Garbage patch kids
Providing more fodder for the cause of plastic-reduction is a place within the Pacific Ocean referred to as the “garbage patch,” or the North Pacific Gyre. Swirling within a vortex of air and water caused by high-pressure air and underwater currents is a stew of floating plastic about twice the size of the continental United States. The patch is undetectable by satellite imagery because it’s translucent and moves beneath the surface, more soup-like than land-like. It was discovered in 1997 by American sailor Charles Moore, who founded the Algalita Marine Research Foundation to study the floating landfill’s effects on marine life, as well as on humans. Plastics more than 50 years old have been found there. Rather than biodegrade, they “photodegrade” into small, brittle pieces that enter the food chain, ending up in birds and other mammals. There is six times more plastic in this soup than there is zooplankton.
“What goes into the ocean goes into the animals and onto your dinner plate; it is that simple,” Algalita research director Dr. Marcus Erikson told the Australian Associated Press.
There are other reasons for finding plastic alternatives, says Moore. Among them, the highly toxic and persistent chemicals with which plastics are made. These include phthalates and poly-brominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which can cause reproductive, liver, thyroid and memory problems. That “new car smell?” That would be phthalates. Invented about 145 years ago, scientists say plastic may take centuries to biodegrade, and yet, much of what we use it for are disposable items, like applesauce cups, popcorn bag liners, juice bottles, individual cheese slice liners, plastic grocery bags, etc.
Moore told the AAP that if people don’t stop using unnecessary disposable plastics, the garbage patch will double in size within 10 years.