PTO sounds S.O.S. in the North Pacific; Can The Flotsam!

We wrote about the flotsam whirling about in the middle of the Pacific a few years back.  Guess what?  It’s still sitting there, killing wildlife.  But it’s degrading as well, turning everything toxic.  Not only are the Algalita’s famous Nikes still out there, but they seem to have been joined by a couple BILLION plastic shopping bags, plastic oil bottles, plastic nets, and tiny balls of gunky plastic.  Collectively, they’re taking huge tolls on everything from the common seagulls to endangered turtles and Monk Seals.  

We’re calling for a full ban on plastic shopping bags, and will provide you with a list of unsavory facts, and reality below.  But more than that, Protect The Ocean is calling for a massive clean-up.  We’re talking about something bigger than any shoreline clean-up ever.  We want to net up and haul in as much of the Eastern Garbage Patch’s flotsam as is humanly possible — and we want to do so now.  

The Eastern Garbage Patch’s continued existence at the current and increasing concentrations can only serve one good purpose: It reminds us that we must stop being so careless about the deadly plastics.  Meanwhile, its very existence means that it continues to kill and poison literally trillions of sea creatures.  But guess what else?  That toxicity, which is being picked up and ingested by all that marine life?  It’s making it to your dinner table at this very moment. 

Plastics aren’t biodegradeable.  They break down into even smaller (and increasingly more toxic) pieces, but they don’t EVER go away.  As they sit in the ocean, they last even longer.  In this one case, that may prove a good thing for us, because it’s a lot easier to scoop out pieces that we can readily see than to try to filter out pieces of plastic the size of plankton.  Already, there are millions of pounds of plankton-sized particles out there, and it’s only going to get worse if we don’t pick  it up.

Algalita’s research informs us that “broken, degraded plastic pieces outweigh surface zooplankton in the central North Pacific by a factor of 6-1.” SIX pounds of tiny pieces of plastic for every one pound of plankton.  Just imagine what that does in a whale’s gut.  It’s worse than non-nutrition, because the stuff is toxic, poisonous.  When marine life swallows it, they ingest the poison.  

That’s not the only danger.  Those shopping bags are just strong enough to tangle up marine mammals, fish and birds, wrap them up and drown or suffocate them.  Pieces of plastic look just enough like potential food to be eaten… and the death toll is staggering, the numbers unbelievable.

Our sloppiness is coming home to roost.  The plastic isn’t just killing off marine life “out there somewhere” anymore.  Its toxicity is affecting us here on land as well.  

The battle needs to be fought on two fronts.  We need to start using fabric (preferably cotton or other natural renewable resource) shopping bags.  It’s really not that difficult.  Just fold ’em up and put ’em back in the car when you go out again, and you’ll have them with you next time you go shopping.  MANY other nations have either banned the bags altogether, or taxed them so heavily that they’re seldom used anymore.  China made it illegal to give them away and now uses 37 million less barrels of oil each year by having done so.  Much of Europe has given them up, often voluntarily.  Bangladesh and Rwanda gave them up long ago, and many other African nations have since followed suit.  What are we waiting for?  

The other step also needs to happen now.  That war is one we need to wage on the high seas.  We need to go out and collect our trash, police ourselves as best as we can.  Not next year, not the year after.  Not after our ship comes in.  Now.  RIGHT now.  This year, by whatever means necessary, whatever it takes.  When you’ve got that kind of toxic waste sitting out there, growing larger by the minute, there’s simply no more time left.  This is plastic.  It’s not going away by itself — Not this year, not this century. The only way that pile of trash is going to get cleaned up is if we go out there and do it ourselves.  It’s not going to be an easy job, nor a pretty one.  It’s downright disgusting, but somebody’s gotta do it, and we here at PTO are tired of talking about it.  

We’re issuing a S.O.S.  We need all the help we can get.  In the near future, Protect The Ocean will be calling upon all environmental groups, including Sea Shepherd, Greenpeace, Algalita, the Ocean Conservancy, Surfrider, and the governments of the world.  We’ll be petitioning the plastic makers and shipping companies as well, asking them for their assistance and cooperation in what will be the single largest environmental clean-up effort ever undertaken.  It’s going to be a very big, very messy job.  Some have described that area as being twice the size of Texas… but no matter how big it may be, it simply has to be done.  

We need your support — both in contacting your representatives and urging them to help us in our efforts, and in your contributions.  Let them know that you want them to help us Can The Flotsam.  Please, we can’t do it all by ourselves.  We’re going to need volunteers of all kinds.  This is HUGE.  Will you help us clean up the Eastern Garbage Patch?

Here’s a few quotes to consider:

“Plastic bags do not biodegrade, they photodegrade; over time they break down into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers” — CNN, Nov. 16, 2007

“A plastic ‘stew’ twice the size of Texas has formed in the Pacific Ocean. Scientists have dubbed I the “eastern Garbage Patch,” and its volume is growing at an alarming pace.:  Best Life Magazine, Feb. 20, 2007

“Plastic bags have been found floating north of the Arctic Circle near Spitzbergen, and as far south as the Falkland Islands.” — British Antarctic Survey

“Plastic bags account for over 10% of the debris washed up on the U.S. Coastline.” — National Marine Debris Monitoring Program

“Nearly 200 different species of sea life including whales, dolphins, seals and turtles die due to plastic bags… They die after ingesting plastic bags which they mistake for food.” — World Wildlife Fund report, 2005

We’re sending out an S.O.S.  on behalf of the oceans.  Will you heed the call?