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Plastic Plastic Everywhere: The 5 Gyres Project

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Plastic Plastic Everywhere: The 5 Gyres Project

If you have been following my writings here at Care2 or on my blog you’ve most certainly heard about the plastic mass that is floating out in the North Pacific Gyre. The gyre, one of several in the world, is a vortex of currents swirling inwards that lies between California and Japan. Like a toilet bowl that never flushes, it’s filled with plastic debris from man made items. So much so that from the first time it was studied until now, it has grown from the size of the state of Texas to twice the size of the continental United States!

How do I know this? Simple, my friends, Dr. Marcus Erikson and Anna Cummins, along with a bevy of other scientists, have traversed it, not once, but several times, in order to study what is actually happening out there. And what they found is truly disturbing. While the plastic soup is not concentrated, meaning you wouldn’t be able to see it from the air, once you get in the water, it can’t be missed. Thousands of tiny confetti-like pieces of plastic, filling otherwise pristine waters, waiting to be ingested.

And that’s just what happens. Petroleum based plastics break down, never completely, but over time getting smaller and smaller. As they do, fish and birds eat them and carry them forward. Some of the animals die. Some live on. And some are eaten by larger animals. As bigger fish eat smaller fish, the plastic particles and the myriad cancer-causing PCBs that they attract from unburnt fuel that falls on our oceans, move up the foodchain, and eventually onto our plates. As if Mercury wasn’t enough to worry about right?

As I mentioned, the North Pacific is only one of the Gyres in our seas, so Marcus and Anna and their colleagues have set out on the 5 Gyres project, a series of voyages to study the other 5 major gyres in the world, mostly in the North and South Atlantic. Presently they are studying the area between the US Virgin Islands, crossing the Sargasso Sea, and then ending in the Azores. Along the way they will collect samples, document debris and movement patterns, and report on what they are finding. They will also be stopping to speak with local officials on how to deal with this problem and make people aware of what they are finding.

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Dave Chameides

Dave Chameides is a filmmaker and environmental educator. His website and newsletter are designed to inspire thought and dialogue on environmental solutions and revolve around the idea that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. "Give people the facts, and they'll choose to do the right thing."


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5:46PM PDT on Jun 14, 2011

I wish we could just cast a net and scoop it right up

1:50PM PDT on Jun 13, 2011

I was very sadden to watch this video. Thanks for sharing.

5:26PM PDT on Jun 8, 2011

Saw this on Oprah...Sometimes I just fell so helpless... I try my best, but it feels like nothing changes...
Anyway, thank you Dave...

1:09AM PST on Nov 18, 2010

PLEASE somebody buy one of the "everything to oil" pressure cooker mini oil refinery contraptions for each of the gyres and set them to work turning that plastic into something between crude oil and number 2 diesel.

1:55PM PDT on Sep 12, 2010

This video is very disturbing, but I want to relate another way that shows how bad plastic is for the environment. On Big Pine Key, Florida (in the Florida Keys), there is an old rock quarry called the Blue Hole, which is the home to one or more alligators. In April of 2008, we found our 9' male gator floating dead. The necropsy determined that he died from swallowing a 2"x3" plastic toy turtle. Alligators love to eat turtles, and he was able to swallow it whole, but it became lodged at the opening from his stomach to his intestines. He died a very slow, painful death from a major blockage.

plastic spring

9:17AM PDT on Aug 17, 2010

"Give people the facts, and they'll choose to do the right thing."
The sad thing is that it's not always true. I live in Texas. I try to tell people about these things. I show them videos and photos and stories about the horrible things we're doing to animals and the planet. Most of them don't care at all. They still eat meat 4 times a day and use plastic everything. It's horrible. It makes me really start to dislike people. How could they not care??

2:05AM PDT on Aug 17, 2010

Thank you for this article and Lilah's comment.Awareness, ideas and encouragement really help me to change my habits.
it takes effort, but I am getting better every day.

11:53AM PDT on May 31, 2010

This is really sad.

3:09AM PDT on May 25, 2010

everyone, please sign & share:
than you so much

9:14AM PDT on May 7, 2010

The basic building block of plastics is cellulose taken from petroleum, but toxic petrochemical compositions are not the only way to derive plastics. Plastics can be derived from plant cellulose, and since hemp is the greatest cellulose producer on Earth (hemp hurds can be 85% cellA recent technological advance with biodegradable plastics made from cornstarch has led to a new material based on hemp. Hemp Plastics (Australia) have sourced partners who have been able to produce a new 100% biodegradable material made entirely from hemp and corn. This new material has unique strength and technical qualities which have yet to be seen before, and this new material can be injection or blow-molded into virtually any shape using existing moulds, including cosmetic containers, Frisbee golf discs, etc.ulose), it only makes sense to make other organics, instead of letting our dumps fill up with refuse.
The possibilities are endless with hemp plastics and resins, and bio-composites. Virtually any shape and purpose can be fulfilled by bio-composite plastics. Hemp plastics are already on the rise, it is only a matter of time before we will see the need to grow hemp in the United States to meet our demands.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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