The problem is that it’s too small to take it out. That’s what Captain Charles Moore told Recology last year during a presentation on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that he discovered. He said that as plastic breaks down into smaller pellets, it ends up suspended in the oceans, like a horizontal curtain that blocks the ecosystems below it from getting sunlight.
If you haven’t heard of it, you will soon. The patch is rumored to be the area of Texas, or twice the size of France and as many as two miles deep. The “toilet of the ocean”, the patch is one of several gyres that exist throughout the world–where all the runoff, dumped, and abandoned plastic debris goes to die. But it doesn’t. Instead, it is eaten by birds, seals, fish, and eventually you and me.
This August, Wired Magazine wrote about another region in the Atlantic ocean called the North Atlantic Garbage Patch where plastic has also collected. Suspended in the ocean, it has also broken down into smaller and smaller (non-biodegradable) pieces. The synthetic chemical Bisphenol A (also known as BPA), found mostly in hard plastics and epoxy resins, is also showing up in the oceans. BPA has been linked to developmental disorders in humans. Whatsmore, according to
another Wired Magazine article:
One disturbing possibility is that BPA could bioaccumulate, with animals eating BPA-tainted animals that have eaten BPA-tainted animals, finally reaching high concentrations in top-level ocean predators and the humans who eat them. For that to happen, BPA would have to be stored in fatty tissue, rather than passing quickly through the body.
So what does this mean to our oceans, the animals that sustain themselves from it, and our food chain? It means we are on a difficult and scary path. Our staggering use and dependence on plastic is affecting our entire planet.
Being an optimist and like many others, I suggest three simple things you can do:
- Reduce your daily use and consumption of plastic. Fake Plastic Fish documents one woman’s experiment in trying to eliminate plastic from her life.
- Reuse the plastic products you do buy. Here are 20 creative reuse ideas from Real Simple.
- Recycle as much plastic as you can. Anyone at Recology can teach you how.