crawford is, in this Texas-sized gyre?
"Henh-hehn. Time to clear me some brush."

ApocaDoc
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Mon, May 19, 2008
from Toronto Globe and Mail:
A sea of synthetic trash
"...The United Nations estimates that each square kilometre of ocean carries 13,000 pieces of debris, but this area in the north Pacific has something like 330,000 pieces per square kilometre. Now, armed with proof that the plastic is making its way into the human food chain, experts warn the existence of the garbage patch and its far-reaching implications could be just as imminent as the worldwide food shortage and the effects of global warming." ...


Perhaps refugees from regions devastated by global warming could live here.

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Mar 27, 2008
from BBC (UK):
Plastic and toxic magnetism
Studies suggest billions of microscopic plastic fragments drifting underwater are concentrating pollutants like DDT.... "We know that plastics in the marine environment will accumulate and concentrate toxic chemicals from the surrounding seawater and you can get concentrations several thousand times greater than in the surrounding water on the surface of the plastic."... According to Dr Thompson, the plastic particles "act as magnets for poisons in the ocean".... In a typical sample of sand, one-quarter of the total weight may be composed of plastic particles.... "The thing that's most worrisome about the plastic is its tenaciousness, its durability. It's not going to go away in my lifetime or my children's lifetimes. ...


How can plastic be a magnet for toxins? We've heard of "animal magnetism," but
"synthetic magnetism"?

ApocaDoc
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Sun, Feb 17, 2008
from SeaReport, via Youtube:
Plastic in the Ocean video, from 2001
...


The researchers found 6 pounds of plastic fragments, for each 1 pound of zooplankton. In 2001! That's a lot of empty calories... and pthalates, and endocrine disrupters..

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