Articles Posted in the Green News category

How we’re turning the ocean into plastic soup

March 5, 2009
Posted in Green News

In the late 1990s Charles Moore discovered a huge swath of plastic rubbish, “the size of two Texases”, in the Pacific Ocean. Discarded plastic accumulates there in an enormous slow whirlpool created by competing air currents known as the Pacific Gyre. Moore now carries out research on the plastic floating in the Pacific and tries to raise awareness about the problem through the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in California. The link above is a talk he gave in February on plastic pollution and it’s well worth watching.

Plastic is a petrochemical product and it never biodegrades, it photodegrades which means it is broken down into ever smaller pieces by sunlight over a very long period of time. Much of the plastic floating in the Pacific Gyre is in the form of small particles, so rather than a rubbish dump of floating bottles and bags, Moore describes it as a “plastic soup”.

A brochure on the foundation’s website says the following:

  • A disposable nappy can take 500 years to photodegrade
  • A plastic six-pack ring can take 400 years
  • A plastic bottle can take 450 years

The first synthetic plastic, Bakelite, was produced in 1907. So, in effect, 100 years’ worth of plastic has accumulated on Earth and it’s going to keep piling up unless we do something about it.

The Pacific ocean rubbish dump has a terrible effect on marine life. Many marine animals mistake floating plastics for food. Baby albatrosses have been found with bottle tops and other plastic rubbish in their stomachs, fed to them by their parents. Plastics eaten by turtles have blocked their intestines, making the animals float so they can’t dive for food, says the website. Animals also become entangled in fishing nets and line.

All that plastic in the ocean can also affect human health. According to the research foundation the plastic in the ocean absorbs pollutants such as PCBs and pesticides. Marine organisms eat the tiny bits of plastic and these pollutants accumulate in their tissues. In this way the pollutants enter the food chain and into the food we eat. And as a result, no fishmonger can guarantee you an organic wild fish, Moore says in the TED talk.

About 80 percent of the rubbish in the ocean originates on land, washing down storm water drains and rivers into the sea. So the moral of the story is: Use less plastic

There’s an interesting article here about a research trip with Moore’s foundation to the Pacific Gyre. It’s worth a look just to see Flyp Media’s stunning online magazine. The Algalita Research Foundation’s website is also a good place to learn more.

UK may join crack down on free plastic bags

March 1, 2008
Posted in Green News

plastic-bag.jpgBritain looks like it’s about to join the list of country’s trying to restrict the use of plastic bags. The country’s prime minister wants retailers to start charging their customers for the plastic bags that they currently get for free in an attempt to cut back on the number of bags that end up in landfills or fouling up the environment. Britons use 13-million plastic bags a year, reports Reuters.

Australia wants to start phasing out the use of plastic bags in supermarkets by the end of this year and from June 1 shoppers in China will have to buy their bags. China also has banned the production of ultra-thin bags, and their use in supermarkets and shops will be forbidden from June 1. Reuters reports that up to 3 billion plastic bags a day are used in China. South Africa, Denmark, Germany and Ireland are among the countries where customers already have to pay for plastic bags.

The extent of the plastic problem was highlighted in a recent article in Britain’s Independent newspaper. Ninety percent of the rubbish floating in the oceans is believed to be plastic and the UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic, the newspaper report said. Worse still, in the Pacific Ocean, there is a giant trash vortex, which has been described as “almost like a plastic soup”, that covers an area “maybe twice the size of continental United States”. Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” in the 1990s, has warned that unless people cut back on their use of disposable plastics, the plastic stew in the Pacific would double in size over the next decade.

Sources: Environment News Network and Independent
Picture: © Isabela Habur, iStockphoto.com

Don’t be afraid to ask for tap water, says London’s mayor

February 20, 2008
Posted in Lifestyle

London mayor Ken Livingstone has urged British people to ask for tap water in restaurants rather than bottled mineral water, AFP reports. “People should be encouraged to ask, and feel confident they can ask in restaurants for tap water, rather than have to pay through the nose for bottled water,” Livingstone said.
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