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August 13, 2008

The Pacific "toilet bowl that never flushes"

Posted: 12:48 PM ET

You've heard about it - that huge floating mass of garbage in the Pacific Ocean.

This odd looking vessel is raising awareness about the toxic plastic soup in the Pacific Ocean. Photo courtesy Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Depending on whose sister's brother-in-law you believe, this trash heap is as big as (pick one):

Massachusetts
The continental United States
Pluto

The correct answer: no one is exactly sure.

While the story may sound as far-fetched as reports of hundreds of alligators wandering the New York City sewer system, unfortunately, the great Pacific Garbage Heap tale is true.

What's difficult for most of us land-based creatures to understand is that this is not one solid mass of junk that can be photographed by satellites or tracked with remote cameras. No scientist can say, with precision, "It is 450 square miles and weighs a hundred million tons." It's more like an enormous, amorphous, nasty soup that stretches for hundreds of miles.

"Discarded fishing nets are the noodles; bottles, buoys and all kinds of larger items are the vegetables and meat, and basically the entire Pacific is this broth of plastic soup," said Anna Cummins, education adviser at the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, California. The non-profit foundation has studied plastic marine debris in the North Pacific for the past decade.

Cummins is one of the coordinators of an Algalita project to educate consumers about how trash, especially plastic, is fouling the marine ecosystem.

Her colleagues Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal are in the midst of a voyage from California to Hawaii on a boat made of 15,000 plastic bottles and parts of a Cessna 310. Their mission is to raise awareness about the plastic that's killing marine life up and down the food chain. Both are experienced sailors, though in far more traditional sailing craft.

To quote the JunkRaft blog:

"The North Pacific Gyre is a clockwise rotating mass of water roughly twice the size of the U.S. where currents and winds slow down. It's like a toilet bowl that never flushes."

You can follow their journey, which began June 1 from the Long Beach Aquarium, at http://junkraft.blogspot.com.

Eriksen is a science educator, weather expert, and Marine veteran of the 1991 Gulf War.

Paschal is a filmmaker who previously worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studying marine debris. He is chronicling the JUNK voyage for a documentary.

"We want to gently educate about the problem, and get consumers to move toward re-usables, " said Cummins.

The plastic junk comes from all over the world, primarily Asia, Europe, and the United States.

The detritus has been found in fish as small as an inch long. And when dead seabirds such as the albatross were necropsied, scientists sometimes found more than half their stomach contents was human trash-from bottle caps to plastic pen caps to fishing bobbers. Plastic that never degrades also kills turtles and whales.

"The best solution now is to try to prevent the problem from getting any worse," said Cummins. "It's hard to conceptualize how to fix it. Logistically, it would be like sifting the Sahara Desert."

The sailors expect to arrive in Hawaii sometime late this month.

So, any ideas from the brains of our astute blog readers? How would you fix this? Outlaw single use plastic items? Push for plastics that biodegrade? Put a litter cop on every ocean-going vessel? Teach your kids to respect the planet?

- Marsha Walton, CNN Science and Technology Producer

Filed under: environment • Oceans


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Robert   August 15th, 2008 1:52 am ET

The Plastics and Chemical industries would never stand for most of these ideas. They are bribing our politicians, financing PR commercials and propaganda campaigns to sow doubt into our decision making. Its going to basically smack us in the face or wash up on a CEO beachfront propterty before anyone will act.


Franko   August 15th, 2008 2:41 am ET

Numerous current loops; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oceanic_gyre
For the Greenies, who want to kill the population.
Eliminate yourselves from land, colonze the Sargasso Sea.
No one, just eels and seaweed, be the Sagassum King.
Plastic cups, old glass globes, bottles with messages.
If bored, seaweed, smoked, to be eaten ,or inhaled ?


Franko   August 15th, 2008 2:52 am ET

Numerous current loops; Oceanic Gyre
For the Greenies, who want to kill the population.
Eliminate yourselves from land, colonze the Sargasso Sea.
No one, just eels and seaweed, be the Sagassum King.
Plastic cups, old glass globes, bottles with messages.
If bored, seaweed, smoked, to be eaten ,or inhaled ?


smitisan   August 15th, 2008 10:00 am ET

Some fella, I think his name was Tom Morton, went out to the Garbage Island and studied what he found there and made a film of the expedition. He was surprised to find that most of the plastic was invisible, broken down by sunlight and other forces into a soup of polymer chains. You can't net it or scoop it. The plankton that is at the bottom of the ocean's food chain lives in this soup, and there seems to be about a hundred microscopic bits of plastic for each plankton. In other words, plankton eating fish are scooping in a hundred times more plastic than food. Too, what people usually mean when they speak of "biodegradable" plastic is plastic polymers mixed with cornstarch, The bottle made of this stuff does break down; the plastic doesn't. Those polymers remain in the environment, acting as estrogen mimics and causing hormonal changes in wildlife and, eventually, in us. Newt was Speaker back when the problem of hormone mimicking plastics was first explained to Congress; I can still remember the look on their faces when the scientists explained how estrogen mimics affect penis size. One would think something would've happened by now. Perhaps the first step to getting this kind of problem solved is to ban lobbying by industries and corporations and, well, maybe everybody outright.


Franko   August 15th, 2008 11:38 am ET

Plastic floats, breaks down in UltraViolet.. A limited time engagement, good hiding places for the microbes on steroids. Think of floating CoralReefs. Scuba Paradise, Galapigos on Hormones, SeaDragon launches, not obtained, due lack of nutrients.

Once humans colonoze, with floating cities, flush, and microbe Garden of Eden,


jack phoenix AZ   August 15th, 2008 12:20 pm ET

International community needs to haul it onboard ships and reprocess it. Kind of an international bottle recycling refund.


Cleaner   August 15th, 2008 1:01 pm ET

It looks like Courtney is right on track about this...let's not worry about how we're going to do any cleanup. Rather, let's focus on why people are dumping what's there in the first place. We'll apparently need to completely understand people's motivation before we can begin to want to find any solutions.


Smarter than you   August 15th, 2008 1:48 pm ET

Hey, if this mass of floating debris is real. Get smart get off your rear and go and mine it. There should be enough stuff to more than pay for a project to recycle it. Get started and stop complaing. Think out of the box. KL


Gerald   August 15th, 2008 2:41 pm ET

Set up Government recycling centers that offer cash for plastic by the pound! This would give the homeless an economy and help save the planet at the same time! Those thick, heavy duty laundry detergent bottles would bring a nice fee!


J. Sweeney   August 15th, 2008 3:43 pm ET

it's time to start shooting people who litter.

(Just don't leave the body lying there or you're next.)


puzzles   August 15th, 2008 4:26 pm ET

Yeah, so, everybody's saying we can't net it because we'll pick up fish and other wildlife.

That doesn't seem to be strictly true when I think about it. I'm certain that nets can be designed to advertise their presence and drive fish away. Senseless plastic won't have that benefit of course.

It would still be have to be sorted in the water, but I just don't see this as outside the realm of possibility. We could do it.

Although some have said we should mine it, I think that operating costs would far outweigh any profit from recycling. This would be an environmental effort.

The puzzles on how to do this and how to make it profitable are the keys to creating a successful operation.

Someone give me several billion dollars. I'll get started.

Oh, and keep the money coming...


Rob Sams   August 15th, 2008 4:41 pm ET

I like the idea of education as a starting point. I am an author and wildlife filmmaker and have recently finished a new book and movie project with the overall theme that moving water connects all life on earth. Check out http://www.apiratesquest.com

I designed this project to help introduce children to the idea that they are connected with life far away, simply by the movement of water. But with children, it is often important not to focus on the "doom and gloom" side of these topics. Instead, we need to have them fall in love with the ocean first...before we ask them to save it.


tonyp   August 15th, 2008 7:12 pm ET

another of those "no one can say for sure" stories that everyone jumps on as true. wake up people you are all such eco lemmings, it makes me sick. which ties in with my new book and movie project titled "you are all eco lemmings, and it makes me sick!"


Morgan Painter   August 15th, 2008 9:04 pm ET

Plastics can be reused in a multitude of ways. I envision some brave company that will find a way to get a floating platform built near this pile of junk and begin collecting it. By recycling it, the mess will slowly disappear but only if the people and countries of the world develop a conscience so the trash is not being added to.

As a child I was taught to treat my mother earth with respect. Sometimes a bit of junk will accumulate in my car because I REFUSE to toss anything out the window. People need to think of the oceans the same as they do the area near their home and they have to learn there is only ONE planet for us to live on. They better get used to the mess they are creating or perish.

No plastic (or other trash) should be dumped in the ocean where it can float to who knows where. Humankind needs to see the world as a home where they live. Would a sensible person throw trash on their living room floor? NO!

Stop adding to the mess and begin to remove/recycle it. Even compacting it into bricks that would drop to the ocean floor would be better than allowing it to create a log jam in the ocean. That might still create problems with chemicals leeching into the water if care was not taken to carefully chose what is allowed to be compacted.

I think the overall answer can be found by taking the best of all ideas submitted and combining them into something that is workable, conscionable, and economically feasible.

But getting people in emerging countries like China and India (to name only a few) to cooperate by properly caring for their trash is going to be difficult. When I see photos of those countries there is trash in the streets being totally ignored. Toxic waste being cooked in tubs right on the streets of China has been reported by numerous sources. The people have lived in poverty so long they cannot see the larger picture, only the need to survive one more day and hope for a slightly better tomorrow at any cost.


Annie Bananie   August 15th, 2008 10:40 pm ET

The comment about robots who poop seawater and money made me laugh– but more importantly gave me a new perspective to think about.

Robots would take time to develop. Dont we already have enough human population to deploy to the floating garbage areas? Deploy ships for a month's tour of duty, then bring it home to unload. Maybe it could be something every able-bodied citizen 18-40 is drafted to do, once a decade or so. Like jury duty.

Another idea– assuming it is floating on the top of the water, what about a large vacuum? Something that would suck the garbage from the surface, but not affect the deeper layers in the water, where the fishies live.

I read all the comments, and appreciate that much of the waste is liquid soup..... I have no brilliant ideas for that. Huge sponges? Then what? Ring them out over our landfills? Tie a rock to the sponges and make them sink to the bottom of the ocean?


mark   August 16th, 2008 12:31 am ET

I guess that's it.You say it's all circling the drain......it had to end sometime.


Franko   August 16th, 2008 12:13 pm ET

We kill rats and cats and elephants. Moves, kill, let a few live, if food supplies.
People get upset over floating plastic bottles and cups, just nuts are US.

Next frontier are the Ocean Gyre, to be colonized, Mermaid raped, enjoj it.
Bible gave dominion, to slaughter, including drinking plastic bottled water.
Be one with nature, praise God, nutrient the Gyre, with that plastic cup !


Double D   August 16th, 2008 5:45 pm ET

I think we need to attack the core as well, make all plastic bottles bought at the store with a 5c deposit, like aluminum cans are. Therefore, you create incentive to recycle.

I'd be in favor for some real serious fines for individuals/companies/or even countries who are caught dumping trash into our seas.

This story really saddens me how we continue to F up our home and leave it contaminated for our future generations😦


Chris   August 16th, 2008 9:01 pm ET

I was in a seagoing service for 6 years and we dumped loads of stuff off our ship into international waters, where it's legal. I doubt that what we dump into the ocean and what we put into the atmosphere has any lasting effect on this huge planet that has foregone disasters beyond our comprehension...to believe the idea that we puny humans can destroy planet Earth is ridiculous. Mother Nature has filters for all that happens and knows how to deal with toxins and knows how to regenerate herself. As for throwing garbage into the sea, it should be stopped, there is no reason to not toss it into the sea and bring it back onto dry land where it can be buried, burned or recycled. It may create CO2 emissions though when processed...hmmm.....Mother Nature can handle it either way. I don't think the Earth is as vulnerable as all the greenies think it is, but we should respect our mama if we can.


ANOTHER Randomness Post?! Seriously? « Falcon’s Eyrie   August 16th, 2008 9:28 pm ET

[...] Not that I'm in the habit of disbelieving my Dad, but I was nevertheless shocked when I saw this article confirming the existence of this proof of humanity's horrific disregard of Mother [...]


Franko   August 17th, 2008 12:42 am ET

70% of Earth's surface is water, most just wasted, a nutrient desert.
Pave the road, for future generations, to colonize the Gyre.
The plastic may give places for little creatures to hide, But
Plastic is deficient in nutrients. Throw all your Vitamin and Iron pills with it.


Purple Samuel   August 17th, 2008 1:32 am ET

Canada is an extremely clean country. How are they able to encourage their citizens to keep their country clean. I live in the southern US and find their country beautiful. Maybe Canadians could share what they do and then we could go from there?


Rick La Komy   August 17th, 2008 11:15 am ET

Why don't we work on changing our DNA so it does'nt make any difference what we eat or drink. We'll never get enough people to co-operate in this effort to clean things up anyway.


Franko   August 17th, 2008 1:44 pm ET

Sweep it under the Rug. Flush it to the Gyre. Out of Sight, out of Mind.
Beyond our event Horizon, Tree falls in a distant universe, the difference ?
Compulsively buisy cleaners, will want you to clean out the Black Holes next.

Sewage plants, to be JunkRaft sailed, to bring the smell into our event horizon ?
The JunkRaft sailors find it appealing, each to his smell and taste.
We like to flush, JunkRaft personalities, stay beyond our event horizons.


j.maitland   August 17th, 2008 5:40 pm ET

This is a problem that will never go away ,we are a doomed race.Our destruction will only happen because of our egotistical,self centered,I know whats best because I have an education.We all think we know whats best.Lets stop and hear what mother nature is saying and disregard those who claim to be the experts.We know more about space and the lifeless balls of mud out there,then we know about our own oceans!


KatyM   August 17th, 2008 9:22 pm ET

Hey Rosemary,
Not everyone can drink the water that comes out of the tap.....may places have contaminated tap water.....try having girrardia a few times, then bottled water starts to seem logicaly. It is also cheaper than the medical bills. What happened to recycling.....make it worth something to recycle that plastic and it won't go anywhere.


Pat   August 17th, 2008 11:37 pm ET

There are as many differing points of view as there is sources of the plastics problem. Instead of going off about whose fault it is, how about we put our heads together and find a solution. I, for one, try to recycle everything that is possible, which unfortunately is not everything. The area that I live in isn't very good about fixing problems that take real effort. Everyone yells about those "evil plastic bags". Has anyone noticed that they are recyclable? If more places that take in plastic for recycling would accept the bags that would make a monumental dent in that problem. In the area I grew up in, there was a program that wasn't politcally correct so it did not last. They called it Workfare, as opposed to Welfare. If you were able bodied and wanted your Welfare check, you got out there and if nothing else, picked up trash in the ditches. That sound like a good idea to me for nationwide use. The ocean problem, that is a different problem with somewhat different solutions. The recycling ships might not be a bad idea. Instead of sending the old single hulled oil tankers to the breakers, why don't we convert them to the ocean recycling task? Food for thought...........


Franko   August 18th, 2008 2:30 am ET

We did not start the Gyre. Earth started turning, Gyrating, Dirty Dancing.
FDA, Human contact approved plastic, sucked to a fish IQ improving classroom.

Play God, in the direction of a Gyre, throw all the solids, an isand Continent.
Garden of Paradise, quickly populated, Eve and the IRS Tax Collector ?
Cannot escape Original Sin, of being alive. JunkRafters, Prophecied.


Sam Sharp   August 18th, 2008 11:46 am ET

Long term solutions are needed. The biggest problem is religion and all it's attendant ignorance. You think this can be fixed? Forget it, It will fix itself after we destroy this planet. We're hearing that the Pacific is like a toilet that never flushes? Well, when the ice caps melt and the oceans come up 200 or 300 feet, then the earth will start to rid itself of this cancer called humanity. It is sad that such a place as this earth has to be destroyed by an animal that could possibly accomplish soo much, but has so far only destroyed rather than create. We suck.

Sam Sharp


Mike K   August 18th, 2008 12:33 pm ET

Plastic is recyclable ... and cheaply too!

Bring plastic bags back to the store for recycling ... bins are there!

Plastics get about 6 cents per lb from recyclers ... check into it!

Plastic grocery bags are not the problem you think it is – take all of the items you buy & the bag U carried them in, remove products from packaging (plastic-paper-cardboard), smash them as small as you can ... now what creates the most waste??? Not the plastic bag!!

Eco Lemmings (love that title!),, get off the bandwagon (I know it's a fun ride but it doesn't accomplish anything) & learn about "ALL" types of waste & the total effects on nature & what you can actually do instead of talk!


Franko   August 18th, 2008 12:59 pm ET

Infinitively worse ! More spooky than Entangled Schrödinger's cat.
More fundamental than JunkRafter's location in Space and Time.

When JunkRafters are Dirty Rafting into a Garbage Disposal Black Hole.
Flash, Information goes in, information leaves, twö for the price of Θne ¿
JunkRafters are twiced, not garburator diced, You thought good riddance ¿

So serious is this, are we just WholeΘgrams, on a Gödel numbering list ?
You thought, God or Not, was valid a choice. Twice negative logical are US ?
Figure out "The elephant who fell in to a Black Hole", not JunkScience preach !


Texas/f/24   August 18th, 2008 12:59 pm ET

Beverage makers need to find alternative ways to "bottle" their drinks. There also needs to be plastic and aluminum recepticals next to practically every trash can we see. If recycling companies set up more places to recycle, they could profit more and create more jobs for our dwindling economy. I'd like to see MORE aluminum recepticals that provide monetary incentive to those who recycle. Money and easy accessability are going to be the two things that get people to recycle.


Franko   August 18th, 2008 1:17 pm ET

After we eliminate the internal combustion Oil dependency.
Make realy thick Aluminum beer barrels and other containers.
Aluminum, Air fuel cell. Cycle of life, cycle of energy, Comuting endlessly.

JunkRafters stranded on a sandbar, not even a slight breeze.
Not even a GreenieBoard to scrape Coral Carbonates on.


Rory   August 18th, 2008 3:21 pm ET

Glad to see so much thought on this, although unfortunately quite a bit of misinformation.

Netting could never work because you will inevitably pick up sea life, and the biggest problem isn't the big pieces, but the microscopic pieces that get eaten by fish alongside the phytoplankton. Dragging large-mesh nets to pick up big pieces while scaring away fish would help by preventing these items from eventually becoming the small pieces, but would be a makeshift solution and there's no clear notion of what to do with the junk (how do you even begin to sort confetti?). The only practical way to do netting would be to cast very fine mesh nets and pick up everything, phytoplankton included. You would kill a lot of sealife but by providing a cleaner environment, you would allow for rapid recolonization. Again, there's no clear output for the junk but placement in a landfill would at least buy us time while we figure out what to do with it there.

Space? The fuel costs would be too much. Lifting a pound of material into space requires a horrifying amount of fuel, so we would burn through barrels of oil to "dispose" of each ton of waste.

Microbes? Sure if you can get them to fundamentally break down the polymers into their components or "nice" byproducts like water, carbon, oxygen, even alcohol. Breaking plastic into tiny plastic pieces and polymers would only diffuse the problem.

The "lumping" concept is interesting, scientifically feasible and would temporarily prevent fish and wildlife from eating the plastics. But unfortunately, "temporarily" is a key word in that sentence. These large masses would eventually break down. If they would float, we could pick them up and find a place for them ashore, but I'm guessing these lumps would be dense and would sink, solving the aesthetic problem but potentially worsening the impact on the feeding chain.

The simplest solution is to focus on the future. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of problems with suggested strategies. A smaller population would help but getting there is tricky: Encouraging the readers of this page (mostly Americans and Europeans I'm guessing) to have fewer children is a flawed concept. People born in America and Europe are actually already experiencing negative birth rates. Their populations grow only because of immigration and a tendency for immigrants to new western countries to have more children (this is not meant as a commentary on immigration, it's just statistically true – if you think there's any racial twinge, consider that those children of the immigrants tend to normalize to having birth rates nearly comparable to those with deep roots). So, nobody reading this blog necessarily needs to have less children (unless you've already got more than 4, I mean, really?). In fact, because of death rates and child mortality, it's pretty sustainable for any couple to have 3 children. If you wanted to encourage depopulation without crashing labor markets 20 years from now, encouraging 2 children per couple would actually be more wise.

Banning plastics? Another commenter noted that they are necessary for many medical functions and there are certain other applications for which they are essentially indispensible. Plus, replacing them with other products may lead to a discovery that they are actually worse for the planet.

Blaming shipping is silly. There are already plenty of laws banning the disposal of plastic into the sea, and even if those laws were being completely ignored, you're talking about an absurdly small fraction of plastics compared to what washes into the oceans from streams, etc.

Mandatory recycling? If that were feasible, it would still run into all kinds of problems. Enforcement would be a mess, and there's already more supply of recycled materials than demand, so adding more recycled plastic would mean raw material that would just sit around.

Deposit programs are also a bit flawed because it's really hard to get your deposit back. When you put your used item in a recycle bin, it doesn't just give you money (except for some cool ones in Hawaii). Most people, even those who recycle, are essentially just paying an additional tax to the state. On the bright side, this a tax that's easier for people to swallow because IN THEORY they might actually get the money back

My solution? Simple steps. Get rid of non-value-add items. Why even get new reusable bags when you probably already have a backpack or two lying around? I use my backpack to carry groceries and it works really well. Refuse to buy over-packaged items. See if you can reuse items rather than recycle (Remember, the proper order is Reduce-Reuse-Recycle).

Why not complain to the manager of your local grocery/drug store whenever an employee starts putting your items in a plastic bag before even asking "would you like plastic bags?" It irritates me to no end when I'm buying one or two items and the employee starts to put them in a plastic bag. Getting employees to just ask people if they want to use plastic bags will force the consumers to consider their impact on the environment every time they purchase, and people who would accept the items in a plastic bag may realize that it's not that hard to carry the items without a bag (go opposable thumb!)

As a final note, I'm a bit offended that people try to pin blame on conservatives or religion (seriously, whoever posted that one, seriously?). Conservatives tend to oppose some of the efforts because they involve adding taxes or mandates, not because of a distaste for the environment. Setting up capitalistic systems (like deposit programs which aren't perfect but at least allow anybody to capitalize on the system by collecting their neighbors garbage), or doing apolitical things (see the above suggestions) can be palatable to both liberals and conservatives.

We may have to just accept this as a loss and as a warning to try to stop the problem from growing. The damage we've caused will be undone by nature in a couple of thousand years, but only if we can stop damaging it more.


KG   August 18th, 2008 3:27 pm ET

Franko – If you started putting some of your efforts into solutions and not gobbledygook writing, you MAY actually come up with something.


cestockton   August 18th, 2008 9:01 pm ET

I think that all the huge fishing vessels that rape the ocean bottom with the large nets that spread for hundreds of feet and sweep the bottom for fish should once every ten trips or so be required to use the nets to pick up all the floating junk on the surface, load it on the ships and haul it to port and off-haul it to landfills. If the garbage is concentrated in areas that are like floating islands, it wouldn't be that hard.

That would equal 10% of their profits to go to saving the ocean that they rape for profit every day.

just my 2 cents worth


chris   August 18th, 2008 9:33 pm ET

A lot of this plastic junk gets deposited by ocean currents onto a remote beach in Alaska and other areas. We can solve a big part of the problem by building recycling plants near those beaches.


chris   August 18th, 2008 10:21 pm ET

Some of the plastic also ends up on the Midway islands. This could also be recycled.


David   August 18th, 2008 10:56 pm ET

We have a toilet bowl in the middle of the ocean? What a perfect solution. What is everyone complaining about? Have you ever been to the middle of the ocean? Its like a desert wasteland. Why would we want to pick up all this garbage only to dump it on perfectly good land?


Franko   August 18th, 2008 11:24 pm ET

Building on David's point, a Nutritional Desert, compared to lifeless places, not fattening, even life denying. Can we better, fatten to a giant fish farm ? Garden of Gaia, to become, all toilets flushing in harmony. The destiny of Humanity.

What needs to be examined is the Quilt Promoting Viewpoint of the JunkRafters.
Please, not only raft naked, expose yout soul, Sunshine bleach your Quilt.


Steve in Denver   August 19th, 2008 12:19 pm ET

The only thing I can truly do to stop this problem from getting worse is to stop using plastics myself. When I first heard about this "Great Pacific Garbage Heap" I began noticing how much plastic I was discarding on a day-to-day basis: grocery bags, plastic food wrap, "disposable" plastic storage containers, to-go containers from restaurants, water bottles, soda bottles, empty ballpoint pens ... the list goes on. I've started bringing my own bags to the grocery stores, every single time, despite the "inconvenience." I've stopped buying drinking water and use a re-usable bottle at work. I'm trying to slow my use of plastics, because really, what else can I do? Read "The World Without Us" for some interesting information on the fact that plastic NEVER goes away.


Franko   August 19th, 2008 2:02 pm ET

        
GuiltRafters, Confess, get tax free, religion registered.

Moses was high on drugs, came the 10 Guilt Commandments.
Religion of the Greenies, no matter how illusioned, Global Cooling.

Instead of seeing opprtunity, wallowing in Greenie stupidity.


Mike K   August 19th, 2008 4:23 pm ET

Any takers on the question of what about all the cardboard, metal, paper & glass that's either on the bottom of the ocean, floating or have already had their chemicals dissolved into the ocean water or ground water?

At least with plastics we have the time to come up with a good solution to the clean up without poisoning our planet in the meantime.


Franko   August 19th, 2008 7:44 pm ET

Biggest is, by far, Mother Gaia. Volcanoes, Black Smokers, just Fertilizers.
Actic Ice melting, just Gaia Vulcanoing. Big Nicotine Pach cannot be applied.

ScitzoGreenies, GuiltRafting, stop the continents from a drifting ?
Several hundred million years, all ocean floor is continent swept under

If it sinks, gets sedimented over. Surface Floats, radiation breaks bonds.


Seba   August 20th, 2008 9:39 am ET

Mike K - I agree. We see the plastic materials because they float, but the debris composition in the ocean is composed of more than just plastic materials. The source of this problem is with the consumers of products and how they handle the packaging and remnantsof the things they use when they go fishing and boating, have a picnic at the beach, as well as what they might smoke, drink and eat. It is our responsibility to understand our role in this problem and our responsibility to control how we behave. We need to implement a combined strategy for recycling, reuse and reduction in all the products we discard. Mother Nature does not have an endless capacity to deal with our bad habits.


Franko   August 20th, 2008 1:43 pm ET

Mother Gaia is not a slouch on the job of Motherhood. Human
burping, surfing, discarding plastic suntan oil bottles. Diligently
cleaned, recycled, even feeding the pet monsters of the sea.

The Yogurt plastic container, swept to the Gyre, most potent Climate Changer ?
White reflects sunlight, albedo change, causing feedbacks, beyond the tipping point. CO2 is not the cause of the cooling, Stop the Ice, Black plastics, please !


Dax   August 21st, 2008 1:25 am ET

I agree with rosemary's post (13 Aug) – plastic can be converted back into petroleum. I've seen a feature on tv but just small-scale. If it could be done on a large-scale, it would be better than collecting the garbage just for disposal. And disposal where? Which country would accept millions of tons of garbage? If it can be turned into petroleum, even if 50% output someone just might want it.


albonie   August 21st, 2008 10:33 am ET

The truth nobody ever dares to say aloud is that RECYCLING IS STUPID. How many water bottles do we recycle by melting them and remolding them into MORE water bottles?! Think about all the energy that goes into that process! Wouldn't it be much more efficient to just make the water bottles a little more substantial so they can be reused? In India and, I believe, some parts of Europe, people still use glass bottles that are washed and refilled. Remember the milk man? This system would NOT be that hard to implement. It's just that the plastic factories and YES, to an extent the waste disposal industry are too powerful and no one has the guts to put those people out of a job and abandon a money making enterprise even though it could solve so many of our problems!!!


Franko   August 21st, 2008 11:33 am ET

The Gyre, like a giant washing machine, churns and turns, cleans the plastic of all things dissovable. Sunlight bleaches. Sea Water corrodes. Heavy solids sink to bottom, become part of ocean sediment. light material, floats away to beaches, becomes part of sandstone. Some extra Carbon hidden geologically,

Sailors, who sailed past the edge, the event horizon, did not come back.
Almost the same, the plastic, gone, but spied upon, by the GuiltRafters.
Occasionally, we see the remnants, white plastic particles on the beach.
The souls of the sailors, come back, after sailing over the edge ?


Larry   August 22nd, 2008 8:51 pm ET

May not sound very PC but it would work, robot ships that scoop up the crud and burn it to power themselves. Leave a few thousand floating around feeding off the stuff until its gone.


Douglas de Jong   August 23rd, 2008 12:10 am ET

The plastic will eventually be removed by the same who created the mess in the first place. We will remove all this plastic and recycle it after we have removed the last drop of cheap crude oil from the earth.
Don't be scared about your car running out of gas, be worried about where we are going to get our plastic from. There is way more plastics being made than gasoline. Take a look around you. Our environment is made up of mostly plastic!


Franko   August 23rd, 2008 11:06 am ET

The Larry robot PC may be the next singularity. Industrial revolution,
sailing ships, railroads, produced unforseen results

PC computing power, controlling a robot ship, beyond forecast possibilities.
Not only sweeping for and mining plastic, but building floating cities at sea

Make the robots self reproducing, soon, on the menu, are the humans.
All mechanical paradise. GuiltRafting without humans.


Pablo   August 24th, 2008 7:56 am ET

I would first study to determine the extent of the problem.

MOST of the stories about the environment contain GROSS oversimplifications, exagerations or out right lies.

THEN when these glaring lies are found, I suggest we make the writers acknoledge their intellectual and pollitical bias and publicly flog them.


smartest person here   August 24th, 2008 10:47 am ET

make a plastic island and have hollywood celebs live out there for an arm and a leg! kind of like the palm tree in Dubai but closer.


Caveman   August 24th, 2008 11:07 am ET

Plastics are saving this planet.
Human lazyness & ignorance are distroying it.


Mike   August 25th, 2008 3:18 am ET

How about we just do nothing?

Its not like we have the oil to make plastics for much longer anyhow, and almost every single thing said so far is well in to the realm of pie in the sky fantasy that ignores the real bounds of physics and reality...

So...

We ignore it.. we have more important things to worry about than some trash in the ocean anyhow..

Like uhhh.... how the human race is going to survive after oil peaks...


Arthur   August 25th, 2008 12:44 pm ET

I suggest just using the whole ocean as a garbage dump and wait until the lower life forms die off and those up the food chain disappear for lack of food. Then it won't matter if we use it as a garbage dump anymore.

So just wait! Mission Accomplished.


Franko   August 25th, 2008 11:36 pm ET

Time, space, energy, constrain. Beyond the event horizon, different for everyone. Ignorance is bliss. Not to worry. The garbage and debris left by the Apollo Moon carelessness, will one day be neutralized by a giant meteor strike.

Forgot to leave Guilt Moon Landing cameras. Sparing children nightmares.


David Fitzgerald   August 26th, 2008 11:10 am ET

Just what we need. Environmental Facism slowing down international trade with the US over a damn whale. Just past the cost on to the good old consumers. At some point Americans are going to wake up and start clipping the wings on these environmental wackos.


Mike K   August 28th, 2008 2:10 pm ET

Well I see that the "junk raft" made it to Hawaii. Yipee skippee.
They made it there on PLASTICS! What a wonderful product this plastic is. I wonder what they stored their food in, used to make water & what other plastic items made this trip even possible!?

The real danger here isn't plastics, it's polluters, psuedo science, ignorance & eco lemmings!

I hope someone sends out a "junk submarine" to draw attention to all the garbage at the bottom of the ocean!

I see CNN has this listed under science, I suggest putting this under "Junk Science" or next to the Big Foot stories! Afterall, more people have seen Big Foot than this "island" of garbage!


Mike K   August 28th, 2008 2:11 pm ET

Well I see that the "junk raft" made it to Hawaii. Yipee skippee.
They made it there on PLASTICS! What a wonderful product this plastic is. I wonder what they stored their food in, used to make water & what other plastic items made this trip even possible!?

The real danger here isn't plastics, it's polluters, pseudo science, ignorance & eco lemmings!

I hope someone sends out a "junk submarine" to draw attention to all the garbage at the bottom of the ocean!

I see CNN has this listed under science, I suggest putting this under "Junk Science" or next to the Big Foot stories! After all, more people have seen Big Foot than this "island" of garbage!


Chris   September 17th, 2008 8:20 pm ET

Good point Mike K. I bet they collected their water in plastic jugs to get across the vast Pacific. If they had used paper products, the tree huggers would have then sunk their boat, for deforestation violations. In essence..we humans have to not live in our environment..log cabinns a thing of the past. We should sleep under the stars on grasses and not make polysilicon structures to create a computer in which we can communicate in here....hmmm...and I wonder how many tree sitters wipe their butts with dead leaves and not Mr. Whipple. If you are gonna preach it...you should actually live it. Not a sermon....just a thought.


Teri Thomas   November 29th, 2008 2:55 pm ET

Since 2006, http://www.environmentbags.com has seen their business grow over 1400% wholesaling reusable shopping bags. The country is definitely getting the message and we need to keep pursuing all avenues of reduction at every level.


design my own clothes   November 5th, 2010 4:50 am ET

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MARK MILLER   January 23rd, 2011 2:36 pm ET

Alright this would be the first and easiest thing to do. Take a large ship such as an aircraft carrier fill it up with some smaller row boats and park it next to the trash island and start picking it up. One piece at a time. Rome wasn't built overnight. While we are doing that we should go to metal containers which can be recycled. Outlaw plastic in most forms. Except the most valueable like hospital uses and in which still need to be recycleable. Raise littering fines and make mandatory community services hours to pick it up. Say drop one piece of trash you should have to pick up a thousand. Just for all the times you were not caught doing it. We should also drill our kids in school about it. so that their kid's children can have a nice world to live in too. I don't think digging a hole and bury it is helping. Another idea we be to seperate all the unrecycleable plastic and compact it into blocks to build houses with. you could stick rebar through it fill it with a flexible concrete and most likely have a home that would last forever. But really we should just stop our production of it and cease the buying of such materials from other countries. That would be doing our part at least. To many talkers not enough walkers. Period.


Martin Lapensee   March 13th, 2011 8:55 pm ET

The most realistic way to extract the plastics out of the ocean could be done with a process that I have thought about for many years. I call it
"The Osmosis Whale"
The project is based on using 2-4 large ships that are being decommissioned and (donated )to our society , they then would be tug boated and anchored in the most concentrated areas of the Toilet Bowl.
A"retrofitted plastic collection system"the Osmosis Whale is were the water and debris will pass through trapping and extracting the plastics from the water. This will be done without having to put large trolling nets and harming any of the remaining sea life that actually can exist in that plastic infested cesspool .
Once the plastic is brought into the ship, it is then sent to be ground into smaller pieces and then remelted and sent to the on board Plastic Extruded that turns the material into usable plastic items like,park benches,parking curbs and building materials, these items could then be sold to finance part of the operation however it would probably require a lot of donations and sponsorship of companies and individuals who really want to make a difference in the world and clean up this mess.. I visualize some day looking at a Giant Billboard with a Large LED readout noting the tonnage of Plastics removed by"The Osmosis Whale" 100,000 tonnes have been processed this year..
Cheers Martin Lapensee "The Thinker"


Carole Anne Hochstetler   May 27th, 2011 10:15 am ET

Discovery Channel produced a feature regarding just this topic. Interviewed in the feature was the founder of Algarita Marine Research.
He stated that the mass is twice the size of TEXAS. One might Google for more resources. To see the video of the masses of junk floating in the sea is mind-boggling.


Athenos Greek Yogurt   July 24th, 2012 7:11 am ET

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Birds   September 20th, 2013 2:09 am ET

[...] tons." It's more like an enormous, amorphous, nasty soup that stretches for hundreds of miles The Pacific "toilet bowl that never flushes" – SciTechBlog – CNN.com Blogs To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently [...]


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