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Plague of Plastics Across the Oceans

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If you read Paul Miller’s “The Plastics Paradox” in the January 13, 2008 Denver Post, you’ll see the results of humanity’s disgusting disregard for its planet home.  Miller reported, “This stew of plastics and marine debris, at least twice the size of Texas, is floating in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 miles off the West Coast—called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch…it’s a 3 million ton waste dump…with 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating on every square mile of ocean…by some estimates, 8 million pieces of plastic litter enter oceans and seas every day…even land-locked Colorado plastic may end up blowing into the oceans.”

How do I know it exists?  I witnessed it in my travels from the Arctic Ocean to the Southern Oceans in Antarctica.

Why does Peter Coors float to the top of this “Plague of Plastics” decimating our natural world in Colorado?  He stands with hundreds of big company owners across America that spent millions to defeat deposit/return bills initiated in the 70s.  When Colorado citizens tried to initiate deposit/return bottle bills in the 70s and 80s, Coors along with American Bottle and Can Company spent millions of dollars to defeat a bill similar to Michigan’s.  Anyone that visits in Michigan will never see cans, glass or plastic in their lakes, streams or rivers because kids snap them up for a 10 cent reward per container.

Coors defeated our initiative twice in Colorado that resulted in an unending stream of plastic, aluminum and glass pitched, tossed and left in every nook and cranny of Colorado.  You see bottles floating on rivers, lakes, parking lots and every road.  You’ll see containers left everywhere!  Whereby Coors, who earns $13 million a year, could have done something positive for Colorado, he chose to make even more money.  I asked him why he did it.  His representative answered that it was only an eight percent waste stream created by not recycling plastic, aluminum and glass beer and pop containers.  Anyone who can rub two IQ points together could tell you that eight percent times 10 years adds up to billions of bottles, cans and plastic containers tossed into the Colorado wilderness.

In my world travels from the Arctic to Antarctica, humanity holds nothing sacred on this planet.  I’ve sailed and Scuba dived across all the oceans and seas.  I’ve rafted or canoed rivers from the Amazon to the Mississippi to the Yangtze.  I’ve explored all the Great Lakes to many unknown lakes.  I’ve walked on the Hawaiian to the Galapagos Islands to Ross Island at the bottom of the world.  I bicycled along the North Sea in Norway and around Lake Titicaca in South America.

At every location on our globe where home sapiens inhabit, humanity throws its trash in every conceivable form. 

But by far the most dangerous--any way you cut it, plastics prove themselves humanity’s worst invention.  Ubiquitous, forever, deadly and ugly!

As a teenager, I Scuba dived in pristine waters from Lake Huron, the Hawaiian Islands, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean.  I saw magic at 40 feet below the surface on coral reefs!  Incredible beauty!  Thirty years later, my dives carried me into the most disgusting sights on the planet.  Plastic drift nets, cut away by fishing captains, killed innocent sea life--forever!  For the past 40 years, humans have tossed their plastic containers, pop tops, diapers, billions of bags and every kind and size of plastic trash into our lakes, rivers and oceans.   Plastic destroys everything it touches.

As I canoed down the Mississippi River from its beginning at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, it started out as beautiful as a dream. Within five miles, I watched hundreds, then  thousands of plastic containers float alongside me after having been pitched by other boaters.  Plastic bags hung from trees and billowed in the water as they draped from branches along Old Man River.  People drove cars over the river’s edge and left couches and lawn chairs on sand bars.  Clothes and junk got tossed along its 2,552 mile trip to New Orleans.  It made me sick every day.  I filled two large trash bags a day and I couldn’t begin to get it all.

On my bicycle ride from Norway to Greece in 2005, we boarded a ferry from Italy to Patros.  Along the way, we witnessed huge floating gobs of plastic trash collected in ugly swarms hundreds of yards long. 

Plastic proves the worst human invention, besides chemicals, because plastic doesn’t break down or biodegrade.  About the only thing that destroys it is fire, but then, the pollution from the smoke proves fatal to the environment. 

Alan Weisman, author of “Polymers are forever” published in the May/June 2007 issue of Orion magazine: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/270 He wrote, “The true answer is we just don't know how much is out there."

Weisman wrote about Richard Thompson, “He knew the terrible tales of sea otters choking on poly-ethylene rings from beer six-packs; of swans and gulls strangled by nylon nets and fishing lines; of a green sea turtle in Hawaii dead with a pocket comb, a foot of nylon rope, and a toy truck wheel lodged in its gut. His personal worst was a study on fulmar bird carcasses washed ashore on North Sea coastlines. Ninety-five percent had plastic in their stomachs—an average of forty-four pieces per bird.

“There was no way of knowing if the plastic had killed them, although it was a safe bet that, in many, chunks of indigestible plastic had blocked their intestines. Thompson reasoned that if larger plastic pieces were breaking down into smaller particles, smaller organisms would likely be consuming them. When they get as small as powder, even zooplankton will swallow them."

"Can you believe it?" said Richard Thompson, one of the men researching how widespread plastic moved into water systems. "They're selling plastic meant to go right down the drain, into the sewers, into the rivers, right into the ocean. Bite-sized pieces of plastic to be swallowed by little sea creatures."

Soon, the disposable diaper arrived!  On my bicycle travels across America and the world, I’ve seen tens of thousands of soiled, plastic baby diapers thrown into every corner of the planet.

On our oceans, “In 1975, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences had estimated that all oceangoing vessels together dumped 8 million pounds of plastic annually. More recent research showed the world's merchant fleet alone shamelessly tossing around 639,000 plastic containers every day.

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www.frostywooldridge.com

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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Recycling is of course discouraged due to the nece... by Mike Folkerth on Monday, Jan 21, 2008 at 12:09:49 PM