Monthly Archives: May 2018

Seas of Plastics drown us

According to Eco Watch, the fossil fuel era must end, or it will spell humanity’s end. The threat isn’t just from pollution and accelerating climate change. Rapid, wasteful exploitation of these valuable resources has also led to a world choked in plastic. Almost all plastics are made from fossil fuels, often by the same companies that produce oil and gas.

Our profligate use of plastics has created swirling masses in ocean gyres. It’s worse than once thought. New research concludes that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is 16 times larger than previously estimated, with 79,000 tonnes of plastic churning through 1.6 million square kilometers of the North Pacific. That’s larger than the area of Quebec—and it continues to grow! Researchers say if we don’t clean up our act, the oceans will have more plastics by weight than fish by 2050.

The Ocean Cleanup Foundation commissioned the study, published in Nature, based on a 2015 expedition using 30 vessels and a C-130 Hercules airplane to look at the eastern part of the patch.

According to a CBC article, researchers estimate that the patch holds 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, much of it broken down into microplastics less than half a centimeter in diameter. They also found “plastic bottles, containers, packaging straps, lids, ropes and fishing nets,” some dating from the late 1970s and into the ’80s and ’90s, and the large amount of debris from the 2011 tsunami in Fukushima, Japan.

When plastics break down into smaller pieces, they’re more difficult to clean up, and marine animals often ingest the pieces, which is killing them in ever-increasing numbers. Larger pieces can entangle marine animals, and bigger animals often ingest those, too, liquor stores.

The North Pacific patch isn’t unique. Debris accumulates wherever wind and ocean conditions and Earth’s rotation create ocean gyres, including the North Pacific, North Atlantic, South Pacific, South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.

Plastic discs on Italian Beaches

According to The Local, from Tuscany to Campania, hundreds of thousands of unidentified plastic discs have washed up on Italy’s western coast in recent weeks.

The white discs began turning up in southern Italy about a month ago, according to Clean Sea Life, a group that campaigns to clean up Italy’s beaches, which said it received the first report from Paestum beach on February 21st.

Since then hundreds of thousands more have been spotted all along the Tyrrhenian coast, says the group, which has been mapping the sightings and alerting regional authorities. Some of its members picked up 800 of the discs in one hour on a single beach, it said, liquor stores.

It is not known where the discs came from or how so many of them ended up in the sea, but Clean Sea Life suspects that they are parts for a water purification plant that were either washed out during heavy rains or somehow fell into the ocean while they were being delivered.

Oceanographers are studying the log of sightings to try to work out where the spill most likely took place. They believe it was somewhere in the Gulf of Naples and those currents later swept the discs north.

@CleanSeaLIFE

“Update on the big spill of disks, likely used in wastewater treatment aka #hooksetdisks washing up by the 1000s in central Italy. @CleanSeaLIFE coordinating w local, regional auth, coast guard and oceanographers to backtrack source &cleanup #marinelitter #marinedebris #6IMDC”

The group is urging members of the public to let them know if they spot the discs and, even more importantly, to pick them up.

“If it had been done right away, we wouldn’t find ourselves with hundreds of sightings of discs all over the Tyrrhenian a month later,” Clean Sea Life said. “If we don’t pick them up now, they’ll continue to pollute our sea forever, breaking up bit by bit into smaller and smaller pieces without ever disappearing completely.”