Over the years, plastic products that've floated out into the oceans have been gradually drawn together by the world's currents, to form an enormous swirling mass of plastic in the Pacific Ocean. It's known variously as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, North Pacific Gyre, Trash Vortex, and Plastic Graveyard - and has now grown to twice the size of Continental USA! Sounds too incredible to be true, yet the plastic mass can be seen from space, as this satellite pic shows.
Plastic waste is one of the most significant sources of marine pollution, making up 90% of all floating debris. Bottles, bags, balloons, net floats...you name it, it's out there, and a real problem for marine wildlife. Whales have been found starved to death with throats blocked by plastic buckets. Turtles feast on plastic bags, thinking they're jellyfish. Diving seabirds have been strangled by 6-pack beer can collars.
The plastic is also churned into smaller pieces as it swirls about, and then consumed by fish. The chemicals in the plastic enter the food chain, and we eventually consume tasty carcinogens like DDT and PCBs!
To help document The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the marine research and education organisation Algalita built a boat from recycled plastic bottles (15-20,000!) and sailed it from California to Hawaii. Click here for a slideshow of the Garbage Patch and a 4min.video clip......or here for the video clip alone.
Many NZers actively recycle plastics, so what more can we do? Avoid supermarket plastic by using your own bags. Write to your local MP (a real letter looks so much better than an email), requesting initiatives that encourage industry to move into recycling - and penalise those that can but won't. Praise companies using recyclable plastic packaging. Choose products that're packaged in glass or recyclable plastic (Grades 1 and 2: look for the little triangle code on the package).
Reduce - reuse - recycle - respect.
Or not give a damn: it's up to you.
PS: - See also my post of 24 April 2010 for more details and links...