Did you know parts of our ocean contain more plastic than plankton?! About 1300 kilometres North of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean on the Eastern corner of a 13-billion-hectare oval known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, lies a stretch of ocean which is avoided by most boats and top predators, alike. These waters look deserted, slow and stale…resembling a floating landfill. You can find there all kinds of reminders of our every-day necessities: plastic bags, water bottles, tangled nets and ropes, old toys, tires, an old freezer! This trail of plastic stretches for hundreds of miles.
More importantly, the visible trash is only the tip of the iceberg, or rather the tip of the floating garbage pile, hiding deep below the microscopic pieces of plastic not easily visible by the naked eye. This microscopic plastic pollution is making its way into the food chain and ending up in the human biological makeup and interacting with our own biochemistry. Scientists are just beginning to understand the complexity of the long-term effects of chemicals used to make plastic.
According to scientists from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, by weight this part of the North Pacific Ocean contains six times more plastic than plankton. Charles Moore has created the Foundation in 1994, initially to focus on the coastal ocean, and changing his focus to plastic contamination after his voyage through the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre in 1997. There are four other major gyres worldwide: the North Atlantic and Indian Ocean Gyres, the South Atlantic Gyre, and the South Pacific Ocean Gyre. Together, these areas cover 40 percent of the sea which corresponds to a quarter of the earth’s surface. Moore’s Foundation is undertaking research in all of these top zones of plastic marine pollution.
If you thought that plastic recycling is at the top of its game, think again. Of the seven different types of plastic in common use, only two (labelled with #1 and #2 inside the triangle) are recycled; or about 3 to 5 percent of the overall plastics. The good news is that new biodegradable starch- and corn-based plastics have arrived, and apparently even a big chain store like Wal-Mart has signed on as a customer. As consumers, we have an all-encompassing purchasing power to fight back against excessive and toxic packaging, and demand safe products. It’s time that we start exercising this power and asking more questions.
Nature is sending us a message and these photos are just some of the examples!
So, how big is YOUR plastic footprint?