Plastic Pollution
February 27 2010

Breaking News: Plasticized Oceans!

by scott harrison

A report presented by oceanographer Giora Proskurowski of the Sea Education Association (of Woods Hole, Mass.) at American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences meeting this week in Portland, OR declares that the oceans are totally trashed with plastics. Not exactly surprising news, considering all of the similar reports over recent years by groups like Algalita, 5 Gyres, Kaisei, etc, etc, etc – and even including the “lowly” Surfrider beach clean-up efforts (where 70-80% of garbage that is picked up on local beaches is of the plastic variety according to our records).

The best, most “revelatory”, point of this report is that it’s another “official” declaration that the majority of the ocean’s plastic trash is in the form of tiny particles that accumulate at equal densities throughout the water column to an approximate depth of 40 ft or more…or as they put it, “the waters between one and 10 meters deep hold as much plastic as the top meter of ocean does.” You can further imagine that the ocean’s fab ability to mix and circulate that those particles take them even deeper. Remove the cap from a clear plastic drinking bottle fill it with water…and watch it sink – that PET (PETE) plastic is more dense than water…glug, glug, glug and down it goes.

As Capt Charles Moore has been telling us, “We are changing the composition of the oceans.” – and knowing the inability of our natural world in breaking down these basic long-chain plastic polymers, we are changing this composition down to the molecular level…throughout the earth’s ocean’s average depth of two miles. That’s a lot of plastic soup – that eventually ends up on our dinner plates.

Therein lies the folly, or “fantasy” as Capt Moore puts it, in cleaning up the oceans (think about it) – we have to stop the assault at the source. In order for us to get a start on solving the problem, SINGLE-USE PLASTICS MUST END. Our phenomenal human ingenuity has allowed us to create synthetics that can literally last forever – WHY employ those technologies for something that is designed to simply throw away? Well, MONEY is the answer to that…no surprise there. And last-resort recycling can take the edge off a bit, but Patagonia ain’t selling enough $150 former-plastic-bottle jackets to use up the 60 million plastic water bottles used each day in the US, especially in this economy.

The solution is: blanket bans of SUPs, development of replacement technologies (or 100% acceptance of reusables), and associated education of SUP users about the problem of Plasticized Oceans and garbaged-up neighborhoods and what it takes to address the problem(s) as a ‘team’ - the 'team' being the human race, that is.

Anything else is an endorsement of pollution of both our neighborhoods and our overall environment. When the plastics industry sues a municipality for attempting an SUP ban, they are in effect shouting, “WE LOVE LITTER, POLLUTION AND FILTHY LUCRE! – AND FURTHER MORE, TAKE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD AND SHOVE IT!”

Well, that ain’t very neighborly at all, is it? :(