Tag Archives: oceans

The Ocean’s Plastic Garbage – A Serious Environmental Hazard

Our world’s oceans are home to five growing plastic gyres – vortexes of swirling ocean currents filled with degrading plastic that pose a serious threat to marine life.

Captain Charles Moore, noted author and oceanographer, has spent years conducting ocean and coastal samplings documenting plastic fragments along the 40,000 miles of the North Pacific Ocean. Captain Moore was the first to discover the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, otherwise known as the Pacific Gyre, which lies in the northern Pacific near Hawaii. This is the largest of the known gyres – roughly 12,400 square miles in size and growing – and filled with swirling fragmented colorful plastic debris.

Plastic in the ocean takes roughly 600 years to degrade fully. Marine life like sharks, dolphins, whales and numerous species of fish mistake these colorful remnants of our castoff trash as food, often suffering starvation due to the trash being indigestible. Oddly, it’s only the colored plastic they go for, though the clear plastic is also hazardous. Plastic water bottles are regularly found tangled in ocean coral, littering the ocean floor.

Plastic garbage doesn’t just stay in the ocean. Storms periodically break gyres up, pushing waves of trash onto beaches around the globe. Hawaii’s Kamilo Beach is frequently known as Plastic Beach due to its continually being overrun with plastic trash brought in by the ocean’s waves.

This plastic comes in all sizes and forms – discarded toothbrushes, combs, cups and, of course, plastic water bottles. Plastic trash discarded in Asia and Europe makes its way to the ocean, gets caught in the Indian Ocean gyre, then gets pushed back again to litter the once pristine shoreline.

We use 2 million plastic beverage bottles every 5 minutes in the U.S.

“No one is (looking) at it as a global phenomena and at the root causes (to) try to make it stop,” said Cecilia Nord, Vice President – Floor Care Sustainability and Environmental Affairs of Swedish-based Electrolux.

“We need to make it stop,” she said.

“Only we humans make waste that Nature can’t digest,” says Moore.

ENSO Bottles realizes that what’s needed is a shift in thinking as well as action.  By creating their innovative biodegradable plastic bottle with the ENSO additive, these PET-based bottles break down, rather than contribute to the world’s plastic pollution. It’s part of ENSO’s commitment “to act as environmental stewards.”

With plastic trash increasing the world over, and the devastating effect this has on marine life, it’s crucial for consumers to become responsible stewards who take on recycling to a level not seen before is needed.

Individuals doing their part can make the difference.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch and Ocean Plastic Pollution

Marine life can mistake pieces of plastic for food.

Imagine you’re sailing the waters between Hawaii and California. The sun is at your back, the wind is in your hair, and there’s a giant pool of plastic garbage larger than the state of Texas in front of you.

Meet the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an enormous mess of plastic and other litter swirling around in a system of rotating ocean currents called the North Pacific Gyre. Not only is the Patch incredibly damaging to the environment, but it could also be permanent unless we reform plastic production around the globe.

See, the world produces around 300 billion pounds of plastic every year, and the Clean Air Council reports that Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. Only a fraction of all this plastic is recycled, with the majority ending up in landfills. Sadly, some is also dumped illegally into our oceans by various civilian, military, cruise and merchant ships, and by other means.

The problem with traditional plastics in oceans is the same problem with traditional plastics in landfills — they could last there for hundreds or thousands of years. The sun, saltwater, currents and other elements aren’t enough to break down objects like PET plastic water bottles; the plastic will only disintegrate into smaller and smaller pieces that never fully decompose into biomass and bio-gases. Marine life can mistake these small pieces of plastic for food, eat them and become poisoned. And even if the plastic isn’t ingested, it still leaches toxic chemicals that, once released, are very harmful and impossible to collect and remove.

A traditional PET plastic bottle could last for hundreds or thousands of years in the ocean.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is 90 percent plastic, making it the ultimate example of the negative impact plastic has on our oceans. And it and other areas like it (yes, there are more) will continue to endanger plant and animal life unless manufacturers begin producing plastics that can biodegrade into safer components.

One thing that could prove crucial to this battle is the presence of oceanic microbes like bacteria and fungi. Bottle developer ENSO Bottles has designed a form of PET plastic with organic compounds in its molecular structure — nutrients that the microbes find irresistible. These microorganisms eat away at the plastic, breaking it down into non-harmful matter in a process that typically lasts between one and five years. A traditional PET plastic bottle, on the other hand, could potentially take hundreds or thousands of years.

Where our oceans are concerned, this new biodegradable PET plastic could mean the difference between a giant floating patch of plastic the size of Texas … and cleaner oceans for generations yet to come. Which version of the future will you choose to support?

For more information about the technology ENSO Bottles uses, visit ensobottles.com.

To learn more about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the effort to eradicate it, visit tedxgreatpacificgarbagepatch.com.