Justice at Sea: Can Dolphins & Whales Sue?
NASA Images Reveals a "Doorway" Structure

Are There Really 'Continents' of Floating Garbage?

Trashpattern_2Since stories have started surfacing more recently, many have wondered, if the rumors are true. Are there really 'continents', or massive
floating garbage patches residing in the pacific ocean? Apparently, the rumors are true, and these unsightly patches are reportedly
killing marine life and releasing poisons that enter the human food chain, as well. However, before you start imagining a plastic version of Maui, keep in mind that these plastic patches certainly aren'tsolid 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. Indeed, the human race has really made its mark. One enormous plastic patch is estimated to weigh over 3 million tons altogether and cover an area roughly twice the size of Texas.

Plastic_ocean_trash_5

But if there is an unfathomably massive collection of plastic junk out there, then why doesn't everyone already know about it, and why aren't we doing something about it? Well, there are several reasons. First, no one is keen to claim responsibility for these monstrosities, which exists in one of the most remote spots on the planet. It's easier to ignore than to deal with, at least in the short term. Most of the
plastic is floating just below the surface where explorers, researchers, and scientists can get a good close-up view, but it is nearly impossible to see the massive quantities of submerged trash in
photographs taken from great distances. This makes it easier for naysayers to disregard the problem as a mere myth, in spite of all of the well-documented research to the contrary. Clean up seems nearly
impossible at this point, so even those who are well aware of the situation have adopted the famous ostrich cliche of burying their heads in the sand. Even so, this polluted, chemical filled junk is finding it's way onto our dinner tables.

Sadly, marine researcher Charles Moore at the Algalita Marina Research Foundation in Long Beach says there’s no practical fix for the problem. He has been studying the massive patch for the past 10 years, and said the debris is to the point where it would be nearly impossible to extract.

"Any attempt to remove that much plastic from the oceans - it boggles the mind," Moore said from Hawaii, where his crew is docked. "There's just too much, and the ocean is just too big."

The trash collects in this remote area, known as the North Pacific Gyre, due to a clockwise trade wind that encircles the Pacific Rim. According to Moore the trash accumulates the same way bubbles clump at the center of hot tub.

Ian Kiernan, the Australian founder of Clean Up the World, started his environmental campaign two decades ago after being shocked by the incredible amount of rubbish he saw on an around-the-world solo yacht race. He'll says he’ll never be able the wipe the atrocious site from his memory.

"It was just filled with things like furniture, fridges, plastic containers, cigarette lighters, plastic bottles, light globes, televisions and fishing nets," Kiernan says. "It's all so durable it floats. It's just a major problem."

Kiernan says it’s killing wildlife in a vicious cycle. Holding an ashtray filled with colorful pieces of plastic he told The Sydney Morning Herald, "this is the contents of a fleshy-footed shearwater's stomach. They go to the ocean to fish but there ain't no fish - there's plastic. They then regurgitate it down the necks of their fledglings and it kills them. After the birds decompose, the plastic gets washed back into the ocean where it can kill again. It's a form of ghost fishing, where it goes on and on."

A Dutch study in the North Sea of fulmar seabirds concluded 95 per cent of the birds had plastic in their stomachs. More than 1600 pieces were found in the stomach of one bird in Belgium.

The United Nations Environment Program says plastic is accountable for the deaths of more than a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals every year.

Since his first encounter with the gyre in 1997, Moore created the Algalita Marine Research Foundation to help study the problem. Canadian filmmaker Ian Connacher joined Moore last year to film the garbage patch for his documentary, I Am Plastic.

"The most menacing part is those little bits of plastic start looking like food for certain animals, or the filter feeders don't have any choice, they just pick them up," noted Connacher.

Perhaps an even bigger problem is hiding beneath the surface of the islands of garbage. Greenpeace reports that about 70 per cent of the plastic that makes it to the ocean sinks to the bottom, where it then smothers marine life on the ocean floor. Dutch scientists have found 600,000 tons of discarded plastic on the bottom of the North Sea alone.

A study by the Japanese geochemist Hideshige Takada and his colleagues at Tokyo University in 2001 found that plastic polymers soak up the resilient poisons such as DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls. The researchers found that non-water-soluble toxic chemicals can be found in plastic in levels as high as a million times their concentration in water. As small pieces of plastic are mistaken for fish eggs and other food by marine life, these toxins end up at the dinner table. But even without the extra toxins, eating plastic is hazardous to health.

It is estimated that 80 per cent of plastic found at sea is washed out from the land. The journal Science last year predicted seafood stocks would collapse by 2048 if overfishing and pollution continued. If the seafood stocks collapse, a lot of humans will follow. So, is there anything we can do to prevent this?

Greenpeace says embracing the three Rs - reduce, re-use and recycle - would help tackle the problem. Plastic recycling is lagging well behind paper and cardboard. Part of the reason is because many people aren’t even sure what recycling options exist in their area. But there are other challenges for plastic recycling too. Some plastics release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, and are more expensive to recycle than to simply create a new product from petrochemicals.

The widespread use of bioplastics could largely reduce the amount of plastic strewn around the world. Traditional petrochemical-based plastics are non-degradable and non-renewable; degradable plastic breaks into smaller pieces in UV light but remains plastic. Then there are two kinds of biodegradable plastic that break down in compost - one from a petrochemical resource, the other from a renewable resource such as corn or wheat, which is known as bioplastic. Bioplastic is by far the most environmentally friendly option. Dr Katherine Dean, of the CSIRO, says corporate firms are now becoming increasingly interested in bioplastics.

"When oil prices soared in 2005, that changed a lot of people's perspective, because bioplastic became quite cost-competitive," she says. "All of a sudden it wasn't just about doing the right thing."

The company Plantic Technologies, has developed biodegradable plastic for everything from food and beverage packaging to medical, agricultural and sporting applications. The chief executive of Plantic, Grant Dow, says once composted, the plastic would become nothing more than carbon dioxide and water.

"For all intents and purposes, it looks like plastic and feels like plastic and does the same thing as plastic in the application," he says.

"It will only biodegrade in the presence of heat, moisture and bacteria, so it will sit in your cupboard pretty much indefinitely, but when the bacteria get to it in compost, that's it. It's gone."

While parts of our oceans have already become inhospitable soups of plastic and plankton, we can at least mitigate the future consequences by making smart individual choices. Experts say the best way to mitigate the damage down the road is by buying less products that contain plastics or plastic packaging, recycling, lobbying for safer bio-degradable plastics, and by purchasing reusable cloth grocery bags among other strategies. 

Posted by Rebecca Sato

Related Galaxy post:

500 Billion Tons of Prehistoric Organic Matter May Massively Accelerate ‘Global Warming’

Sources:

http://www.smh.com.au/news/environment/the-plastic-killing-fields/2007/12/28/1198778702627.html
http://www.cleanup.org.au/au/
http://oceans.greenpeace.org/en/the-expedition/news/trashing-our-oceans
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/10/30/MNT5T1NER.DTL
http://www.physorg.com/news112248742.html
http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/

Comments

Hey wait, I can tell everyone I discovered this and get all of the lefties believing it like I did global warming! I may be able to score another Nobel prize out of those suckers!

Here's a video made by a group called Cryptic Moth Productions about this situation. Not just pictures but a 12 minute video of it:

http://www.crypticmoth.com/Alphabet_Soup.wmv

To Galaxsee who posted this:

More "Greenie"Leftist Propaganda, Designed to scare the plastic diapers . . . "

You're a fool. Don't waste other people's time espousing your ignorance. Learn to shut up. That can be your contribution to ridding the world of some garbage.

Typical leftist response, attack the person! If you do not drink the koolaid you are a fool. There is more than one side to all issues, if you cannot keep an open mind, you have lost the battle. All sides must work to get this fixed, you cannot just talk, you have to do something (besides bad mouthing others) to get things done.

Great video, (Cryptic Moth Productions, alphabet soup) not "Continents" of trash, mostly bouys and nets spread out over a large area. I love how the crews groceries are in plastic bags and cokes have plastic ring holders and the way they beat the fish over the head that they catch.

"These aren't actually 'islands' floating above the sea; they are like oil slicks spreading across the surface, but dissolved plastics instead of oil. Satellites cannot photograph the regions from space because the plastics do not reflect light."

Ha! Did you learn this at the Alarmist Environazi Libtard Academy of Physics? Isn't that where they teach that fire doesn't melt steel?

No sources were cited in this article - and there's a good reason why.

An impromptu web search reveals that the author, Rebecca Sato, has conducted some poor research to back up her allegations.

She mis-quotes people, wrongly names organizations, and uses her personal conjecture rather than "facts".

This constantly resurfacing urban legend article is pure rubbish. The false story is itself a massive contributor to the greenies carbon "foot print" due to hot air, wasted bandwidth and wasted electricity.

Let's pause from our irrational fit of moral outrage for a moment and ask a couple of questions. First, why are there no pictures of this "continent of garbage"? Excuses range from, the garbage is way out at sea, to it is partly submegred, to the plastic is disolved(!???).

Fact, the Pacific ocean is plied by satellites, planes and ships on a daily basis. If a massive garbage eddy existed, they would have a picture of it! Google Earth pictures can spot individual humans and NASA satellites can photograph .5 degree ocean temperature variations and penetrate deep below the surface. If there was ANY sizable collection of garbage out there, it would be photographed and the likes of Green Peace would be jamming the pictures down our collective throats. Yet, no such picture exists. Isn't that bizarre? Isn't weird that with all our technology we can't produce a single picture of even a small continent of garbage? We have "pictures" of UFOs and Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster but, no garbage???? Isn't it odd that there isn't even a blurry photoshopped fake being presented as evidence of this "continent of garbage"?

I have personally come across many current eddies with islands of seaweed trapped in them, The seaweed can be a couple of feet thick and is sometimes ten miles across. They are decent sized islands, typically referred to as rafts. But, there is little or no garbage! None. For an ocean with a mysterious "continent of garbage" can't someone even get a picture of an island of garbage? An island just a few miles across would make a most impressive picture. Where is it?

Yes, there is a lot of garbage in the oceans. Plying the oceans one sees flotsam an jetsam even in the most remote areas. A visit to any beach will clearly demonstrate that fact. But THERE ARE NO CONTINENTS OF GARBAGE! There aren't even medium sized islands of garbage.

THIS STORY IS RUBBISH!!!!!

Rubish - Watch the video and all your questions will be answered. Again - do your research. Don't spew your garbage until you know what your talking about.

what about Atlantic ocean, any pollution there too? I think if US is wise enough not to make chaos is this world (like war in Iraq), then the world would be a better place. Spend that billions of dollars on this ocean cleaning. Maybe other countries would follow this good step.

this is the same old man made G*** we need to change our whole world and lives on the words of some bloggers trying to make some kind of name for them-selfs if this was happening due to us the USA dont you think the tree huggers and all of those 60's left overs would be all over Bush and his white house? Show us the proof that the big bad old USA is doing this? This is bull!

Whether or not her sources are accurate is irrelevant. It doesn't even matter whether these "continents of trash" actually exist. What does matter is the undeniable fact is that most humans are wasteful consumers who simply don't care about the environment that our future generations will inherit. Rebecca Sato is making people think about environmental issues in general, which is something most of us don't consider often enough.

Instead of picking apart this article and flagging it as more leftist greenie propaganda, why can't we all just look at the facts that DO exist? Most plastics we use are made from petrochemicals and degradable materials that aren't any better. This has been a huge problem, worldwide, for decades.

In a lot of cases it's impossible to avoid the use of plastics, but it's completely possible to recycle and reuse. It all boils down to laziness, which is a FAR larger issue, in my opinion.

"Even so, this polluted, chemical filled junk is finding it’s way onto our dinner tables."

Please correct that sentence: it should be "its" not "it's".

Thanks

Would a refrigerator float? I thought it would sink to the ocean surface?

"Posted by: nobody of consiquence"

While you're at it, it's "consequence" not "consiquence".

Would a refrigerator float? I thought it would sink to the ocean floor?

@Steve - The video is crap it blathers on and on for more than ten minutes and after all their work they only have a bin or two of garbage to show for it. No continent. No island. Not even a shipping container like the ones that I have encountered and photographed in the open ocean. They didn't even have a beer fermentation tank like this http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/highlands_and_islands/7164220.stm
Your video evidence shows no more pollution than is evidenced by the litter on the side of a highway. Yes, there is far more in the ocean but, THERE IS NO CONTINENT OR ISLAND!

@Nobody of Consiquence - Rebeca Sato is not making people think. She is making people have a knee jerk reaction to a fallacious story. It isn't much different than me publishing an article that claims that the people of Somecrapistan are making baby oil from real babies. It's a complete fabrication!

There are only seven continents on this planet and NONE OF THEM ARE MADE OF GARBAGE! This article on the other hand...

“It is estimated that 80 per cent of plastic found at sea is washed out from the land.” A little more info here please!!! How about from what countries?!?! I know we here in the United States of America do not have our coastlines lined with trash that just falls into the oceans. I’m sure there is litter there that unfortunately blows out. What percentage of that is part of these “continents”? Sad to say though that our rivers are used as dumping grounds. How much of that actually makes it out to the oceans? Most is well stuck along the shores, isn’t it? Or is a lot of this trash washed out from the interior of our country by rivers? As Tim had said, people like he and I don’t contribute to this (directly at least). Our recycling bin is full each week. Old appliances go to the curb for proper pickup and recycling. If a gumwrapper falls from my hand, I chase it to dispose of it properly. There is zero litter out there directly contributed by me (and my family, who share the same love of this planet and country). Nothing flies out my car window either, and if I toss a plastic grocery bag into the trash, it's double knotted first! I do my best with the knowledge I have. Back to my first question. Is it known where it’s all actually coming from? How much from which countries or continents? I hope it turns out that the USA is a small contributor, as I suspect. To “mustakim”: I don’t think a lot of it is coming from us. Hope someone can answer where it is coming from.

This blog post is a pathetic attempt to cash in on the recent flurry of news and articles on Digg. It's disgraceful. This author basically copy/pasted stuff from around the net hurriedly so she could get links. The sad part is that this article blows. She could have written something good.

For those wondering why there are no pictures, contrary to what this blog says, there are NOT continents of floating garbage. Most of the stuff is tiny and suspended in the water, not floating on top. They use trawlers to get it out and it looks like soup. Like those pictures of the krill. It looks like krill sometimes.

See this for the real deal.
http://theoystersgarter.com/2007/10/23/why-there-are-no-pictures-of-the-north-pacific-trash-gyre/

Please don't click on any of the adds in this blog. This pathetic waste of time doesn't deserve any remuneration.

For those of you who would like to see some pictures of floating refuse in this area, please visit http://www.algalita.org/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=160

If you would like a preview of a longer video (copyrighted, which prevents YouTube posting), please visit http://www.macdonaldproductions.com/plastics_preview.html

And if you would like to take a ocean voyage to the major Pacific Ocean debris sites, please contact the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (where Captain Charles Moore works) at http://www.algalita.org/breaking_news/gyre-voyage-2007.html

It's easy to ignore this problem because even in the centers of the gyres where it accumulates, the plastic is dispersed, not in a big mounded up pile where you can photograph it.

5 years ago, I sailed from the Panama Canal to Florida. While out of sight of land for several days, we routinely came across bits of floating plastic, but of course they were widely dispersed. The truly impressive and disgusting thing was coming upon tiny islands, which I expected would be like our picture of tropical paradise. When we got close to them, their beaches were covered with layers of thousands of pieces of trash. Truly disgusting and dangerous for the natural wildlife.

@Donald 'Deke' Johanssen - You offer thirteen photographs that supposedly prove the existence of a continent's worth of garbage in the Pacific. But two fishing nets and some miscellaneous plastic and net floats don't even make a boatload of garbage much less an island or continent. All those days of trawling and that's all they could produce?

I have more garbage in my kitchen than you have in the photographs you provide.

Headline - MAN'S KITCHEN CONTAINS CONTINENT OF GARBAGE!!111ELEVENTYONE

ALL cruise liners dump their garbage at sea. They save a lot of money that way.
As soon as they get in to international waters they dump huge bags of trash... sometimes they do it even in the territorial waters just before going to port. It all happens AT NIGHT !!!

I am telling you because I worked on one for a year.

ouch

The biggest problem with plastic in the ocean isn't bottles or old fishing floats. It's the small plastic pellets that are produced by the bulk plastic manufactures and shipped to the producers of the finished plastic items. These pellets are remelted and molded into bottles, straps, VCR cases and every other plastic item you can think of. The pellets are shipped all over the world and tons of the stuff is lost each year (Think of shipping containers full of plastic pellets being lost off container ships). They are mistaken for food by birds and marine life and after it kills the animal, it returns to the sea to kill again. As the pieces become smaller and smaller, the life forms it impacts become more basic to the survival of all ocean life. Plankton and other other "bottom of the food chain" animals could be wiped out if enough of this stuff collects and is consumed by them. Remember, this stuff doesn't go away. It just gets smaller and smaller. One researcher said he can go to almost any beach in the world and find plastic pellets.

Give me proof. Nothing is secret in the information age, if this is true it would appear on Google Earth, I don't see it.

According to Wikipedia:"Some sources[4] have incorrectly reported that there is a "floating continent" of debris that is roughly twice the size of Texas, however no scientific investigation, including Moore's, has verified this."

You're repeating exagerations...
please see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Pacific_Gyre

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