One of these days we’ll have to do something about the sea of plastic polluting the ocean.
Sailing 4,000 miles on the Pacific Ocean made Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal sick. It wasn’t waves that turned their stomachs, but the amount of plastic garbage they encountered on a voyage with the Algalita Marine Research Foundation earlier this year.
The activists wanted more people to share their disgust about plastic litter that swirls, relatively unexplored, in continent-size patches of ocean.
To that end, they have built a motor-less craft from 15,000 recycled beverage bottles, fishing nets, and the cockpit of a Cessna, and are sailing it more than 2,000 miles from southern California to Hawaii. They left Long Beach, Calif., on Sunday.
We are all affected by global pollution, whether we realize it or not.
On the last Pacific voyage that ended in February, Eriksen and Paschal helped marine researcher Charles Moore assess the extent of pollution in the waters leading up to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling mass of plastic debris some estimate to be as large as the United States.
In early tests, a sample showed 48 parts of plastic to each part of plankton.
“They haven’t finished processing the samples, but there was an exponential increase in the plastic,” said Anna Cummins, who was also aboard and serves as Algalita’s education adviser. “What looked on the surface like clean water, when you pulled it up, it looked like plastic soup. It was disgusting.”
Algalita researchers said the floating, soupy landfill isn’t well understood because satellites can’t spot the translucent particles. And although efforts by scientists to explore plastic in five gyres around the world have been lacking, interest is expanding as the public learns more.
“No one really knows what’s out in the other gyres,” Cummins said. “In the north Pacific alone there’s Capt. Moore with his research boat. We are a small organization with five or six paid staff members.”
Eighty percent of the plastic comes not from ships but from land, where tossed consumer goods eventually travel from beaches and rivers into the ocean, according to Algalita.
Plastic concentrates poisons such as PCBs at levels a million times higher than found in the water, according to Japanese researchers.
I had only heard of one gyre, five is even worse. Maybe we should test putting Daniel Burd’s decomposition microorganism in one of the gyres.