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Mission to Break up Pacific Island of Rubbish Twice the Size of Texas Starts Next Month

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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 01:11 PM
Original message
Mission to Break up Pacific Island of Rubbish Twice the Size of Texas Starts Next Month
Mission to Break up Pacific Island of Rubbish Twice the Size of Texas

by Frank Pope


A high-seas mission departs from San Francisco next month to map and explore a sinister and shifting 21st-century continent: one twice the size of Texas and created from six million tonnes of discarded plastic.

Scientists and conservationists on the expedition will begin attempts to retrieve and recycle a monument to throwaway living in the middle of the North Pacific.

The toxic soup of refuse was discovered in 1997 when Charles Moore, an oceanographer, decided to travel through the centre of the North Pacific gyre (a vortex or circular ocean current). Navigators usually avoid oceanic gyres because persistent high-pressure systems also known as the doldrums lack the winds and currents to benefit sailors.

Mr Moore found bottle caps, plastic bags and polystyrene floating with tiny plastic chips. Worn down by sunlight and waves, discarded plastic disintegrates into smaller pieces. Suspended under the surface, these tiny fragments are invisible to ships and satellites trying to map the plastic continent, but in subsequent trawls Mr Moore discovered that the chips outnumbered plankton by six to one.

The damage caused by these tiny fragments is more insidious than strangulation, entrapment and choking by larger plastic refuse. The fragments act as sponges for heavy metals and pollutants until mistaken for food by small fish. The toxins then become more concentrated as they move up the food chain through larger fish, birds and marine mammals.

You can buy certified organic farm produce, but no fishmonger on earth can sell you a certified organic wild-caught fish. This is our legacy, said Mr Moore.

more...

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/05/02-3
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CaliforniaPeggy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 01:17 PM
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1. I am really pleased to hear this.
Ever since I'd first heard about this plastic abomination, I have wondered if anyone could tackle the job of removing it.

If we are ever to have healthy oceans, this must happen.

K&R

:patriot:
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depakid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 01:24 PM
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2. Not sure how one would even begin to clean that up
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joshcryer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 09:26 PM
Response to Reply #2
12. I find it highly unlikely that they are doing anything more than a PR stunt.
Sorry for the skepticism, but they are talking about "surveying," which to me sounds like they just want to go there and make pretty pictures to put in their NGO propaganda to get people to send them money.

Such a recycling / cleanup job needs to have serious scientific understanding before it can be even attempted. Perhaps they will help pave the way for that, but I am a skeptic.
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opihimoimoi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 01:36 PM
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3. Obviously a hemongous challenge but absolutely necessary...How? We should find the ways ASAP
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CrispyQ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 01:37 PM
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4. Check out the first few pics on this webpage:
http://www.chrisjordan.com /

I came across this guys site this morning. I keep going back to it. He creates photographic representations of our waste. Fascinating & disturbing at the same time.
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petronius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-13-09 11:02 AM
Response to Reply #4
15. Those are really fantastic - I'd love to see an exhibit...
Thanks!
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silverweb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 01:45 PM
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5. Good news.
I keep picturing a fleet of ships with on-board, state-of-the-art digesters/converters of this waste. They could turn it into diesel and then haul it back to land-based processing plants.

The technology already exists to start such a pilot project and I hope this is one of the goals of this expedition.

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DKRC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 01:47 PM
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6. "The fragments act as sponges for heavy metals and pollutants "
Maybe someone will find a way to make this work in our favor, while keeping the fish from eating them. Anything that soaks up heavy metals & pollution is worth exploring as we finally begin to clean up after ourselves.

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jasmeel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 03:13 PM
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7. I hope they can do it!
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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 05:51 PM
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8. This is wonderful news.
I look forward to hearing about what they find and recommend.
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kristopher Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 05:58 PM
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9. Project Kaisei's website
http://www.projectkaisei.org/index.html

They could use donations if you have the spare cash...
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ConcernedCanuk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 07:44 PM
Response to Original message
10. I'm wondering how much of this comes from tankers, warships/aircraft carriers, cruise ships etc.,
.
.
.

I used to work for Canadian Pacific Railway as a maintainer on the tracks, and saw alot of garbage along the tracks.

our sewage was just dumped into the ground where the sidings were, most of them being beside water because the rails were built in the days of steam engines.

"Sidings" is where there is a small stretch of track off the mainline to let other trains pass each other, and also where we parked our gangs of maintainers/mechanics; sometimes with a crew of close to 100 men - that's alotta shit/garbage in one spot.

Recent changes demand that sewage and garbage be kept on the trains, but many times is still dumped along the tracks far away from any roads or waterways that would see human travel.

We are polluting our soil, our waters and our air.

Even our garbage in SPACE is running into itself.

I was born and raised to my early teens in Oakville, Ontario - right on Lake Ontario.

Before I was ten(1960), there were days that it was not safe to SWIM in Lake Ontario.

why?

Because we were dumping raw sewage into it for decades

We haven't progressed very much

(sigh)

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joshcryer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 09:22 PM
Response to Original message
11. The vast majority of this plastic is molecular, or microscopic.
Plastic doesn't degrade, but photons will break it down further and further until it is very small. Yeah, sure, you can find a few year old pieces of plastic but the hard to get stuff is stuff that's been floating there for a decade. There will probably be a way devised to get at it at some point in the future, but as of now their attempts to make a hole in the garbage patch are futile at best.
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firehorse Donating Member (547 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 10:59 PM
Response to Original message
13. I'm glad to hear someone is beginning the process of tackling this.
Doing something is better than doing nothing.
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Turborama Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-13-09 06:04 AM
Response to Original message
14. Good news that they're trying to get a grip with this, the results need to be made very public...
...to wake everyone up to what's going on.


Dr Richard Thompson is doing some research on the impact of plastic on the oceans and he's coming up with some very scary results:
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...

Thanks for the share. It's a shame I didn't see it in time to rec but it's still kickable...

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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-13-09 11:26 AM
Response to Original message
16. Call me crazy, but . . . why not pay fishing fleets to go out and harvest plastic?
Since it would likely take a year or six or ten to make a serious dent, it could take at least some of the pressure off of crashing stocks, since the key proviso would be that fishing operations getting paid to clean up plastic could NOT fish during the time they'd be under contract.

This would be especially true in light of massive global fleet overcapacity.

But then, that might make way too much sense, and gosh, where would we possibly find the money?

:eyes:
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Barrett808 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-13-09 02:14 PM
Response to Reply #16
17. Interesting idea.
Could actually work.
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