Thursday, March 19, 2009

Paper or plastic? Why not use canvas?

Plastic bags are killing us

The most ubiquitous consumer item on Earth, the lowly plastic bag is an environmental scourge like none other, sapping the life out of our oceans and thwarting our attempts to recycle it.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Aug. 10, 2007 | OAKLAND, Calif. -- On a foggy Tuesday morning, kids out of school for summer break are learning to sail on the waters of Lake Merritt. A great egret hunts for fish, while dozens of cormorants perch, drying their wings. But we're not here to bird-watch or go boating. Twice a week volunteers with the Lake Merritt Institute gather on these shores of the nation's oldest national wildlife refuge to fish trash out of the water, and one of their prime targets is plastic bags. Armed with gloves and nets with long handles, like the kind you'd use to fish leaves out of a backyard swimming pool, we take to the shores to seek our watery prey.

Dr. Richard Bailey, executive director of the institute, is most concerned about the bags that get waterlogged and sink to the bottom. "We have a lot of animals that live on the bottom: shrimp, shellfish, sponges," he says. "It's like you're eating at your dinner table and somebody comes along and throws a plastic tarp over your dinner table and you."

This morning, a turtle feeds serenely next to a half submerged Walgreens bag. The bag looks ghostly, ethereal even, floating, as if in some kind of purgatory suspended between its briefly useful past and its none-too-promising future. A bright blue bags floats just out of reach, while a duck cruises by. Here's a Ziploc bag, there a Safeway bag. In a couple of hours, I fish more than two dozen plastic bags out of the lake with my net, along with cigarette butts, candy wrappers and a soccer ball. As we work, numerous passersby on the popular trail that circles the urban lake shout their thanks, which is an undeniable boost. Yet I can't help being struck that our efforts represent a tiny drop in the ocean. If there's one thing we know about these plastic bags, it's that there are billions and billions more where they came from.

Speaking of plastic, I guess that the lowly bottle cap should also be mentioned. Charles Moore has been observing the effects of plastic in the pacific ocean for years, and his research has shown the effects of plastics on sea life and beyond...G:

Charles Moore: Oceanographer

TED "Technology Education Design"

Charles Moore is founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. He captains the foundation's research vessel, the Alguita, documenting the great expanses of plastic waste that now litter our oceans.
Why you should listen to him:

A yachting competition across the Pacific led veteran seafarer Charles Moore to discover what some have since deemed the world's largest "landfill" -- actually a huge water-bound swath of floating plastic garbage the size of two Texases. Trapped in an enormous slow whirlpool called the Pacific Gyre, a mostly stagnant, plankton-rich seascape spun of massive competing air currents, this Great Pacific Garbage Patch in some places outweighs even the surface waters' biomass six-to-one.

Moore said after his return voyage, "There were shampoo caps and soap bottles and plastic bags and fishing floats as far as I could see. Here I was in the middle of the ocean, and there was nowhere I could go to avoid the plastic."

Since his discovery, Moore has been analyzing the giant litter patch and its disastrous effects on ocean life. Through the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, he hopes to raise awareness about the problem and find ways to restrict its growth. He's now leading several expeditions to sample plastic fragments across thousands of miles of the Pacific.

"His findings have gone a long way toward educating the science community, if not yet the public, on the magnitude of marine pollution and its impact on life -- all life."

Thomas Kostigen, Discover Magazine


  1. Well, I'm a guilty party in this, but in a way I recycle the plastic bags, by reusing them as garbage bags.

    Yeah, I know they end up in landfills. But when the bigshot scientists get this nanotechnology thing down pat, they can use the little buggers to mine these old landfills like coal mines, turning the useless plastic into useful stuff.

    Like war-robots or mini-nukes or...

  2. Yep, it's not a pretty picture dodder...

    I went into a plastic consciousness mode for a while and found that virtually everything we eat has plastic involved, like if you buy a chicken at the supermarket, it's wrapped in plastic film, on a weird plastic absorbent pad and the whole thing sits in a styrofoam tub. Even simple food like soda crackers is wrapped in separate sections and cookies... they sit in a plastic tray with particularly strong plastic wrap. I was putting all of this in progressively larger plastic bags untill I had a profound revelation* What in the hell am I going to do with it? G:

  3. Hi dad

    I'm with you on the landfills thing.
    The fat cats will get around to mining it any day now. Our dumps also have more metal and resources than most of the stuff they're mining today...G:

  4. I agree with you....

    Legal process outsourcing(LPO)

  5. Kaps Tex Co., Ltd. offers Plastic Tarp, Plastic Tarpaulin from China.

  6. Well, thanks for the comments business guys, I hope that you will use some of your communicative expertise to help find solutions for keeping the plastic out of the oceans and waterways of the planet.

    I wish you well in all that you do, but remember that shopping locally, up close and personal, is what benefits our local communities. Sometimes it is better to see footprints than to see well worn roads and highways.

    I too am a middle man, buying what others have decided to sell or discard. and marketing it to collectors of gimcracks and doodahs who collect what they do not need.

    I sometimes sell on Ebay, but prefer to sell at local flea markets so that I can steer clear of the growing number of yet more middle men who profit from shipping, payment, and listing services...G: