Monday, April 19, 2010

Found: the East Coast's very own Oceanic Garbage Patch

For over ten years now we've known about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a toxic soup made mostly of plastic waste that extends over a huge area, anywhere from the size of Texas to the size of the continental United States. Scientists have said there are probably more oceanic garbage patches on the planet collecting in Earth's other oceanic gyres, but they hadn't been documented and studied. Until now.

A group called 5 Gyres has found and documented a second great garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean.

Fellow New Yorkers, this one is ours:
Charles Moore, an ocean researcher credited with discovering the Pacific garbage patch in 1997, said the Atlantic undoubtedly has comparable amounts of plastic. The east coast of the United States has more people and more rivers to funnel garbage into the sea.
Up to 80% of marine debris comes from land. Plastic garbage in the ocean is worse than land-filled plastic waste because it spreads over a huge area, slowly photo-degrades, acts as a sponge for other potentially harmful chemicals in the ocean (never-mind the hormone disrupting chemicals it contains to begin with...), kills marine life, and eventually gets passed back up the food chain to US. According to Moore, "Humanity's plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than its carbon footprint".

Its overwhelming, isn't it? Kind of makes you want to stick your head in the sand and say 'life's too short for me to worry about this and we're screwed, anyway'. Well excuse me, but F*** that. Here's the thing- Rome wasn't built in a day, but in comparison to Rome? The garbage patches WERE. We humans have only had this throw-away plastic mentality and industry for what, 40, 50 years? The garbage patches can only be that old then. And while it is impossible for us to go out and clean them up, we sure as hell can stop adding to them. If it only took humanity 40-50 years to develop a throw-away economy, it shouldn't take nearly that long to re-design it, so that we discard way less and the things we do discard are biodegradable, and don't harm us or the planet.

The answer isn't finding a way to clean up the garbage patches. We are way too late for that. The answer is in taking a look at our own trash cans, at the things we buy, use, and throw away. How much of your trash is plastic? How much of it is recyclable? How much can you avoid altogether? If we all do even a little bit towards reducing our waste, things WILL change. It'll be fast, and it'll be easier than we think-- if enough of us act and speak up. Business and manufacturers will pay attention. God willing, our government will pay attention--but being the realist that I am, I'm pretty sure business and industry will react first. But for that to happen, we-- we good little American Consumers-- have to act.

Don't be discouraged. Don't be overwhelmed. Do something.

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