Sea of Plastic

Here is a great animation of the “trash islands” floating in the Pacific Ocean. Billions of pieces of plastic are collected by the currents and corralled  into unfathomably large floating garbage heaps. People like to compare them to the size of Texas. I saw one person saying it was as much as three times the size as Texas.

Anyway, the “islands” are BIG. Click on the tab “Journey of Trash” below and then the timeline of how long it takes for garbage to float to the vortex of the islands.

There are two islands generally speaking, one nearer to Japan and the other closer the the US. But the real problem is not so visible. Certainly the heaps of plastic washing up on the shores is disturbing as well as birds dying with stomachs full of plastic, but the alarming aspect is in what happens to the plastic as it breaks into small pieces.

As small pieces it gets mistaken for plankton, the cornerstone of all marine wildlife food. Because plastic attracts oil and toxins the tiny pieces can be as much as a million times more concentrated in hydrophobic pollutants such as PCB’s. These toxic chemicals enter the food chain in powerful quantities and move all the way up the food chain to larger animals.

Here is a great explanation of the movement and production of plastic:

Here is a more sobering explanation (from 2001….)

Below is a photo of my fridge. Looks pretty healthy right? Some veggies, fruit, organic bread.


As a green contractor in Brooklyn I am pretty aware of what I eat and have access to high quality food. But don’t let the organic coconut milk and fresh strawberries fool you. What you are looking at is a large garbage bag of plastic bags, cups, containers and wrappers. We are in trouble.

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One comment on “Sea of Plastic
  1. satjiwan says:

    scary stuff….
    for good or bad, from an energy and climate change standpoint, plastics and solid waste and recycling fall way down on the priorities list of where people should put efforts to reduce their footprint. the biggest footprint reductions come from cows, cars, construction and kids. (and related solutions involve: reducing meat and/or going vegetarian or vegan, reducing car use, building and living in efficient housing, and having fewer kids.)

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