Wednesday, March 3, 2010

As taken from San Diego Coast Keepers

Did You Know?

Fifty percent or more of marine litter is, in some form of plastic, whether it is bottles, food wrappers, plastic bags, or plastic pellets. Plastics are highly toxic to the marine environment, as well as the physical health of humans.
The biggest problem with plastics is that they DO NOT biodegrade. Plastic break down in a process called photodegrading, which means they simply break apart into ever smaller pieces, eventually forming “plastic dust.” As plastics go through this process they release toxins which have many harmful effects to the ocean and the wildlife and people that depend on it.
No matter how large or small they are, plastic bits are not digestible by any creature on land, in the air, or under the sea. We are literally suffocating the planet with these plastic products, which can never re-enter the life cycle. Plastics that are in the ocean today will, in some way, stay there forever. After decades of floating about plastics break down into smaller particles, gets absorbed into the food chain or eventually sink and become part of the ocean bottom sediment.
There are two common ways plastics end up in the ocean. Pre-production plastic pellets, used to create nearly all commercially consumed plastic products, are often carelessly handled in places where they are produced and transported. Approximately twenty percent of the plastic in our ocean comes from these pellets being blown into our oceans from waterfront industrial plants and cargo ships
The other eighty percent of plastic litter finds its way into the storm drain system and into the marine environment through urban runoff. Even plastic that gets “thrown away” does not always make it to the landfill, but rather gets diverted by wind or improper handling. The plastics that do make it are crowding landfills because of the long time it takes for them to break down. An estimated 63 pounds of plastics for each American enters landfills each year.
At present, plastics in the ocean outweigh natural zooplankton by a 6:1 ratio! What does this mean for marine animals? It means that they are consuming way more plastic than zooplankton. Fish and other sea animals mistake plastics for food because plankton and plastic, when broken down or in pellet form, have very similar appearances. These plastics eventually find their way up the food chain into the foods that we consume.

The Dirty Facts about Plastic

  • Estimates run as high as one million pieces of plastic per square kilometer floating in specific areas of the Pacific Ocean.
  • In the Pacific Ocean there is a patch of plastics know as the “Eastern Garbage Patch” the size of Texas! This patch is a huge feeding ground for many marine animals.
  • Shoppers worldwide are using 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags per year. This translates to about a million bags every minute across the globe. Plastic bags take 20 to 1000 years to break down, are made from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource, and they are very harmful to marine animals that ingest them.
  • A one liter bottle can break down into enough fragments to place a single fragment on each mile of beach in the entire world.
  • More than 1 million birds, more than 100,000 whales, seals and turtles, and countless fish worldwide are killed by plastic debris each year. These deaths occur through entanglement, suffocation, and starvation by ingestion.
  • 90% of Laysan Albatross chick carcasses and regurgitated stomach contents contain plastics.
  • Fishing line and nets, six-pack rings, rope and other rubbish can wrap around fins, flippers and limbs of other animals, causing drowning or amputation. Some debris can kill for decades — trapped animals often attract predators, which then become entangled too.
  • Plastic’s primary toxic contents are phthalates and Bisphenol which have been found in every part of a person’s body unnaturally through blood, urine, and amniotic fluid. Bisphenol is used in plastic fabrications such as baby bottles, tin can linings, certain toys, and food storage containers.

How you can be part of the solution

  • Bring your own cloth or recycled grocery bags to the store.
  • Reduce, Reuse then Recycle! Buy in bulk. Re-use when possible. Reduce consumption by avoiding excessively packaged products.
  • Think twice about buying "disposable" products. (They really aren't disposable and are extravagant wastes of the world's resources.)
  • Avoid buying food or household products in plastic or Styrofoam containers. They can't be recycled, deplete the ozone layer, and are not biodegradable. While some alternatives promote themselves as eco-friendly, such as ‘bio-degradable Styrofoam’, even these products are not necessarily good for the ocean. Learn more at
  • Buy paper products instead of plastic if you must buy "disposables." They break down better in the environment and don't deplete the ozone layer as much.
  • Avoid buying bottled water. Invest in a filter system or go to your local grocery store and refill your water jugs.
  • Keep plastic debris and other contaminants (leaves, pet waste, toxins) out of street gutters and storm drains. This eventually ends up in the ocean.
  • Keep beaches clean. Plastics and other debris harm sea life and pollute the ocean. Clean up after yourself.
  • Get involved! Participate in beach cleanups if you live in a coastal area.
  • Educated yourself and think about where each product you buy will end up when you are finished with it!

Reducing Marine Debris in CA

Marine debris, such as plastics, cigarette butts and other trash, is a growing hazard to our ocean ecosystem that harms hundreds of wildlife species through ingestion, entrapment and entanglement. On February 8, the Ocean Protection Council adopted a resolution outlining steps to reduce and prevent marine debris. The resolution will make California the national leader on efforts to reduce waste and pollution and protect our coastal waters

For More Info:

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