Drastic Plastic

By new contributor Marguerite Manteau Rao. If you feel like writing for us, drop us an email!

“Synthetic Sea” is the name of a documentary from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation that exposes the environmental devastation caused by plastic debris in the ocean.

Plastic Oceans

Alguita, the oceanic research vessel from Algalita, just came back from one of its research expeditions in the Pacific Gyre, an area of the Pacific Ocean otherwise known as the Garbage Patch. They collected samples on the surface of the ocean and found evidence of record high concentrations of small plastic particles.

Birds and fish eat the plastic because it mimics the food they eat, zooplankton. Research data from the Algalita Foundation shows plastic particles outnumber zooplankton 6 to 1. Especially concerning is the fact that the plastic pieces can attract and hold hydrophobic elements like PCB and DDT at up to one million times background levels. As a result, this floating plastic is a poison pill.

According to the California Coastal Commission, 90% of floating marine debris is plastic. The majority of the debris is land sourced, mostly from urban runoff. With each storm, plastic trash makes its way into river streams, and eventually oceans. Finally, it reaches far away places such as the Central North Pacific Gyre, where it gets broken down and circulated continually by currents in the open sea.

It all starts with the American consumer, who is said to contribute some 65lbs of plastic into landfills each year. Only 5% of plastic ever gets recycled. One organization, Californians Against Waste, is lobbying actively for more regulations from the California Legislature, including a bill to limit the use of non-recyclable food packaging, such as foamed polystyrene, that makes up a large component of marine debris.

If you find this information useful and would like to get daily updates, feel free to subscribe to our RSS feed.