Wednesday, October 13, 2010

JBI's P2O marine division provides viable solution for Ocean's waste plastic problem

The Ocean's Plastic Pollution
The Island of Waste Floating in the Northern Pacific.

Jan 11, 2010 Colette McEnery-Lane

Great Pacific Garbage Patch - myecoation
Trash Vortex, the Eastern Garbage Patch and the Asian Trash Trail are all used to describe the island of rubbish, floating in the Pacific Ocean.

It could be described as the world's largest rubbish dump. It is an area twice as big as the state of Texas where plastic rubbish congregates. It sits out in the centre of the Northern Pacific gyre between California and Hawaii. It is made up of plastic bottles, toothbrushes, old fishing nets, printer cartridges, plastic bags and many other familiar plastic items. Any piece of plastic that is abandoned, dropped in the street, on a roadside or in a playground will more likely than not contribute to this ever growing pile of waste.

Trash Vortex
Once out at sea this plastic gets caught up on the ocean currents. These currents push the debris into the low energy centre of the gyre, the result being a huge patch of floating garbage twice the size of the state of Texas. This island floats in the North Pacific sub-tropical gyre that circulates clockwise in a slow spiral. Winds are light so once the plastic has reached this area it will stay for many years. Some of the plastic in this area has been there for over forty years. As a consequence, this waste pile is ever growing.

This island of rubbish is situated between California and Hawaii. This is the breeding ground of many of the world's rarest marine mammals and sea birds. The plastic invades their habitat and endangers their lives.

Implications of the Garbage Patch
The plastic has a direct impact on all wildlife that shares its environment with this artificial floating island. It can lead to deformities in marine life. A young turtle can become entangled in a plastic ring and then, unable to free itself, it will spend the rest of its life with this plastic ring wrapped around it. As the turtle grows the plastic will cause restrictions and the shell will mutate.

The Laysan Albatross is also under threat from the plastic. These albatross use Midway Island as their breeding ground. The adults scan the ocean bringing back food for their young. The problem being, that more often than not, they are bringing back plastic which they have mistaken for food and are feeding this to their young instead. Every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die from starvation with their stomachs packed full of plastic debris: bottle tops, cigarette lighters, toys and toothbrushes.

Scientists in the Algalita Marine research foundation reveal in their 2001 Bill Macdonald documentary "Synthetic Sea" that for every kilogram of naturally occurring plankton there are six kilograms of plastic particles in this area of the ocean. Plastic does not disappear; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces that increase in toxicity. These particles enter the food chain as they are consumed by plankton feeders.

Read on
The Great Pacific or Eastern Garbage Patch
A Look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
10 Ways to Reduce Plastic Use to Help the Oceans
As plastics break down they leach toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A into the sea. According to the article "Plastic Breaks Down in the Ocean, After All - And Fast" written by Carolyn Barry for National Geographic News (August 20, 2009): "Bisphenol A (BPA) has been shown to interfere with the reproductive systems of animals." Plastic creates chemical pollution: "The pollutants are likely to be more concentrated in areas heavily littered with plastic debris, such as vortices."

In an article published by Science Daily (August 20 2009) entitled: "Plastics In Oceans Decompose, Release Hazardous Chemicals," lead researcher Katsuhiko Saido Ph.D states: "we found that plastic decomposes as it is exposed to the rain and sun... giving rise to yet another source of global contamination."

Prevention Beats the Cure
Scientists continue to explore ways to clear the contamination in this area although so far no effective solution has been found. This leaves the problem open. It remains the responsibility of each individual to ensure that plastic waste is disposed of correctly and therefore does not add to the ever growing Trash Vortex.

Read more at Suite101: The Ocean's Plastic Pollution: The Island of Waste Floating in the Northern Pacific.

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