Plastic Island

Ocean currents funnel trash

It is shocking… the plastic that has been tossed away as trash by humanity is being funneled into both distant beaches and into a gyre of marine litter that sits in the central north pacific ocean. The great pacific garbage patch is one of the ways that ocean currents direct where garbage ends up.


Plastic does not degrade in the environment into basic elements that nature can reuse. Even on the smallest scale possible – plastic remains as a polymer. While large pieces might end up on the shrore of Gore Sound in Alaska or along other distant beaches, making those shorelines a literal ‘plastic island’, the more alarming trend is the photo-degeneration of plastic on the deep ocean. The particles become smaller and smaller until they can be consumed by the food chain.


The impact of this plastic pollution ranges from strangulation to ingestion. When consumed it can pollute the creature that has eaten it with more then just plastic, including PCBs, DDT, and PAHs chemicals. The plastic itself is toxic and can be mistaken as estradiol, a hormone like compound that can cause lifetime endocrine disruption of the animal that has plastic in it’s system. The food chain impacted includes jellyfish, fish that eat them, and eventually humans. Two hundred and sixty seven different species, many of which live far away from the North Pacific Gyre have been shown to be impacted by plastic marine debris. Both sea turtles, Black-footed Albatross, and many invasive species are included in this ever-widening problem.


It is all related, both the suspended particles in the water that end up being consumed and the larger pieces that wash up along the Alaskan beaches and elsewhere. The simple fact is that trash, no matter what is done with it, if is is not recycled, will end up causing harm to the environment. The most remote beaches, like the Spitsbergen Island ones, have been shown to have plastic trash at a density of one piece per five meters. This is an island in the arctic that has no human habitation on it, so – the only place this trash can come from is elsewhere.


It is alarming – indeed that so much trash is floating in the ocean, particles of plastic, many invisible to the eye, are suspended in the water. The amounts found has from doubled to grown 100 times and all of it is between sixty and ninety five percent plastic. We must remember that plastic does not break down when we toss it. Unlike paper, or other items that are organic, plastic retains the characteristic of plastic no matter how small the pieces get. It is chemically stable, and does not alter, even down to the molecule.


Non-biodegradable plastic is a chronic problem. It will keep getting worse until we make a concentrated effort to reduce, reuse, and recycle the plastic that would otherwise end up the ocean drifting on its way to either a distant beach or the great Pacific Garbage Patch.


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