Plastic from Poland to Mexico

I know plastic travels that far because the trash exhibit I saw in 2004 at the Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an (CESIAK) includes some plastic from Poland that had washed up on the beach in Mexico.

I hate trash. If it were up to me, everything would be recycled, whether we think it’s possible now or not. But that’s the eco-dictator in me speaking, which does not generally go over well.

If it’s any comfort to those of you who feel judged by recyclers and other environmentalists, I have to restrain myself from picking up recyclables wherever I go. When I was at the Toyota dealership the other day, I wanted so badly to pull the plastic bottles out of the trash and place them in the recycling container 15 feet away. People! Put the recycling and trash bins right next to each other! Don’t make us walk extra steps to recycle.

I was reminded of CESIAK recently after reading “When Garbage Doesn’t Die” in the Spring 2010 issue of Alert Diver (you’ll have to create an account to read it). This article lists several things people can do to reduce trash blowing into the oceans (stop using plastic bags; carry your own water bottle and coffee cup) but, most interesting to me, also names organizations working to prevent and clean up marine debris.

Algalita Marine Research Foundation was founded by Captain Charles Moore in 1994 to preserve and protect the marine environment. In 1997 he was sailing through the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (between Hawaii and California) and discovered the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch. His foundation is currently planning to survey all 5 gyres worldwide.

Project Kaisei (“ocean planet” in Japanese) recently led an expedition that took pictures of plastic in the ocean and experimented with various cleanup efforts. (Much of the plastic in the world’s oceans has photo-degraded into pieces small enough to be eaten by sea creatures. How are we supposed to get rid of that? Pour the ocean through cheesecloth?)

Plastic Pollution Coalition: No, it’s not a nefarious plot to increase plastic pollution. It’s a website where people can get together to reduce the amount of plastic we throw away.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris page: self-explanatory.

How is this restoration?

Most of it is in the planning/research stages. Those steps are necessary: people could just go out in a boat and pick up trash. But it’s better to investigate the best methods.