Drowning in plastic

Cut down on your plastic consumption, people

“Apathy” by the Human Race (aka the Great Pacific Garbage Patch).

“Apathy” by the Human Race (aka the Great Pacific Garbage Patch).

Way too much plastic
Many of us know about taking a pair of scissors to plastic six-pack rings so that sea birds don’t get tangled in or choked by them when they end up in the ocean as part of the massive amount of plastic garbage increasingly gunking up our environment. Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex—a swirling dump of plastic rubbish and other swill? Roughly the size of the state of Texas, it contains about 3.5 billion tons of nasty garbage and hovers midway between San Francisco and Hawaii. (And it’s one of several patches dirtying our oceans.)

While our six-pack chopping may result in fewer animals being choked to death, many more are dying from eating plastic that they mistake for food. The rare Gervais’ beaked whale that washed up on a Puerto Rico shore in May—after starving to death from a stomach blockage caused by eating plastic bags it mistook for jellyfish—is one of many marine animals that are succumbing to the dangers of seaborne plastic. According to Greenpeace.org, it has been estimated that more than a million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles are killed each year by either eating or getting tangled in plastic.

I’m almost done reading a book by eco-activists Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay called What We Leave Behind (I highly recommend it—it’s available at Lyon Books). Among the many timely topics Jensen and McBay hit on, one is the amount of plastic crap humans produce and leave to the ocean’s inhabitants to deal with.

They write: “A 1999 study showed that water in the Pacific Ocean contains six times as much plastic as phytoplankton [the base of the marine food web]. Researcher Charles Moore repeated the study in 2002 and found a whopping 10:1 ratio.

“For comparison, imagine if this were the case in a terrestrial environment. The amount of biomass in an average temperate deciduous forest is about six pounds per square foot. Multiplying this by the ten to one ratio we just mentioned reveals there’d have to be sixty pounds of plastic per square foot for the forest to be comparably polluted. How much is this? Since, for example, styrofoam has a density of about two-thirds of a pound per cubic foot, for there to be ten times as much styrofoam as biomass on a forest floor, there’d have to be sixty pounds of styrofoam per square foot, which means the forest floor would be covered by styrofoam to a depth of ninety feet.”

Styrofoam 90 feet deep—can you imagine?

Donate your garden surplus
It’s that time of year: Tomatoes are turning red on the vine, the arugula is busting out green and leafy, and, if you’re like me, you’ve got more zucchini than you can cook, juice or put in salads. Local nonprofit OPT for Healthy Living would love to take your surplus veggies off your hands and put them to good use. OPT is looking for donations of garden produce for needy families attending its “Eat Right When Money Is Tight” cooking classes—held 6-7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. To donate, call 345-0678. For more info on OPT for Healthy Living’s cooking classes, go to http://tinyurl.com/3o5f6eq.