The Sea of Waste
The serene beauty of our ocean has become a plastic soup over years of abuse. What to do and how to stop it from getting worse.
- Captain Charles Moore's discovery
- Caught in the ocean’s giant gyres
- The breakdown of plastic
- What people can do to alleviate the problem?
- One person can make a difference
- Related videos
Captain Charles Moore's discovery
After a yacht race to Hawaii in 1997 Captain Charles Moore changed his usual route on his return to California and encountered an ocean he had never seen before. "Every time I came on deck to survey the horizon, I saw a soap bottle, bottle cap or a shard of plastic waste bobbing by. Here I was in the middle of the ocean and there was nowhere I could go to avoid the plastic." Since then Moore has dedicated his life and resources to understanding and finding a remedy to the ever growing pollutants.
Caught in the ocean’s giant gyres
Scientists report there may be five garbage patches trapped in large gyres in the oceans around the world. The great North Pacific garbage patch in the southeastern area is one of those, approximately twice the size of Texas. The current of these rotating gyres collects and pulls the majority of the waste into these circles. Fishing gear make up for some of the refuse but the majority of it is plastic; from bottles, bags, toothbrushes, etc., most of the waste is blown from the land, and washed down storm drains and out to sea.
The breakdown of plastic
Plastics absorb DDT, PCBs along with other chemicals as well as release them into the environment.
The plastic breaks down into billions of particles. The fish that feed on plankton ingest the plastic fragments, storing some of the chemicals; and so it goes down the food chain; larger fish eat the smaller fish which birds and humans feed on, transferring the toxins.
There’s no escaping the toxins. A Japan-based group gathered samples of water from Europe, Japan, U.S., India and elsewhere. The samples contained derivatives of polystyrene, which is a common plastic used in disposable cutlery, CDs, DVD cases and Styrofoam.
What people can do to alleviate the problem?
• Use wise choices when buying something. When it comes to drinks like pop etc. buy it in cans instead of plastic bottles.
• Try to avoid buying plastic cutlery, Styrofoam and plastic dishes.
• (Tip; when mailing something fragile instead of using bubble wrap or Styrofoam noodles, wrap it up in cloth and use air-popped popcorn).
• Go back to the basics; buy glass or ceramic dishes, leather when it comes to shoes, purses and belts if the budget allows.
• Have a thermos cup when you go for coffee whether it is Starbucks or Tim Horton’s or whatever coffee shop you frequent, have your cup ready to avoid access trash and plastic lids.
• Concerned about the water you drink? Use a water filter; there are dozens of kinds out on the market to alleviate most concerns about your tap water. Or you could get a water distiller and use reusable bottles to take with you, instead of buying bottled water.
• Use reusable bags when shopping.
• (tip; you can also purchase a reusable bag as a gift bag to inspire your friends into action)
• Even the little things add up. Example; instead of buying those colorful plastic refill pencils, buy the old fashion wood ones (they come with various designs and colors on them that are sure to please the user). They’re dozens of things to list, but your trained eye will catch the nonessential items to avoid them when shopping.
• And if you happen to get something with plastic rings cut the loops so that marine life doesn’t get tangled in it.
One person can make a difference
Think of the garbage we get rid of on garbage day; that’s just one or two weeks’ worth now times that by a year, we can reduce that by half or three quarters by recycling and composting and more importantly we can keep plastic from our ocean and waterways by shopping with a keen eye on what we get and using reusable bags and bottles.
Captain Charles Moore talks about the danger imposed on our sea.
Edward Norton’s campaign to stop the use of plastic bags