Formation - 3 février 2018

fr - Plastic debris, here, there and everywhere

Ditch Plastic ! What did you say ? It is everywhere, in everything, it is almost indestructible, it versatile and durable. It is a product of oil. Why ditch it ?

Well, because it is almost indestructible, the vast majority of plastic is not biodegradable, it makes its way down stream and rivers into the ocean, more and more of it, or fills up landfill where it leaches toxins into the soil and water table.

There are five massive wind driven ocean gyres, the largest being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California which is growing so fast it will soon be visible from space. It was discovered by Charles Moore returning home from a transpacific yacht race in 1997 – miles and miles of plastic debris in what should be pristine ocean. Much of the debris consists of quite large pieces which will become more dangerous as time goes on and they crumble into ever smaller pieces. These microplastics then are easily transferred to marine organisms and absorbed into the food chain in the region. They are also loaded with pollutants and dangerous metals, PBTs (Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic Chemicals). It is heartrending to see sea birds dying in large numbers, their stomachs full of plastic bits ; shearwaters and Laysan albatrosses, adults and chicks, suffer terribly from this.There is certainly more plastic than prey so plastic becomes a major component in the diets of organisms feeding in the area. As much as 74% of the diet of birds in certain regions can be composed of ocean plastic.

It is estimated the world produces 300 million tonnes of plastic per year half of which is single use plastic, plastic straws, knives and forks from fast food restaurants etc. it is reckoned by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation that there will be more plastic than fish on oceans by 2050 unless something drastic is done.

Two things need to happen. We need to reduce the amount of plastic produced at source, small steps in awareness are now being made, even if the manufactures of plastics reckon they will be able to produce plastic even more cheaply in the future we must, at least, severely discourage single use plastic. And we need to increase the recycling rate of plastic packaging. Secondly the plastic debris swirling round in out oceans needs to be cleaned up, impossible task you might think.

A Daniel has come to the rescue. A young Dutch boy, Boyan Slat, has galvanised action. He has inspired and developed the innovative Ocean Clean Up system. This new invention takes advantage of ocean currents, it is free floating so does not need to be moored to the sea bed. No external energy is required as the ocean current is used to advantage + electronics are powered by solar energy. Despite all the unknowns they are hoping to deploy the first ocean clean up system in the North Pacific Gyre by mid 2018. They are hoping to clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Gyre within a 5 year period while the majority of the waste is still in large pieces, microplastic are so much more dangerous, and have a plastic free ocean by 2050. Let us hope !

But we need to do our part too. No single use plastic, reduce packaging, more recycling. it is already in the food chain. It is not a good diet for either birds or humans or any other animal.

Jessica Gatty r.a.