Saturday, 9 June 2012
Waves of plastic
We went down to the seafront today to collect rubbish washed up by the recent storms and the amount of plastic was unbelievable.
I read somewhere once that there is an island in the Pacific composed entirely of floating plastic, washed there by various currents meeting together. After doing some reading, I found out that there are five major gyres, the largest of which is in the Pacific between Hawaii and California, with several smaller ones in Alaska and Antarctica, the North and South Atlantic, and most recently, the Indian Ocean and South Pacific. However, despite the large areas they cover (the North Pacific Gyre is estimated to cover an area approximately twice the size of France), they aren't solid 'islands' of crap, just a vast floating plastic soup whirlpool.
Plastic never fully degrades but slowly breaks down into ever-smaller particles which are ingested by birds and sea creatures and inevitably therefore us, eventually. Looking at the sand on the beach today I realised a large amount of it was actually sand-shaped balls of plastic, something I don't remember seeing before in such huge quantities.
It made me want to never buy another piece of plastic again.
The plastic I've gathered today I want to make into cards/artwork which will have some facts about plastic pollution on it somewhere.
Another project to add to the never-ending list of things to do.
Read more about the Pacific Gyre here and here.
"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." Independent Feb 2008
The Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (Seaplex) off California in 2009 estimated that "the fish at intermediate ocean depths in the North Pacific Ocean could be ingesting plastic at a rate of roughly 12,000 to 24,000 tonnes per year". BBC News May 2012