RUNNING HEAD THE GARBAGE ISLES: IT’S TIME TO SAVE THE WORLD
The Garbage Isles: It’s Time to Save the World
College of Western Idaho
When you envision the ocean you see vast, roaring waves and an expansion of a teal sea that sparkles as it chases the setting sun to the horizon. You can imagine how the sand feels between your toes and the scattered shells along the beach; the allure of the moist, cool ocean air fills your lungs and tickles your nose. Unfortunately in a few short years, when we think of the ocean we may have a different vision of the ocean. What we will see is a vast waste dump, where plastic bottles will float with the rotting marine life. The air will be toxic and reek of poison and decay, While our beaches once piled with sand are now layered with bits of plastic and rubber; cell phones, broken coca cola bottles, soda cans and tooth brushes. Approximately 1000 miles off the coast of Hawaii there is a massive landmass comprised solely of trash. This floating waste pile is approximately twice the size of Texas, finding precise measurements of the island are difficult because it is constantly growing! To make matters worse, the Great Pacific garbage patch is one of five garbage patches, although the other four are much smaller. Yes, one of the greatest environmental disasters has been going on for a while now and it’s still not common knowledge. We can’t just sit back and let this happen to Earth. We need to clean up this mess and recycle it, as the world does have limited recourses. From there we should continue to recycle so we can prevent this from destroying our home. Curious as to what that much waste can do to our oceans? The truth is it’s catastrophic.
... , Thomas (2008, July 10). The World’s Largest Dump: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch | Ocean | DISCOVER Magazine. Retrieved February 1, ... 2008/jul/10-the-worlds-largest-dump Casey, Susan (2007). CDNN :: Plastic Ocean – The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Retrieved February 10 ... 2003, the United States generated 26,650 tons of plastic waste (De Cassis, 2008). With all this plastic being used ...
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is characterized by exceptionally high concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge, and debris that have been trapped in the North Pacific Gyre (a gyre is a large system of rotating ocean currents, and are caused by the Coriolis Effect) (Wikipedia).
Estimates on size range from 700,000 square kilometers to more than 15,000,000 square kilometers (0.41% to 8.1% of the size of the Pacific Ocean) (Wikipedia).
It’s estimated that 80% of the pollutants come from land masses and 20% come from ships. However, ship-generated pollution is a source of concern since a typical 3,000 passenger cruise ship produces over eight tons of solid waste weekly, some of which ends up in the patch (Wikipedia) To make matters worse unlike most debris which are biodegrade and become nutrients for other organisms, plastic disintegrates into even smaller particles while remaining a polymer all the way down to the molecular level (Wikipedia).
The majority of the waste is plastic, which is an important it doesn’t break down especially in water. When plastic is on land, it is heated easier and breaks down faster. When in the ocean though, the plastic is cooled by the water and gets coated with algae which shield it from sunlight. Because of these factors, the plastic in the world’s oceans will last well into the future (Briney).
Although some plastics do breakdown within a year this causes an even greater problem. Plastics floating in the ocean act as chemical sponges absorbing manmade chemicals such as bisphenol A, PCBs, DDTs, and derivatives of polystyrene (Hashow).
Also plastics often contain a variety of toxic additives. For example, plasticizers like adipates and phthalates are often added to brittle plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to make them pliable enough for use in food packaging, children’s toys and teethers, tubing, shower curtains and other items. Traces of these chemicals can leach out of the plastic when it comes into contact with food. Some compounds leaching from polystyrene food containers have been found to interfere with hormone functions and are suspected human carcinogens (Wikipedia).
... world rely on fish for food. When we Hinton 9 consume fish caught from the ocean, we are now ingesting plastic particles which ... The prolific amount of plastic thrown in our oceans is destroying the natural food chain. According to “An Ocean of Plastic”, “the concern is ... ten million square miles of the North Pacific Gyre. On the other hand, according to “An Ocean of Plastic”, Doucette claims ...
This begins to affect the wildlife as they eat the particles.
Marine wildlife is affected by the trash in a number of ways. First, whales, seabirds, and other animals can easily be snared in the nylons nets and six-pack rings prevalent in the garbage patches. They are also in danger of choking on things like balloons, straws, and sandwich wrap. In addition, fish, seabirds, jelly-fish, and oceanic filter feeders easily mistake brightly colored plastic pellets for fish eggs and krill (Briney).
Aside from toxic effects, when ingested, some of these are mistaken by the endocrine system as estradiol, causing hormone disruption in the affected animal (Wikipedia).
This could possibly cause genetic problems, by poison the wildlife, and concentrating in their bodies. Once the toxins are concentrated in the tissue of one animal, they can magnify across the food chain (Briney).
This is called biomagnification. As you move up the food chain the potency of the toxin increases. Let’s say a small fish eats some of the poison, then a crab eats lots of these poisoned fish, and then an albatross eats a few crabs. When you realize that we are at the top of the food chain, it really makes you wonder what we are really eating. When According to the UN Environment Programme, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. Syringes, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have been found inside the stomachs of dead seabirds, which mistake them for food (Marks).
In a 2001 study, researchers (including Moore) found concentrations of plastics at 334,721 pieces per square kilometer with a mean mass of 5,114 grams (11.27 lbs) per square kilometer. Nonetheless, this represents a very high amount with respect to the overall ecology of the neuston (small organisms that live close to the surface such as plankton).
In many of the sampled areas, the overall concentration of plastics was seven times greater than the concentration of zooplankton (Wikipedia).
... same time that worldwide production of plastic fibers quadrupled. In the ocean, plastic debris injures and kills fish, seabirds and marine mammals. ... chain. In a 2008 Pacific Gyre voyage, Algalita researchers began finding that fish are ingesting plastic fragments and debris. Of ... garbage patches (one twice the size of Texas) can be found floating around in the oceans. And all this plastic pollution ...
The trash pile is estimated to be formed from all the plastics we have thrown away since the 1950’s. Due to the tendency of items to collect in oceanic gyres, the existence of a garbage patch was predicted in 1988 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) after years of monitoring the amount of trash being dumped into the world’s oceans (Briney).
The prediction was based on results obtained by several Alaska-based researchers between 1985 and 1988 that measured neustonic plastic in the North Pacific Ocean (Wikipedia).
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch wasn’t officially discovered until 1997 due to its remote location and harsh waters near the currents. The discovery was made by complete accident by Charles J Moore: Here is an account of the story written by Kathy Marks and Daniel Howden in The Independent:
“Mr. Moore, a former sailor, came across the sea of waste by chance in 1997, while taking a short cut home from a Los Angeles to Hawaii yacht race. He had steered his craft into the “North Pacific gyre” – a vortex where the ocean circulates slowly because of little wind and extreme high pressure systems. Usually sailors avoid it.
He was astonished to find himself surrounded by rubbish, day after day, thousands of miles from land. “Every time I came on deck, there was trash floating by,” he said in an interview. “How could we have fouled such a huge area? How could this go on for a week?”
Mr. Moore, the heir to a family fortune from the oil industry, subsequently sold his business interests and became an environmental activist. He warned yesterday that unless consumers cut back on their use of disposable plastics, the plastic stew would double in size over the next decade.”
Mr. Moore is the first person to have pursued serious scientific research by sampling the garbage patch. In 1999, he dedicated the Alguita foundation to studying it. Now the foundation examines plastic debris and takes samples of polluted water off the California coast and across the Pacific Ocean. By dragging a fine mesh net behind his research vessel Alguita, a 50-foot aluminum catamaran, Mr. Moore is able to collect small plastic fragments (Hashow).
... that there are patches in the ocean made of plastic and trash debris. The largest one is called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch; it is ... made up of trapped hard and soft plastic ... such as one-time use plastic bags. What ...
Water samples taken by his research team in February 2009 have shown that there is twice as much plastic in the ocean as there was a decade ago. Another garbage patch has been found in the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean.
Cleaning up this mess will be a long and arduous process. One of the biggest setbacks is the islands aren’t actually solid, they are more like plastic soup filled with tiny bits of plastic particles. Currently a partnership between ocean scientists and the waste-management industry are working together to come up with a solution to this wide scale pollution. In 2009 they launched the New Horizon and Kaisei project vessels; their goal is to test several methods of extracting the plastic and recycling it (Wikipedia.org).
One of the leading ideas behind disposal is a process called pyrolysis. Through pyrolysis we can turn the plastic in the ocean into a form of synthetic oil or other forms of energy without combustion. “By heating input—in this case, floating globs of plastic—upwards of 550 degrees Fahrenheit in a vacuum, much of the waste breaks down. Further processing then converts the substance to a form of synthetic oil” (Stone).
With this method we could use up to 85% of the plastics in the Pacific Ocean. As effective as the process appears to be it isn’t cheap. “Each pyrolosis rig costs about $7 million, plus annual maintenance. Proponents argue that the cost can be recovered over several years if the oil that it produces is sold, and even faster if the price of oil rises again” (Stone).
One way we can stop the accumulation of trash in our oceans is by recycling. It turns materials that would otherwise be thrown out into valuable resources. The US Environmental Protection agency claims that: Recycling protects and expands U.S. manufacturing jobs and increases U.S. competitiveness, reduces the need for land filling and incineration, prevents pollution caused by the manufacturing of products from virgin materials, saves energy, decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change, conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals, helps sustain the environment for future generations. The process starts with the collection and processing of recyclables, then the recyclables are manufactured back into a usable product, and the process is completed when you buy goods that are made from recycled products.
... freezers are stocked with food stored in plastic bags. The plastic carry bags and plastic garbage bags too have become an indispensable part ... recycle them, and the emissions resulting from these processes. Single-use plastic bags are also well known for their interference in ... there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean. •Plastic bags are often mistakenly ingested ...
We also have to take the initiative to make sure this is never able to happen again. If we convert from petroleum based plastics to biodegradable plastics the threat of nondegradable waste is averted. The main methods for biodegradable plastics are; plastics made from raw materials, such as starch, and petroleum based plastics that contain an additive that metabolize and neutralize the plastic. Plastics that are produced from raw materials are typically grown. During the growing phase these plastics absorb carbon dioxide and as they decompose they release it. So there is little effect to the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, producing biodegradable plastics costs a little more than two and a half times the cost to produce petroleum plastics. The remedy to this would be that bacteria may be able to contribute in breaking down plastics. “This has already happened with nylon: two types of nylon eating bacteria, Flavobacteria and Pseudomonas, were found in 1975 to possess enzymes (nylonase) capable of breaking down nylon. While not a solution to the disposal problem, it is likely that bacteria will evolve the ability to use other synthetic plastics as well. In 2008, a 16-year-old boy reportedly isolated two plastic-consuming bacteria” (Wikipedia).
So the means to create a solution to our growing waste problem is in our hands. All we have to do is utilize it.
Americans go through 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour, more than half of which end up not being recycled (Stone).
That is the problem. The solution is recycling and biodegradable products. Most important of all is the need for the cleanup of our mess. This is our planet, so it is our responsibility to take care of it.
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Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Wikipedia the free encyclopedia. April 13, 2010 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch
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Marks, Kathy and Daniel Howden. The World’s Rubbish Dump: A Tip That Stretches from Hawaii to Japan. Independent.co.uk. February 5, 2009. April 13, 2010http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/the-worlds-rubbish-dump-a-garbage-tip-that-stretches-from-hawaii-to-japan-778016.html
Hashow, Lindsey. Afloat in the Oceans, Expanding Isles of Trash. Newyorktimes.com Nov 9, 2009. April 13, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/science/10patch.html
Stone, Daniel. The Great Pacific Cleanup. Newsweek.com No date. April 13 2010. http://www.newsweek.com/id/226308