Too Many People, Too Much Plastic: Vast Ocean Trash Vortex

September 10, 2009 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Edmund Levering for this link to the Center for Biological Diversity’s three-minute film on plastics in the ocean.

June is National Oceans Month, and one issue is particularly emblematic of the burgeoning human population’s impact on our biggest salty water bodies: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Technically known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, it’s an area devoid of ocean currents where floating objects tend to collect. But “patch” is a misnomer. More than 7 million tons of plastic now clog an area roughly twice the size of Texas. There’s six times as much plastic in the gyre as there is plankton, which form the base of the ocean’s food chain. And plastic never biodegrades; it only breaks into ever-smaller particles called “nurdles,” which often resemble plankton and are mistakenly eaten by bigger sea creatures. Not only do nurdles cause malnutrition, they also tend to concentrate persistent organic pollutants like PCBs and DDT . . . with toxic effects on unsuspecting marine diners.

While regulating global plastic use and disposal would be a good start, there’s one simple equation that may point to a solution: too many humans equals too much plastic. We must stop population growth before it nurdles the ocean’s wildlife to death.

Check out this Great Pacific Garbage Patch video.

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