Blog
Plastic Ocean
Date: 5/6/2007
Plastic Ocean (via jwz).

It began with a line of plastic bags ghosting the surface, followed by an ugly tangle of junk: nets and ropes and bottles, motor-oil jugs and cracked bath toys, a mangled tarp. Tires. A traffic cone. [...] Dragging a fine-meshed net he discovered minuscule pieces of plastic, some barely visible to the eye, swirling like fish food throughout the water. He and his researchers parsed, measured, and sorted their samples and arrived at the following conclusion: By weight, this swath of sea contains six times as much plastic as it does plankton.

The North Pacific gyre is only one of five such high-pressure zones in the oceans. There are similar areas in the South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean. Each of these gyres has its own version of the Garbage Patch, as plastic gathers in the currents. Together, these areas cover 40 percent of the sea. "That corresponds to a quarter of the earth's surface," Moore says. "So 25 percent of our planet is a toilet that never flushes."

BPA has been found in nearly every human who has been tested in the United States. We're eating these plasticizing additives, drinking them, breathing them, and absorbing them through our skin every single day. [...] "Findings suggest that developmental exposure to BPA is contributing to the obesity epidemic that has occurred during the last two decades in the developed world, associated with the dramatic increase in the amount of plastic being produced each year." Given this, it is perhaps not entirely coincidental that America's staggering rise in diabetes -- a 735 percent increase since 1935 -- follows the same arc.

"Except for the small amount that's been incinerated -- and it's a very small amount -- every bit of plastic ever made still exists." [...] "It's not the big trash on the beach. It's the fact that the whole biosphere is becoming mixed with these plastic particles. What are they doing to us? We're breathing them, the fish are eating them, they're in our hair, they're in our skin."



We are seriously screwing our planet up. I'm not doing nearly enough to help and it just makes me very deeply sad.

I thought I did the right thing by just getting rid of my offensively wasteful car and replacing it with a scooter but that just means someone else is polluting the environment with that car. But I couldn't afford to have it crushed, I needed the money to buy the scooter (and other things).

Constantly it seems that doing the right thing is more expensive in the short term financial sense. I'm sure there are ways where the free market can be bought to bear on the problem.

In some what related news I need to buy a new car for our family as our old one was written off last week. No one was seriously hurt but both the girls had some whiplash. Currently I'm thinking of getting a Corolla wagon as some compromise between our needs, resources and the environment. It's a whole lot more economical than our last car (8lt/100km city) has more space than a small sedan and has some air-bags. Not enough mind you, but as a stepping stone, it's what we can afford at the moment. I'd dearly love to get a Civic Hybrid but they start at 35k new or 25k 2nd hand. And we don't have that unless we want to go into [more] debt *shudder*.
Comments:
Glen
06/06/2007 1:51am
One way to reduce plastic water bottle trash is to use a Hydropal, see at hydropal.

I use one of these, and I love it...

12/06/2007 7:35am
Have you seen Paul Newman's "History Of Oil"?

Also, from Wikipedia:

Price, environment, and the future

One of the great appeals of plastics have been their low price as compared to other materials. However, in recent years the cost of plastics has been rising dramatically. The cause of the increase is the sharply rising cost of petroleum, the raw material that is chemically altered to form commercial plastics. As the cost of plastic hinges on the cost of petroleum, should petroleum prices continue to rise, so will the cost of plastic. In 2005, the higher price of plastic drove a number of plastic-toy manufacturers out of business.[citation needed]

Fears of dwindling petroleum supplies are becoming very real, with publications such as USA Today reporting that current oil reserves will only last 40 years. Alternate reserves such as oil shale and tar oil (tar sand) do exist, but the cost of production is much higher than with current sources. Nevertheless, the production cost of these alternatives and even more unconventional alternatives such as developing liquid hydrocarbons from coal or natural gas, is generally less than the high crude oil prices reached in 2005 and 2006. A more serious problem is that these unconventional petroleum sources may have even greater environmental impacts than conventional petroleum, as they require large amounts of energy to extract and process. In general, the biggest threat to the conventional plastics industry is likely to be environmental concerns about the production (and disposal) of petroleum and petroleum-based plastics, including the release of toxic and greenhouse gas pollutants.

Scientists are seeking cheaper and better alternatives to petroleum-based plastics, and many candidates are in laboratories all over the world. One promising alternative on the horizon is simple sugar.[1]
 
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