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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Plastics Pollution Problem

NOAA (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) reports that there is a massive amount of micro plastic particles floating around in two major places in the North Pacific Ocean as well as other locations in the world. Apparently it is so large that to clean up less than one percent of this mess it would take approximately 67 ships a whole year to do the job.

However, this wouldn't solve the problem because in no time the micro plastic pieces would return by way of ocean currents that are carrying plastic trash that break down into these tiny particles of micro plastic. These smaller than visible with the naked eye pieces get swallowed by birds and marine life, seep toxic chemicals into them and kill them by the millions.

A study conducted at the Nihon University in Chiba, Japan discovered that plastic bottles, bags, etc. decompose and break down into smaller invisible plastic particles in warm sunshine and ocean water within about one year after it has been deposited in the ocean or washed up on a beach. This is called photo-degradation. In a landfill, bacteria eats wood, grass, food scrapes and other items in a process known as bio-degradation.

However, plastic waste could possibly last forever in a landfill. Bacteria won't consume or breakdown plastic waste. This is the main reason that governments around the world are encouraging, even demanding that plastic product manufacturers utilize recycled plastic within their processes of plastic product making. Individuals are encouraged to recycle their plastic bottles, bags, Styrofoam and other items to keep them out of landfills and ocean currents.

When you throw away a plastic soda bottle on the beach or off the side of your boat, it eventually floats out into the ocean, gets caught in a current, washes up on another beach across the world, breaks down into micro plastic and floats out to sea again, getting caught in these large pools of micro plastic garbage. These pieces can look like food for fish, dolphins, birds, turtles and other creatures, so they swallow them and then they die from the toxicity.

There was recently some hope offered by a student named Daniel Burd at Waterloo Collegiate Institute in Ontario. His research and discovery of a certain type of bacteria that does in fact break down plastic won him a total of $30,000 in cash and scholarships. It takes time, however, to duplicate his research and then implement this process at all the waste treatment facilities in the world. Until that happens, there are a couple of ways that the average person can help reduce the plastics pollution problem.

Recycle. Recycle. Recycle. Also, you can participate in a beach cleanup event. But, first and foremost, don't throw plastic into the ocean. Or you might end up eating the sick fish that swallowed your trash. Payback's a beach.

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