We’ve been concerned about plastics for years, in part because, well, no other material epitomizes so well the nature of the cancerous consumer society decried by Aldous Huxley in the quotation that flies on this blog’s flag.
In addition to their role as chemicals making us fatter, giving us cancer, lowering our sperm counts, triggering the growth of breasts in young boys, and so much more, plastics are also a plague upon the environment.
Back when esnl was knee high to a grasshopper, whenever we needed some coin to buy a comic book or a candy bar, we would go out and hunt for pop bottles, with each one giving us two cents at a time when candy bars cost a nickel, comic books a dime, and a four-hour Saturday afternoon matinee at the Plaza Theater was fourteen cents.
But plastic has replaced the bottle, and unlike glass which, even when broken, breaks down into mere sand, plastics work their way through the environment, polluting at each step of the way.
And so for Earth Day, we bring you this, the latest indictment of the substance that also gave rise to one of the most quoted movie lines of our youth.
From the University of Delaware:
Plastics are all around us. They are found in containers and packing materials, children’s toys, medical devices and electronics.
Unfortunately, plastics are also found in the ocean.
A 2015 paper published in Science estimates that anywhere from 4.8 million to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic were dumped into the ocean in 2010 alone. One metric ton equals approximately 2,200 pounds.
As people celebrate Earth Day on Friday, April 22, new research by University of Delaware physical oceanographer Tobias Kukulka provides evidence that the amount of plastic in the marine environment may be greater that previously thought.
Troubling tiny travelers
Plastic in the ocean becomes brittle over time and breaks into tiny fragments. Slightly buoyant, these microplastics often drift at the surface where they can be mistaken for food by birds, fish or other marine wildlife. Microplastics have turned up in the deep ocean and in Arctic ice, too.
“You have stuff that’s potentially poisonous in the ocean and there is some indication that it’s harmful to the environment, but scientists don’t really understand the scope of this problem yet,” explains Kukulka, an expert on ocean waves and currents, and associate professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment’s School of Marine Science and Policy.
One technique scientists use to try and quantify how much plastic is in the marine environment is to drag a tow net over the surface for a few miles in one of the world’s five ocean gyres, then count the number of plastic fragments. This number is then used to calculate a concentration considered representative of the amount of plastic in the area.
There’s lots more, after the jump. . . Continue reading