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10 Million Tons Floating: Our Plastic Oceans

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If you should see this amazing floating pile of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, it’s called “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.”  It features three million tons of plastic debris floating in an area larger than Texas.  An eye-popping 46,000 pieces of plastic float on every square mile of ocean!  Humans toss another 2.5 million pieces into our oceans hourly.

Captain Paul Watson, www.seasheperd.org, composed an essay, “The Plastic Sea.”  He wrote a penetrating piece on humanity’s desecration of our oceans.  If you ever see this plastic ‘monster’ as I have, it will sicken you to the core of your soul.  But the terror it manifests sickens you further!

On the beach on San Juan Island, Washington, Allison Lance walks her dogs every morning,” Watson said. “She carries a plastic bag in her hand to carry the bits and pieces of plastic debris she picks up. Each morning she fills the bag, but by the next morning there is always another bag to be filled. Joey Racano does the same in Huntington Beach further south in California. The harvest of plastic waste is never-ending. Allison's and Joey's beaches, and practically every beach around the world is similarly cursed.

“Recently in the Galapagos I retrieved plastic motor oil bottles and garbage bags from a remote beach on Santa Cruz island. Every year during crossings of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, spotting plastic is a daily and regular occurrence.” 

Let me repeat this: the United Nations Environmental Program report estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic debris floats on or near the surface of every square mile of ocean.

“We live in a plastic convenience culture; every human being on this planet uses plastic materials directly and indirectly every single day,” Watson said. “Our babies begin life on Earth by using some 210 million pounds of plastic diaper liners each year; we give them plastic milk bottles, plastic toys, and buy their food in plastic jars.

“Every year we eat and drink from some thirty-four billion newly manufactured bottles and containers. We patronize fast food restaurants and buy products that consume another fourteen billion pounds of plastic. In total, our societies produce an estimated sixty billion tons of plastic material every year.

“Each of us on average uses 190 pounds of plastic annually: bottled water, fast food packaging, furniture, syringes, computers and computer diskettes, packing materials, garbage bags and so much more. When you consider that this plastic does not biodegrade and remains in our ecosystems permanently, we are looking at an incredibly high volume of accumulated plastic trash that has been built up since the mid-twentieth century.”

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You may ask, “Where does it go?”  The answer grows uglier every day: the ground, air and into our oceans!

All the plastic that has ever been produced has been buried in landfills, incinerated, and dumped into lakes, rivers, and oceans. When incinerated, the plastics disperse non-biodegradable pollutants, much of which inevitably find their way into marine ecosystems as microscopic particles.

“Back in 1991, my ship, the Sea Shepherd, was anchored in the harbor of Port of Spain, Trinidad,” Captain Watson said. “A few hours later, the entire surface area of the harbor was dirty white, as if an ice floe had entered this tropical port. The "floe" consisted of Styrofoam, plastic bottles, and assorted plastic materials, as far as the eye could see, and it had come down from the streets, gutters, and streams into the harbor. And, of course, it was all washing out to sea, dispersed by wind and tide.

“What happened to it after that? The sun and the brine broke it down into little pellets of Styrofoam and little pieces of plastic - each an insidious, floating, deadly mine set adrift in an ocean of life.

“And over the years these little nodules have drifted. Many have been ingested by birds and fish. Weeks or months later, their victims decompose on the surface of the water or on a beach, re-exposing the nodules to the light of the sun, to be blown by the winds back into the sea. These vicious little inorganic parasites continue to maim and kill in an endless assault upon life in our oceans.”

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The simple fact is that when you drop a Styrofoam cup onto the street, you're causing more damage than you would by dropping a stick of dynamite into the ocean. You set in motion an invasion of thousands of killer plastibots that will cause death and destruction for centuries to come.

“Eighteen billion of those disposable diapers end up in the oceans each year,” Watson said. “Americans alone toss 2.5 million plastic bottles into the sea every hour. There is no place in the oceans where a fine trawl will not reveal plastic nodules. Studies by Captain Charles Moore and the Algalita Foundation found that even in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, plastic nodules have been found to outweigh plankton by a ratio of six to one.”

In the movie “Castaway,” Tom Hanks, marooned on a desert island in the South Pacific, finds a plastic siding of a portable outhouse washed up on the beach. The stuff floats everywhere. Watson found plastic bottles with Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and English writing littering the beaches of even the most remote Aleutian Islands.

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Frosty Wooldridge Bio: Frosty Wooldridge possesses a unique view of the world, cultures and families in that he has bicycled around the globe 100,000 miles, on six continents and six times across the United States in the past 30 years. His books (more...)
 

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