Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Sea of Plastic

Beach image by people.tribe.net

One of the things we noticed on our trip to Maine last week was the lack of trash along the trails as we hiked through Acadia National Park. It was jarring then to see one plastic bottle marooned in the mud near the boardwalk at Audubon's Francis Beidler Forest! Scant litter floats through the Four Holes Swamp, but if it floats the gaunlet of cypress knees and buttresses, it will enter the Edisto River and eventually to the Atlantic Ocean.

Albatross image by David Liittschwager & Susan Middleton

Such a journey sounds unlikely, but a casual stroll on the beach tells a different story. Go farther from the shore and vast quantities of trash, either dumped or washed into the ocean, float within the marine food chain. It floats because it is nearly 90% plastic. According to Greenpeace, humans produce 200 billion pounds of plastic each year with 10% of that reaching the ocean. Only 20% of that total is from ships and platforms, so 80% of the plastic litter in the ocean comes from land! The United Nations Environment Program estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean hosts 46,000 pieces of floating plastic! In some cases, there is more plastic then plankton with the plastic and its associated contaminents working their way up the food chain.

Lately, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been in the news with its estimated size double that of Texas. This video by Charles Moore details that problem that plastics pose to the marine ecosystem and ultimately to our quality of life.

Help us be part of the solution at the source...reduce, reuse, and recycle.

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