The Dead Zone – plastic fcuktastic.

Plastic. We all know it well. We all use it. Our oceans know it well too. The dead zones within oceans are becoming plastic junk yards where 100’s of miles of plastic crap can be found. Not fresh oceans producing a fresh catch of fish for your family’s dinner. No, instead you may have to rely on serving up a meal of oily plastic. Well, at least it would be colourful.

The North Pacific subtropical high—the big “H” on weather maps— protects Southern California’s enviable weather by pushing storms north or south. The H is the eye of a circle of currents thousands of miles wide called the North Pacific gyre. The high’s weak winds and sluggish currents naturally collect flotsam, earning it the unfortunate nickname of the “Eastern Garbage Patch.” Similar wind and current patterns exist in all the major oceans, and all presumably suffer from similar contamination.

Because most plastics are lighter than seawater, they float on the surface for years, slowly breaking down into smaller and smaller fragments—which often end up in the ocean’s drifting, filter-feeding animals, like jellyfish.

A gentleman from California, Charles Moore, has sailed his research vessel through these plastic junk yards for 100s of miles, never to find their end.

This is his story; Plastic Ocean

International Pellet Watch
, yes this is a real organisation, has very useful info on how pellets manage to pollute all areas.

And just in case you were thinking its only a problem for the Pacific Ocean here’s a very good article about the Atlantic Ocean, from another sailing researcher; Sailing on a sea of plastic.

Update: (31/10/07) For the latest report on the Pacific gyre trash zone click here.

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4 Responses to The Dead Zone – plastic fcuktastic.

  1. earthpal says:

    Plastic Ocean

    The article is excellent Matt but it makes pretty grim reading. Plastic waste is leaving a bleak legacy.

    I was relieved to read near the end that there is a glimmer of hope in the proposed “cradle-to-cradle” standard. This surely must be embraced as an urgent need.

  2. matt says:

    As Stephan Smith of this blog often says, plastic is a valuable material that shouldn’t be thrown away. It can be used time and time again so yes getting an effective recycling system in place is crucial.

    This involves getting a whole raft of systems in place, from council collection to business sorting and re-production. Product designers should be investigating ways of increasing the use of recycled materials. Maybe also a few government inspired business incentives are needed.

    Certain car manufacturers are putting considerable effort into use of recycled plastics so I guess there is hope of an intelligent approach to dealing with the problem of plastic waste. But it’s essentially also about stopping plastic from getting into the waterways and the oceans. Basically, the more plastic packaging that’s out there the greater the chance it ends up in the wrong places. Reduced packaging is another route!

  3. earthpal says:

    Yes, I seem to remember some points being made here about the ironies of making so many “disposable” products out of an eternally endurable material . . . that when it has outlived its use and is actually “disposed of” it will never biodegrade.

    Yes, drastically reducing packaging would make a huge difference.

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