Plastic Pollution

“The unprecedented plastic waste tide plaguing our oceans and shores, can become as limited as our chosen relationship with plastics, which involves a dramatic behavioral change on our part…” — Claire Le Guern

March 19, 2023

Microplastics in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (by Chesapeake Bay Program CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr).

There are 21,000 pieces of plastic in the ocean for each person on Earth – the Washington Post

And plastic pollution has been doubling every six years.

Humans have filled the world’s oceans with more than 170 trillion pieces of plastic, dramatically more than previously estimated, according to a major study released Wednesday.

The trillions of plastic particles — a “plastic smog,” in the words of the researchers — weigh roughly 2.4 million metric tons and are doubling about every six years, according to the study conducted by a team of international researchers led by Marcus Eriksen of the 5 Gyres Institute, based in Santa Monica, Calif. That is more than 21,000 pieces of plastic for each of the Earth’s 8 billion residents. Most pieces are very small.

The study, which was published in the PLOS One journal, draws on nearly 12,000 samples collected across 40 years of research in all the world’s major ocean basins. Starting in 2004, researchers observed a major rise in the material, which they say coincided with an explosion in plastics production.

The findings pointed toward both the vast amount of plastic that is flowing into the world’s oceans and the degree to which it is journeying long distances once in the water. The study may deliver a jolt of energy to U.N. talks to reduce global plastics pollution that started last year.

“This exponential rise in ocean surface plastic pollution might make you feel fatalistic. How can you fix this?” said Eriksen, a founder of the 5 Gyres Institute, a nonprofit group that works to study and fight ocean plastics pollution.

“But at the same time, the world is negotiating a U.N. treaty on plastic pollution,” Eriksen said…


More on Plastic Pollution . . .

The Blue Balloon (by Simon James CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr)

Here’s why a California beach town just banned balloons – the Grist

Celebrations in a beachside California city will soon have to take place without an iconic, single-use party favor: balloons.

The city council of Laguna Beach, about 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles, banned the sale and use of all types of balloons on Tuesday, citing their contribution to ocean litter as well as risks from potential fires when they hit power lines…

Packaging peanuts made from thermoplastic starch (by Christian Gahle, nova-Institut GmbH, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia).

Bio-Based Plastics Aim to Capture Carbon. But at What Cost? – Wired Magazine

Growing crops to make plastic may theoretically reduce reliance on fossil fuels, but at an enormous environmental cost…bio-based plastics are problematic for a variety of reasons. It would take an astounding amount of land and water to grow enough plants to replace traditional plastics — plus energy is needed to produce and ship it all…But let’s say there was a large-scale shift to bioplastics — what would that mean for future emissions? That’s what a new paper in the journal Nature set out to estimate…

Garden Style Flower Arrangement (by Flower Factor CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr).

Are You Giving Flowers with a Side of Plastic? – Hakai Magazine Editorial

Over a century ago, flower retailer Florists’ Telegraph Delivery group—more recognized as FTD—started the campaign “Say it with flowers” for Mother’s Day. And we’ve been saying it—I love you, I miss you, … congratulations on your new baby/home/job—ever since. Flower person or not, chances are you’ve recently intersected with a bouquet or arrangement… Look closely, and you’ll see the power of flowers; their ubiquity in our day-to-day.

Contact Lens with Case (by Marco Verch CC BY 2.0 via Flickr)

Stop ‘wishcycling’ and get wise: how to recycle (almost) everything – the Guardian

From contact lenses to blister packs and used dental floss, there are items that perplex even the most dedicated recycler…Labelling often requires a doctorate in semiotics to decode, kerbside collections are a postcode lottery and council recycling centres are often difficult to access without a car. At home, packaging piles up…All of it amounts to us collectively wondering whether recycling is ultimately pointless because it’s all going to end up in landfill in the developing world…

Pros and cons of biodegradable plastics and bioplastics (by GRID-Arendal CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr

Don’t Overestimate Bioplastics’ Benefits – Hakai Magazine

Bioplastics may avoid some of the issues associated with non-biodegradable fossil fuel­–derived plastics, but they’re no panacea.

Plastics produced from plants are often considered less environmentally damaging than plastics made from petrochemicals. But scientists are warning that we should be careful making such assumptions…

Aukland from Rangitoto (by Georgie Sharp CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr).

Even at the Bottom of the World, the Ocean is Belching Plastic – EOS Magazine

In a recent study published in Environmental Science and Technology, researchers report a mist of microplastics is constantly drifting across the country’s largest city.

“We don’t produce large amounts of plastics here in New Zealand,” said Joel Rindelaub, a research fellow at the University of Auckland in New Zealand who led the study. “But we did see large amounts of plastics falling out of the sky in Auckland…”

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