Friday, December 26, 2008

Swimming in an ocean of plastic

ABC News aired a disturbing segment tonight on a gigantic trash dump known as the Pacific Ocean. The segment followed Charles Moore, captain of the private research vessel Alguita, part of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, who pursues the Pacific’s floating plastic. It turns out that large amounts of plastic that we dispose of every day, from bags, to food wrappers, to packaging, and much much more make its way into the ocean where it stirs breaking down into finer and finer particles. These particles of plastic are at every level of the ocean from the surface to the bottom. Animals get entangled in this plastic and ingest the plastic mistaking it as food. Plastic is now making its way up the food chain. Small plastic beads are mistaken as fish eggs and ingested by fish and jellyfish which in turn are eaten by sea turtles and larger fish including many of the popular fish we dine on. Not only do these plastic pellets not have any nutritional value, but they also act like sponges for toxic chemicals and killing off much of the sea life we depend on. Plastic is now even making up a large percentage of the sand in the area. Instead of ground up pieces of shell and coral the sand is now make up of ground up pieces of plastic.

Cleaning up this mess is a gargatuan task that no one can afford. But there is something that each of us can do to help reduce the amount of plastic making it's way into the oceans. For starters we can insist that manufacturers reduce the amount of plastic in their packaging by avoiding purchasing products wrapped in plastic. We can also contact manufactuers and insist that if they must use plastic packaging they use plastic made of celulose which breaks down quickly and is biodegradable. Additionally we should contact our govornmental representatives and insist they create stronger laws to punish companies and shippers for dumping waste in the oceans and hold those companies accountable for accidents and spills.

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