Plastic

GPGP or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A huge surface plastic island, we all do not want to think about. We don’t, but there are people, who do.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) spans 617,763 sq miles – more than twice the size of France, and contains at least 79,000 tons of plastic, as a research found. The challenge is coming from the fact, the plastic particles are really small and dissolved in chemical sludge, then diluted by saltwater.

Among from people who want to fight it is a young Dutch inventor – Boyan Slat. He has came up with a technology to clean up oceans. His invention may help in cleaning most of the small-particle ocean pollutants in 5 years time.

To address the issue immediately is important. Currently our seaborne fauna is close to being inedible due to these pollutants. Mackerel, anchovies, mullets and croakers swim in plastic and their meat contains micro and larger pieces of plastic.

They warned that as plastic attracts toxins in the environment, these poisons could be released into people’s bodies after they ate the fish. The plastics found included nylon, polystyrene and polyethylene.

Plastics are also known as an environmental endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. In simple terms, they screw with our hormones.

There are studies, suggesting this can lead to as much as sex changes in the fish. Cause to human reproductive problems too?

A new study published in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety finds that male fish are turning into females – a phenomenon known as intersex – due to chemical pollution, specifically estrogenic endocrine disrupting chemicals or EEDCs.

This definitely sounds bad. Good, there are people doing something about it, and this brings a lot of hope. Boyan’s organization is dedicated purely to cleaning up the oceans. It was created in 2013.

Going after it with vessels and nets would be costly, time-consuming, labor-intensive and lead to vast amounts of carbon emission and by-catch. That is why The Ocean Cleanup is developing a passive system, moving with the currents – just like the plastic – to catch it. The system consists of a 600-meter-long floater that sits at the surface of the water and a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt attached below. The floater provides buoyancy to the system and prevents plastic from flowing over it, while the skirt stops debris from escaping underneath. As the system moves through the water, the plastic continues to collect within the boundaries of the U-shaped system.

There is a lot of criticism behind his goals, mainly coming from well-established organisations or ‘authorities’, that failed to achieve similar goals. One of the things that hit me in the criticism, was the attitude ‘it is not worth trying‘. But hold on. Criticism without suggesting a different approach? Things don’t happen in the world through extensive analysis. To me, it is better to try to improve the world by cleaning oceans and adjust the methods as we go, rather than just whine.

We can all join in by the way. Ever heard of the ‘breaking bag habit‘? All these handy plastic bags will eventually end up somewhere. Many of them in the oceans. We don’t need them. Though even I must admit, they are sometimes very handy, I am leaning towards thinking, it is one luxury we can live without. Just bring some other bags with you shopping. I forget myself sometimes, but while writing this article, my conscience was beating me pretty hard for doing so.

Similar initiatives are opening up after the excellent BBC series about oceans. The Blue Planet II had shown for the first time publicly, how much plastic is in the oceans. How damaging it is to the oceans bio-systems. 750mln people had watched these series world-wide.

The effect it had on the viewers, has now it’s own name.

The programme has been credited with raising awareness of plastic pollution both domestically and internationally, an influence dubbed the ‘Blue Planet effect‘.

UK plans to ban single-use plastic products (date undisclosed, but is added to long-term strategies). The Queen had banned usage of plastic bottles across all of the Royal estates (if you think it is a laughable effort, try it, no plastic bottles for 2 weeks at a start). MCS and WWF are receiving more donations to save marine life.

It had impact on the local communities in the UK, like below:

Sunil Budhdeo organises community events at the Jalaram Hindu temple in Leicester – which means that he feeds about 400 people a week. But every time he would organise prashad – a communal meal – he would be shocked by the mountain of disposable plastic plates, cutlery and cups left behind. “Some temples in India or Africa have metal plates and cups – but they also have the labour to wash them up afterwards,” he says. “In the UK, it has been difficult to get labour.” But seeing Blue Planet II was a turning point for him. 

The plastic and pollution in the oceans are terrible. The point is, there is something being done about it. I’d like to encourage you to think about it the next time. Do we really need all of these softdrinks, cleaning products, plastic bags or plastic cutlery?

In the end, if you like fish, you might end up eating the plastic they ate again, in a few years time in the future… When you’ll be eating the fish.

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