Posts Tagged ‘garbage patch’

Human beings produce a stunning amount of trash. Each year, so much of our garbage reaches the oceans that it has been swirled by the waves into enormous islands of refuse. So massive are these deposits, that as of April 11, our collective mess will be named as its own country by the United Nations cultural and science agency, UNESCO. The Garbage Patch will encompass five areas of floating rubbish in the North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian Ocean. The territory will have its own flag and boast a population of 36,939 tons of garbage.

The effort to designate the Garbage Patch as a country was led by Italian architect, Maria Cristina Finucci.

“I found out about the tragic islands made of plastic, but they were treated lightly by the scientific community,” Finucci told the newspaper, La Stampa. “The only thing we can do now is to stop them from getting bigger,” she said.

The inauguration ceremony will take place at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, complete with bottle caps and plastic bags  littering the floor. While the problem of marine pollution is indeed a serious and colossal problem, there are ways in which you can simply alter your lifestyle to give the planet a little relief.

Recycle: Making sure your recyclables end up in the blue bin not only keeps trash out of the ocean, but cuts down on the energy needed to produce more new material. As an added bonus, all of your bottles and cans add up to earn you a little extra cash.

Be aware of packaging: Where you have the option, try and buy items that aren’t overloaded with plastic shells, tons of cardboard, or encased in enough metal to look like a tank. Look for foods and durable goods that use recycled content or biodegradable materials.

Ditch single-use items: Most of the trash gyres consist of plastic bottles and flimsy plastic bags. Make a fashionable and sustainable statement by bringing your own cloth bags to stores, eating utensils to take-out restaurants, and coffee mugs or water bottles to your favorite cafe. And check out Bambu Batu’s growing selection of reusable cups, bottles and utensils.

Volunteer: Lend the planet a helping hand and volunteer to clean up your local park, beach, or watershed.

Get involved: Have a favorite restaurant that still uses styrofoam? Does your town allow plastic bags and bottles? Successful petitions have been made to large companies like Jamba Juice to switch their cups, and towns across the US have begun to ban materials harmful to the environment. It can be done!

 

 The human population has an addiction to plastics, and it is a habit that sends tons of debris into the ocean each year. While governments and nonprofits have been struggling to find a solution to our marine mess, a 19-year-old aerospace engineering student at TU Delft has invented a device to help remove plastic pollution. Boyan Slat is the mind behind the Ocean Cleanup Array, a project that would combine large floating booms with anchored processing platforms that could gather debris for processing and recycling. Networks of these systems could be placed around floating garbage patches around the world, potentially being able to remove 7,250,000 tons of rubbish in five years. The array would be powered by the ocean’s currents, allowing marine life enough time to escape and avoid becoming trapped along with the plastics.

Slat’s design currently only exists on paper, but has already won such awards as Best Technical Design 2012 at the Delft University of Technology. He also presented his concept at TedXDelft last year, and has since founded a non-profit to take the idea from imagination to implementation. At the moment, the Foundation is seeking financial backing as well as support for its scientific research. While the Ocean Cleanup Array would not be able to remove the total amount of trash we dump into our waters each year, it is an encouraging step towards reversing our petroleum footprint. Along with a shift in how we produce and dispose of our materials, the global community can begin to turn the tide on how we treat our ocean ecosystems.

 

Sorry Oscar, but I HATE trash.  Case in point; marine garbage patches.  What exactly are these giant, floating messes?  Technically, these suspended litter heaps are concentrations of debris (usually consisting of small pieces of plastic) concentrated within a common area.  Contrary to popular belief, there are no permanent “islands” being created in the middle of the ocean that can be detected via satellite.  These collections of rubbish are, however, extremely harmful to marine ecosystems and enormously difficult to contain, clean and manage.

There are several massive known aggregations throughout the world, identified as the Eastern Pacific (between Hawaii and California), Western Pacific (off the Coast of Japan) and North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone (north of Hawaii) garbage patches.  There are also Atlantic equivalents to the Pacific concentrations (as debris will collect around major gyres, or large circulatory currents), although research is comparatively thin compared to those in the Pacific.  While these are not the only places flotsam accumulates from human activities on the mainland, they are by far some of the biggest and the subject of great concern. Since their size and shape changes daily or seasonally, estimates of location and span are at time difficult to pin down in exact terms.

The vast majority of the masses are made up of plastics.  From single-use bags to water bottles, plastics are responsible for chemical pollution through degradation, choking marine life who mistake objects for food (see the Guardian’s photo essay on Albatross death), and endangering entire ecosystems by disintegrating into tiny pieces which are taken up through the bottom of the food chain.

These  particles are then accumulated upwards into the tissues of larger organisms, eventually reaching top predators and human beings who consume animals lower down on the food chain.  Plastics are very hard to remove from the oceans as sunlight may reduce them into pieces unable to be captured by nets. Where trash collects, so does marine life, and attempts at skimming debris might also harm the creatures swimming amongst the junk.  Major clean-up efforts would also use a large amount of fossil fuels to locate, process and haul the detritus out of the sea.

Luckily, as individuals, we have the power to make decisions that can have large-scale effects.  Water bottles and plastic bags, who are common occupants of these floating landfills, can be replaced with multiple use items such as cloth grocery sacks (like Blue Lotus’s stylish produce bags), thermoses, canteens and reusable water bottles. At Bambu Batu, we dig the sustainable and attractive Bamboo Bottle. We also offer an attractive assortment of re-usable bamboo utensil sets and sporks, to further reduce your dependency on disposable plastics.

Reducing the amount of plastics we use, as well as recycling and properly disposing of what we purchase, can go a long way to stem the flow of trash making its way into our oceans and food chain.

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