Amass of plastic in the Pacific, increasing tenfold each decade since 1945, is now the size of Texas and killing everything in its wake.
Each day, North Americans throw away more than 385,000 cellphones and 143,000 computers– electronic waste is now the fastest-growing stream of garbage. Lead and mercury are seeping from this waste into ground water.
Most of this electronic waste is shipped overseas, where it is dismantled and burned, deleterious to the environment and human health. Some of the e-waste, however, is winding up in the sea.
Each hour, North Americans consume and discard about 2.75 million plastic water and soda bottles; that’s 24 billion a year.
Globally, 100 million tonnes of plastic are generated each year and at least 10 per cent of that is finding its way into the sea. The United Nations Environmental Program now estimates that there are 46,000 floating pieces of plastic for every square mile of ocean. Some of that trash circulating the globe is 30 metres deep.
Worldwide, each year 113 billion kilograms of small plastic pellets called nurdles–the feedstock for all disposable plastics– are shipped and billions are spilled during transfer in and out of railroad cars. Those spilled nurdles are ending up in gutters and drains and eventually carried into the ocean.
The U.S. produces about 6.8 billion kilograms of plastic each year and only one per cent of it is recycled. As a matter of fact, the average American uses 101 kilograms of plastic each year and by 2011 it’s projected to be as high as 148 kilograms per annum.
At least 80 per cent of the plastic in the ocean originated from the land. Thousands of cargo containers fall overboard in stormy seas each year. In 2002, 33,000 blue-and-white Nike basketball shoes were spilled off the coast of Washington.
Plastic in the ocean acts like sponges attracting neuron-toxins like mercury and pyrethroids insecticides, carcinogens such as PCBs, DDT and PBDE (the backbone of flame retardants), and man-made hormones like progesterone and estrogen that at high levels induce both male and female reproductive parts on a single animal.
Japanese scientists found nurdles with concentrations of poisons listed above as high as one million times their concentrations in the water as free-floating substances.
Each year, a million sea birds and 100,000 sharks, turtles, dolphins and whales die from eating plastic.
Nurdles resemble fish eggs or roe. Tuna and salmon feed on them indiscriminately. Around 2.5 billion humans eat fish regularly. Plastic and other man-made toxins are polluting the global food chain and it’s rising at an unprecedented rate.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is actually comprised of two enormous masses of ever-growing garbage. The Eastern Garbage Patch floats between Hawaii and California. The Western Garbage Patch extends east of Japan to the western archipelago of the Hawaiian Islands. A narrow 10,000-kilometre-long current called the Subtropical Convergence Zone connects the patches.
The massive clockwise North Pacific Gyre is carrying plastic that is over 50 years old. Last year, plastic found in the stomach of an albatross had a serial number traced to a Second World War seaplane shot down just south of Japan in 1944 and identified over 60 years later off the West Coast of the U. S.
Currently, there is six times more plastic than plankton floating in the middle of the Pacific.
The North Pacific Gyre, its ocean currents and winds have essentially become a giant toilet bowl that regularly disgorges metres of plastic onto Hawaii’s Big Island. Kamilo Beach is often covered in plastic lighters, toothbrushes, water bottles, pens, nurdles, baby bottles, cellphones and plastic bags. About one half trillion plastic bags are manufactured each year around the globe.