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[GreenYes] Re: More on the Pacific Plastic Gyre from H2E

Pete, et al,

Interesting post/issue. The Pacific garbage gyre was discovered about
10 years wasn't it? I had no idea it was estimated at 100M tons of
rubbish or covered such a huge area. The next headline may read

Waste Company Permits Pacific Ocean as Dump: Charges Developed
Countries Tip Fees.


>>> Pete Pasterz <PAPasterz@no.address> 2/11/2008 3:18 PM >>>

To: H2E - Hospitals for a Healthy Environment - Info Exchange Listserv
Subject: [h2e] Floating "land"fill? article - fyi PLASTICS!

H2E - Info Exchange Listserve

The World's Dump: Ocean Garbage from Hawaii to JapanBy Kathy Marks and
Daniel Howden, The Independent UK
Posted on February 6, 2008, Printed on February 6, 2008
http://www.alternet .org/story/ 76056/A "plastic soup" of waste
floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now
covers an area twice the size of the continental United States,
scientists have said.The vast expanse of debris -- in effect the world's
largest rubbish dump -- is held in place by swirling underwater
currents. This drifting "soup" stretches from about 500 nautical miles
off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and
almost as far as Japan.Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who
discovered the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" or "trash vortex", believes
that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region.
Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the US-based Algalita Marine
Research Foundation, which Mr Moore founded, said yesterday: "The
original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic
garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is
almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe
twice the size as continental United States."Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an
oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has tracked the build-up
of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years and compares the trash
vortex to a living entity: "It moves around like a big animal without a
leash." When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian
archipelago, the results are dramatic. "The garbage patch barfs, and you
get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic," he added.The "soup"
is actually two linked areas, either side of the islands of Hawaii,
known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches. About
one-fifth of the junk -- which includes everything from footballs and
kayaks to Lego blocks and carrier bags -- is thrown off ships or oil
platforms. The rest comes from land.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.Professor David Karl, an oceanographer at the University
of Hawaii, said more research was needed to establish the size and
nature of the plastic soup but that there was "no reason to doubt"
Algalita's findings."After all, the plastic trash is going somewhere and
it is about time we get a full accounting of the distribution of plastic
in the marine ecosystem and especially its fate and impact on marine
ecosystems."Professor Karl is co-ordinating an expedition with Algalita
in search of the garbage patch later this year and believes the expanse
of junk actually represents a new habitat. Historically, rubbish that
ends up in oceanic gyres has biodegraded. But modern plastics are so
durable that objects half-a-century old have been found in the north
Pacific dump. "Every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50
years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere," said
Tony Andrady, a chemist with the US-based Research Triangle Institute.Mr
Moore said that because the sea of rubbish is translucent and lies just
below the water's surface, it is not detectable in satellite
photographs. "You only see it from the bows of ships," he said.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.Plastic is believed to constitute 90 per cent of all rubbish
floating in the oceans. The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006
that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating
plastic,Dr Eriksen said the slowly rotating mass of rubbish-laden water
poses a risk to human health, too. Hundreds of millions of tiny plastic
pellets, or nurdles -- the raw materials for the plastic industry -- are
lost or spilled every year, working their way into the sea. These
pollutants act as chemical sponges attracting man-made chemicals such as
hydrocarbons and the pesticide DDT. They then enter the food chain.
"What goes into the ocean goes into these animals and onto your dinner
plate. It's that simple," said Dr Eriksen. * 2008 Independent Media
Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet .org/story/ 76056/
Janet BrownPartner Program ManagerHospitals for a Healthy EnvironmentPO
Box 3366Amherst, MA 01004413/ Janet is on the
steering committee of the Green Guide for Health Care.

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