22 June 2008

Sea of Trash - Rise Above Plastics

Sad to think that all the beach cleanups in the world barely make a dent in the sea of trash fouling our oceans and coastlines.
...“As I gazed from the deck at the surface of what ought to have been a pristine ocean,” Moore later wrote in an essay for Natural History, “I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic. It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments.” ... The Garbage Patch wasn’t merely a cosmetic problem, nor merely a symbolic one, Moore contended. For one thing, it was a threat to wildlife. Scientists estimate that every year at least a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die when they entangle themselves in debris or ingest it. ...Plastic polymers, as has long been known, absorb hydrophobic chemicals, including persistent organic pollutants, or POPS, like dioxin, P.C.B.’s and D.D.T. ... since such toxins concentrate, or “bioaccumulate,” in fatty tissues as they move up the chain of predation — so that the “contaminant burden” of a swordfish is greater than a mackerel’s and a mackerel’s greater than a shrimp’s — this plastic could be poisoning people too....

As nearly everyone I spoke to about marine debris agrees, the best way to get trash out of our waterways is, of course, to keep it from entering them in the first place. But experts disagree about what that will take. The argument, like so many in American politics, pits individual freedom against the common good. “Don’t you tell me I can’t have a plastic bag,” Seba Sheavly, the marine-debris researcher, says, alluding to plastic-bag bans like the one San Francisco enacted last year. “I know how to dispose of it responsibly.” But proponents of bag bans insist that there is no way to use a plastic bag responsibly. Lorena Rios, an environmental chemist at the University of the Pacific, says: “If you go to Subway, and they give you the plastic bag, how long do you use the plastic bag? One minute. And how long will the polymers in that bag last? Hundreds of years.”...
So here's something you can do - take the Surfrider Rise Above Plastics pledge:

I commit to do my part to rise above plastics and protect the world's oceans, waves and beaches from plastic pollution. I will do this by:

- Using reusable bottles for my water and other drinks. By using just one reusable bottle, I will keep 167 single-use plastic bottles from entering the environment.

- Using cloth bags for groceries and other purchases. For each reusable bag I use, I will save approximately 400 plastics from being used.

- Recycling the plastic bags and bottles I already have. For every thirteen plastic bags I don't use, I will save enough petroleum to drive a car one mile.

Then at least there will be a little less trash to clean up.

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