The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: words from its “founder”…

Through all 292 posts from Mom Goes Green my most popular post (by far!) discussed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch… the sickening, swirling area of approximately seven million tons of plastic debris and waste floating in the Pacific Ocean that is roughly twice the size of Texas (and some say, twice the size of the entire U.S.).  Some even believe it is worse than we originally expected.

It troubles me to no end.  Recently Charles Moore, the unfortunate “founder” of this garbage patch, was a guest on David Letterman.  While this isn’t the most scientific forum I can think of, if it gets the message out to millions of viewers, well, that works for me!  Take a look at the interview, including Part II.

He also shares some of his heartbreaking discoveries in this presentationhow can we turn a blind eye to this undeniable destruction?

So what do we do about all of this? We need, I repeat, NEED to decrease our dependence on plastics. While we can’t un-do the damage that has been done, we can help slow the ongoing contribution of this disgusting, harmful garbage that is polluting our oceans, waterways, wildlife, fish and, ultimately… US!

Recently our family also visited a beach on Lake Erie.  While the kids were playing on the beach and I looked for sea glass (okay… in this case, LAKE glass) I was also heartbroken to find more plastics than anything else washed ashore.  Sadly, what I encountered was bottles, bottle caps, lighters, pens, tampon applicators, plastic bags, combs, brushes, and plastic toys… this isn’t a narrative on Cleveland, this is an example of human neglect for our planet… everyday, everywhere.

Please, think about what you are buying. Think about where it goes when it is discarded.  Think about the irreversible damage that is created.  We can do better… a lot better.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch… worse than expected?

garbage-ptchA few months ago, I wrote a post about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch… the sickening, swirling area of approximately seven million tons of plastic debris and waste floating in the Pacific that is roughly twice the size of Texas (and some say, twice the size of the entire US).

It swirls through the ocean between the continental US and Japan, and contains everything from plastic bags to Legos to footballs.  One fifth is believed to come from trash dumped from ships and oil rigs, and the rest comes from land and all of the plastics we discard on a daily basis.

I certainly got my fair share of comments and emails.  Some readers were appalled (just like I am), while others were skeptical. One particularly fine gent emailed me and wanted to know why there weren’t pictures of this “plastic island” that everyone keeps raging about and why I’m making false statements.

Well, I first think he’s taking terms a bit too literal!  It’s not an actual island where you can dock your yacht, Mr. Crabby Pants!  This garbage patch is an AREA, where the vortex of ocean currents collects all of our discarded trash.   It’s that simple.  The ocean eventually breaks down the plastics into little bits and tiny pieces of plastic that marine life mistakes for plankton (their primary food source). It floats on both the surface to 100 feet below the surface… so NO!  No “island”, but we shouldn’t falsely believe that this is not an issue.

Now, a new expedition to study the Garbage Patch, led by a group of University of California scientists, states that they found much more debris than they expected and are concerned that the “patch” may be much larger than originally thought.

It’s hard to imagine what we can do to prevent this… even experts don’t have the answers.  The only hope is to decrease our dependency on so many plastics, improve our recycling practices and simply change our overall behavior… and clean the mess that already exists.  We must find ways to decrease the plastic trash that reaches the oceans and waterways… period.

The most disturbing part?  There is said to be another patch in the southern hemisphere… and it’s four times larger.

Up, up and away the balloons go…

This weekend our family enjoyed a fabulous day of art and culture at an event called Parade the Circle.  It literally brings art and culture to life when participants create interpretations of famous works of art and their artists through costumes, music and some of the most creative props I have ever seen.

balloon-pileAfter the parade the activities continued in a large park and we were enjoying the event until I noticed them dismantling the six enormous balloon arches that were used in the parade.  By ones, twos, (SEVENS!), groups of balloons took to the sky… and I simply thought “Oh no.  Someone make them stop!”

I’ve always been leery of balloons for the simple fear of my kids choking on one of them.  But there is also an on-going debate about the environmental effect of balloons, and that is what concerned me with this event.

The balloon industry argues that, because they are made of latex, they biodegrade at the same rate as an oak leaf and have no effect on the environment.  But environmentalists will disagree that the concern isn’t so much about their biodegradability, but the effect they have on animals that mistake them for food and consume them once they burst or come back down to ground.  Animals also become entangled in the strings and ribbons that are still attached.

Studies of marine animals that have beached themselves have turned up digestive systems blocked with deflated or partial deflated balloons, suggesting that they actually beached themselves to get out of their painful misery.  That’s all I need to hear.

While I’m not suggesting that we all swear off  balloons (because my kids would definitely be bummed!) I am suggesting that we take responsibility in just four simple ways:balloonbird2

  • Keep balloons indoors
  • Never purposely release them into the sky
  • When they are outdoors, weight them down to prevent “escape” and
  • Detach the strings and simply dispose of them properly when you’re finished with them

Everyone loves a parade and every kid loves a balloon, but what goes up must come down, and it’s a landing that can have a harsh and destructive reality.

Welcome to Plastic Island: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The other day I talked about my frustration over seeing an excessive amount of ‘plastic bag trash’ littering one of our favorite Cleveland lakeside parks.

I feel I would be remiss without mentioning the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  I was honestly surprised by how many of my friends had not heard of it before, but it’s something I cannot stop thinking about.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is essentially seven million tons of floating plastic waste, roughly twice the size of Texas (and some say, twice the size of the entire US).  It swirls through the ocean between the continental US and Japan, and contains everything from plastic bags to Legos to footballs.  One fifth is believed to come from trash dumped from ships and oil rigs, and the rest comes from land and all of the plastics we discard on a daily basis.

Take a look, and see if you can keep from feeling just a little bit unsettled.

And if you want to know more detail…

The problem is this… the plastics break down into small pieces of debris, pollute the ocean and beaches, disturb the eco-system and literally become food for marine life, because they can’t distinguish between what is “real” food and what is our trash.  In fact, the amount of plastic trash in this area is six times greater than the amount of plankton (this area’s most abundant food source).  This “mistake” costs them their life.  And think about what happens if you consume a fish whose diet consisted primarily of plastics… it makes me shudder.

The next time you think of tossing away some plastics… stop… and really think”.

(Additional post:  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: words from its “founder”)

(Additional post:  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch… worse than expected?)

This post was also re-published, with permission, at The Reef Tank.