California nonprofit 5 Gyres Institute will conduct a study of the plastic pollution in the South Pacific Gyre, sailing a boat from Valdivia, Chile, to Easter Island. The group has already sailed through the other four ocean gyres: North Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian Ocean.
Why should I care?
Here’s a quote from the press release about 5 Gyres’s voyage to the South Pacific gyre:
Most ocean plastic pollution takes the form of tiny plastic bits resulting from degraded fishing gear or plastic waste flowing out to sea from land. Sea turtles, marine mammals, birds and fish ingest these plastic particles, potentially causing internal blockages and an increased accumulation of synthetic chemicals in their bodies. The debris may also kill seabirds and marine animals that can die of starvation, their bellies full of plastic mistaken for food. 5 Gyres is also studying whether humans are being harmed by eating fish that have ingested debris contaminated with PCBs, DDT, and other toxins.
While the plastic marine debris problem is typically described as a well defined “garbage patch,” plastic pollution at sea takes the form of a thin, diffuse soup. Either way, it cannot be cleaned up by any practical means, so society must stop the problem at its source, the researchers stress. They advocate improving the recyclability of plastics, legislation requiring companies to take responsibility for recovery and reuse of their products, and curbs on single-use disposable products.
How is this restoration?
Before we can restore any ecosystem, we must understand the state of that ecosystem. That is 5 Gyres’s purpose: to educate people about marine debris and the “plastic soup” that has developed in areas of the Earth’s oceans.
I take issue with the idea that this problem cannot be cleaned up “by any practical means.” We may not be able to strain out all the tiny plastic particles, but we can go pick up some of the trash in these gyres. We can also pick up trash on land.
I want to go on one of these expeditions someday.
Here’s an example of how to deal with plastic pollution: make plastic waste into a surfboard! All the lighters that went into the surfboard were regurgitated by birds. (Isn’t that gross?)