Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Newsy: Garbage Island Found in Atlantic Ocean

A garbage patch found in the middle of the North Atlantic could have huge repercussions on the environment. Countries across the world are producing enormous amounts of plastic. This plastic is piling up in our oceans. First it was the Pacific —now the Atlantic.
The garbage patch, located in the middle of the North Atlantic, is twice the size of Texas. It is mostly made up of tiny pieces of plastic that marine life mistakes as food. 
A documentary producer tells HLN how bad the plastic situation is in the Atlantic.
ANCHOR: "The problem with plastic is it doesn't biodegrade. It photodegrades, a process in which it is broken down by sunlight into smaller pieces. But they still remain plastics. 
THOMAS MORTON: "There's a ratio of plastic to plankton about 6:1. That's roughly average. We've pulled in samples that were like, where it was like 1000:1, where it's just overwhelmingly plastic." 
A columnist for the Examiner writes how ocean trash has affected marine ecologies: “...over a million sea birds die from ingesting plastic particles every year. Slow, agonizing deaths, as the plastic fills their stomachs, which they are unable to digest — so, they gradually die of starvation. Even single celled creatures have been discovered with tiny, colorful, specks of plastic lodged in their transparent bodies.”
A member of the Ocean Conservancy tells San Francisco's CBS affiliate how to best deal with garbage patches in the oceans: "There isn't probably a logical cleanup solution. The only thing that there is as a solution is prevention — to reduce the amount of plastic that we make, to make plastic that is biodegradable and to substitute for plastic products."
But a marine researcher gives David Letterman a bleak outlook about taking action against the garbage patches: "We're crisis-driven, and it's not a crisis yet. Hopefully, someday, we'll learn how to take action to stem situations before they become crises. Right now what we're seeing is, as you say, the tip of the plastic iceberg. The so-called canary in the coal mine is the albatross in the ocean. What's happening is plastic is overtaking the natural world." 
A writer for The Huffington Post agrees, saying people don't care enough about the issue — even if the evidence is right in front of them: “As debris is washed out to sea it brings with it high bacteria levels. Just ask any surfer. After it rains, the ocean can become so filled with bacteria that you have to stay out of the water for about three days. Yet most of us find this acceptable.” 
To learn more about trash in the oceans, watch our video "Oceans of Plastic" about the garbage patch in the Pacific.

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