Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Plastic pollution

Here's a good report about a serious but still low profile pollution problem. Film producer Jo Ruxton tells us about plastic pollution and her documentary 'Away' about it. http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/man-monster-threatening-oceans/story-14123137-detail/story.html

..."People kept mentioning this gyre – a sort of enormous vortex of oceans currents – in the middle of the Pacific, that was drawing together an enormous mass of waste plastic," she says.

"It was all washing off the beaches and being flushed through the drains of the Pacific rim countries – mostly the United States – and was being swept up by this natural gyre, until it was all massing in the middle of the ocean – like a sort of enormous floating island of plastic, miles across and many metres deep.
"I later discovered that it wasn't just happening in the Pacific. There were similar gyres of plastic pollution in all the oceans of the world – the one in the North Atlantic that we contribute towards here is every bit as sinister as the Pacific gyre.

"I was so intrigued that I arranged to go out and see it. In my naivety, I had imagined millions of plastic bottles, but it was more insidious than that.
"A lot of it is small pieces of plastic – tiny pieces, small enough to be swallowed by fish and whales – the big plankton eaters are particularly prone to swallowing it up.

"At first glance the water looks immaculate, but dive below the surface and you are surrounded by these millions of pieces of plastic, which have generally at some point either blown off landfill sites, or been washed down streets into sewers and eventually out to sea.

"It takes 20 years for the plastic to reach the centre of the gyre, so we're not even seeing our recent pollution there yet. When you realise that in the last 20 years we have produced and discarded more plastic waste than in the entire century before that, you'll start to realise just how enormous a problem this is turning out to be.

"We have to start asking why we produce so many non-reusable items out of a material that is non-degradable. We have to start acting on this right now."...

..."The real problem is that these plastics don't degrade, so they're not going anywhere. They're just building up and up. And the problem is not just that they can kill creatures by blocking their digestive system. These tiny pieces of plastic are also carrying numerous toxins, that can easily get into the food chain.

"For example, one of the fish that is consuming this plastic is the little lantern fish, which is in turn the prey of the tuna, which of course we eat. So these toxins very quickly return to us, and research is showing they could potentially be leading to everything from certain kinds of cancers to certain kinds of arthritis – both of which I've had....

...Jo has named the film simply Away."It's where people's rubbish goes," she explains.

"You ask anybody where their waste goes, and they say they just throw it away. There is no magical 'away' – people have to realise that it all ends up somewhere. Often that 'away' is in the middle of our oceans."

For more details about the project, visit the website at http://www.plasticoceans.net/ .

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