Monday, July 7, 2014

Garbage-patch tale as flimsy as a single-use plastic bag - SFGate

Garbage-patch tale as flimsy as a single-use plastic bag - SFGate:

So the GREAT Pacific Garbage Patch is not real... Or maybe not nearly as big as originally expected.

Saunders does a great job of attaching the myth behind the original reports of "the size of Texas" and such.

Great sources of info included.

But now I'm really worried. The amount of plastic floating in the oceans amount to only (right, only) 7,000 to 35,000 Tons. But we know the amount of plastic produced each year, the % that gets recycle, the % that goes into a landfill and the paltry % that gets repurposed. That leaves a LOT of tons of plastic each year that go into the environment. If we estimate the amount that goes out the water systems into the oceans you get a LOT of plastics into the oceans. There's a lot of large pieces but the small stuff is mysteriously missing.

There's bit of a mystery working that is well discussed here at the SFGate with four possible theories by Leslie Baehr. None of them look good. The plastic found represent only about 1% of the plastic pollution in the ocean according to one of the researchers C√≥zar said. More could be hiding below the surface. 
"Indeed, the quantity of plastic floating in the ocean and its final destination are still unknown," the researchers concluded.
It may take hundreds or thousands of years for plastic to degrade. In the warm ocean with lots of sunlight, maybe only 1 year. See here on degrading and the short artgument as to whether plastics ever really biodegrade (although the degrade to smaller bits of the same).  Here's a nice little biodegadable table by the NH for the National Park Service, talking about 20 years for plastic bags and 450 for plastic bottles to biodegrade.
All that plastic is going somewhere. I was actually happier knowing where it was going... into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Now we don't know, what we don't know. That's worrisome! 

Wikipedia of the Great_Pacific_garbage_patch and the 
National Geographic on the Pacific Garbage Patch.
Marine Debris at NOAA.
Youtube from Oprah's show where she did an EarthDay on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Several years ago (upload is 2011). Before this new study, obviously.
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