Free the Ocean--of Plastics

Free the Ocean

You might think the ocean is not important or that it doesn’t affect your life, But you’d be wrong.

The ocean covers more than 2/3 of the earth’s surface, and has absorbed about 25% of human carbon dioxide emissions since 1880. That’s about the same as plants on land. And that’s just for starters.

But the oceans are not doing well, and a huge problem is plastic pollution. Globally, we produce a massive amount of plastic – over 380 million tons every year, but only an estimated 9% of that is recycled. Used for just a few moments, but forever on the planet – all plastic that has ever been produced still exists today.

  • Millions of animals are killed by plastics every year, from birds to fish to other marine organisms.

  • 90% of the water we drink and 33% of the fish we eat contains microplastics, leading to serious health problems.

  • We consume the equivalent (by weight) of a credit card’s worth of plastic every week.

  • By 2050 scientists predict that the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish.

You might be interested in an educational web site called Free the Ocean. It lets you answer a marine-themed question every day, and It’ doesn’t cost you anything. Every time you answer the question, right or wrong, the organization will remove 1 piece of plastic from the ocean. This would be fun for children also, You also have the option of buying sustainable, plastic-alternative products

Check out Free the Ocean

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A recent John Oliver episode (highly recommended for its educational value - but with language alert; it is not a family-friendly show) exposed how the plastics industry as a whole has pulled a fast one on us all over the last few decades. They offloaded any perceptions of responsibility toward the consumer, mounting a massive (and highly successful!) PR campaign to make us all feel like if we would, as consumers, just do our part and recycle - all would be well. What they failed to mention was that any/all recycling we do is just a 10% tip-of-the-iceberg bandage on the massive amounts of non-recyclable (and much of the remainder being only once-recyclable) plastics that they continue to pump out. The plastics being pumped into the world ocean and toward offshore landfills in permissively lax nations will continue unabated until corporations begin to actually take some responsibility toward doing the right thing. (Anybody want to hold their breath on that?) Short of widespread government regulation, it won’t happen.

But they are happy to keep printing the nice ‘recycle’ logo on all their plastics (even all the ones that are not recyclable at all) as an effective PR salve for our consciences about all the packaging and plastic stuff we still consume. “Go ahead! You’re doing your part - getting all your #1 and #2 stuff into the right bin instead of the trash! It’s good to stop the bleeding on that finger there. Never you mind the gushing artery over there … let’s all just pretend that doesn’t exist.”

Don’t get me wrong. Recycling is still good, and 10% effectiveness (just for plastics - hopefully other categories of substances are doing better than that) is better than nothing. But we need to be realistic about the scope of the problem here, and the near-zero probability that corporations will make any good decisions to address the real problem without immense pressure being applied to them from consumers and regulatory structures with real teeth.

And in case somebody is interested in a different kind of motivation, maybe this BBC video will get their attention regarding plastics and male fertility.

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Interesting as well as worrisome. One hears that plastic things break down but itsn’t clear to me that they ever break down into anything but smaller bits of plastic. I’ve also heard there is something that can digest plastic but I’m not sure it lives in the ocean. Would be a match made in heaven otherwise.

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Yes, the little bits are called microplastics. And they have been found EVERYWHERE.

I wonder if we point out that microchips could be in this micro plastics perhaps those worried about getting vaccinated might transfer some of that worry to where it could do some good.

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What we all can do now is this: stop using plastic straws, which are never recycled. And don’t use plastic shopping bags. As a matter of fact, my town and many other towns in my area banned the use of plastic shopping bags.

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I guess on geologic time scales you could say it’s degradable…

That, it most certainly is! The planet will be just fine. It’s the well-being of the present ecological system (and therefore the present human civilization) that ought to be concerning us.

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I am reminded of War of the Worlds (movie because I didn’t read the book) where the invaders die because they weren’t suited to handle earth’s microorganisms. Imagine if out of all the ways we could annihilate ourselves, it ends up being microplastics. I think God might actually laugh :joy:

Plastic pollution is hilarious.

Poetic justice.

I just learned about these this week that will catch microplastics from your synthetic fibers in the washing machine: https://www.coraball.com/

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That looks good. Do you have one yet?

60 years ago it was still acceptable to dump everything into the sea. Ammunition, poisons, nuclear matter, nutrients, practically everything that was waste. It took some time to realise that this was not wise. It has taken more time to realise that plastic is also a problem. Probably will take decades before the dumping of plastic into the sea will stop.

Microplastic may be a bigger problem because so much of what humans do produces microplastics. Smoking, driving, washing of clothes. Microplastics can be found practically everywhere, even in arctic ice. I guess no one knows what microplastics will do to human health.

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[Your Laundry Sheds Harmful Microfibers. Here’s What You Can Do About It.]
(https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/blog/reduce-laundry-microfiber-pollution/)

Let me know if you can access it.

btw, scientist are still studying the effects of ingesting microplastics.

Not yet, just read about them this week!

This must be a tricky thing to study… if they’re as widespread as it sounds like, I’m not sure who/what would be used as a control group.

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See Plastic Measures, by Graham Lawton
New Scientist
12/7/2019, Vol. 244 Issue 3259, p38-38. 1p.

" Consider the microplastics we swallow, which is probably the way most get into our bodies. Microplastics have been detected in drinking water and food; bottled water contains up to 106 particles per litre, and beer, sea salt, seafood, honey, sugar and teabags have also been found to be contaminated. Shellfish, which feed by filtering seawater and which we eat whole, including their digestive systems, are a rich source. A portion of mussels typically contains 800 microplastic particles.

Microplastics also rain out of the air and onto our food. One estimate suggests that we ingest more than 68,000 particles a year from this source. If there was any doubt that we regularly ingest them, a study last year put that to rest. It looked at samples of human faeces from around the world and found microplastics in all of them."

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I’d love to be in that control group if they figure out how.

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Ah… sounds like roughage then.

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