Saturday, November 26, 2011
The Problem with Plastics
Pollution is an issue for us and our oceans, especially plastics. The problem with plastics is that they don’t breakdown in the environment. The rays from the sun can degrade the plastics a bit but that causes an additional problem. The plastics get smaller and smaller until they are the same size as the base of the marine food web – plankton. Then, ocean animals and seabirds ingest the plastic along with the plankton and can get sick or die.
Once the plastics get into the ocean, they float along with the ocean currents. These currents can cause large rotating masses of water known as gyres. The rotating water causes plastics and trash to collect in certain locations, such as the gyre in the Northern Pacific Ocean. Imagine a huge landfill in the middle of the ocean. That is the Ocean Garbage Patch and it’s our trash that circles with the currents.
Oprah covered the Garbage Patch on her Earth Day Special in 2009. The patch covers an area twice the size of Texas, the garbage can be up to 90 feet deep, and its mostly plastic.
There are “green” movements that try to get people to reduce their use of plastics. You see stainless steal water bottles and reusable bags for sale all over. For a stylish reusable bag, check out Envirosax.
I glanced around my classroom a few nights ago and noticed that there were 11 glass or plastic bottles on the desks. I was somewhat surprised to have about a third of the room of a masters level business course using disposable bottles. I wondered how many of the bottles would be recycled.
What can we do? Sure we can work on reducing or eliminating our use of disposable plastics like water bottles, utensils, and plastic bags. We can also help spread the word about how plastics impact our oceans.
Anna Hepler is promoting awareness through her art. She created “Gyre,” a huge installation made from plastic to show the impact our plastic usage on the oceans. Read more about her installation here.
Colin Beavan is promoting awareness through his book No Impact Man that describes his family experiment in New York City to have a zero net impact on the environment. You can read more about my reaction to the book and what I do in my own life to reduce my impact in the University of Rhode Island Common Reading Blog.
Photo courtesy of Anna Hepler.