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Great Pacific Garbage Dump



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Updated: 9:42 AM 8/4/2009
Project Kaisei Embarks to Investigate the “Dump”

Sylvia Earle “Explorer-in-Residence”
National Geographic, Mission Programs

“Solving a problem starts with knowing that you have one. Project Kaisei vividly shows how discarded plastics are clogging the ocean, causing a major problem for the planet’s vital “blue heart,” entangling marinelife and insidiously killing as it accumulates in the food chain, from tiny plankton to great whales. Best of all, the mission highlights hope with ideas for positive action.” http://www.projectkaisei.org/

Note: The Project Kaisei team will embark on a multi-week expedition to the “Plastic Vortex” from the West Coast in order to:

– Study and document the marine debris found in this area of the Pacific Ocean;

– Test catch methods for removing the debris;

– Conduct research on the chemical interactions of marine debris in the gyre and select fishes and wildlife related to persistent organic pollutants (POPs);

– Understand the needs required to undertake an eventual large scale clean-up of the waste material;

– Test technologies for conversion into an economically viable by-product: diesel fuel.”

Updated: 4:01 PM 4/26/2009
A giant, almost endless plastic soup extends
a wider distance than the length and breadth
of the United States, right smack in the middle
of the Pacific Ocean.

Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he's drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.

UPDATE 9:37 AM 8/4/2009 – Scripps Embarks…

Scripps Scientists Aboard Research Vessel to Study Huge Garbage Dump
“From August 2-21, a group of doctoral students and research volunteers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego will embark on an expedition aboard the Scripps research vessel New Horizon to explore the problem of plastic in the North Pacific Gyre.

The Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX) is the first of its kind and will focus on a suite of critical questions. How much plastic is accumulating, how is it distributed, and how is it affecting ocean life?

The researchers hope to provide critical, timely data to policy makers and combine Scripps’ long tradition of Pacific exploration with focus on a new and pressing environmental problem. ” http://seaplexscience.com

Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he’s drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.” (Link from the Oprah Show)

This plastic “continent” stretches a distance wider than the United States and can be 90 deep or greater in places. It’s growing by leaps and bounds due to extensive plastic waste cast off by a “throwaway” mentality of the world’s consumers.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Garbage
From Askmen.com

  • There’s a continent of garbage in the Pacific gyre. (Gyre: swirling center region of the ocean’s currents)
  • There’s garbage all over Mt. Everest – it’s “notoriously filthy.”
  • Some garbage can live a million years… or more.
  • Landfills pollute worse than… chernobyl. Then expel vast quantities of toxic gases.
  • Plasma” can obliterate garbage. (Discovery Link to Plasma Gasification)

See more about Plasma, below.

According to Charles Moore, garbage growth is so extensive that the expansion of this island of trash seems virtually unstoppable, and may eventually, sooner than later, choke off the world’s fish supply.

Currently, over 90% of the world’s larger consumable fish stores are gone, depleted.

In addition, if the destruction of plankton is severe enough, oxygen levels will diminish and the world’s atmosphere is at risk.

There are many foreseen as well as unforeseen repurcussions to the huge accumulations of non-biodegradable waste in the world’s oceans.

Animals are indeed dying in record numbers exceeding hundreds of thousands. Seabirds feed their young colorful plastic bits, and the baby birds die a slow death. Sea mammals perish in netting and plastic coils and strips and die from poisoning as well.

Almost all fish are becoming contaminated with plastic bits and chemicals – even the tiniest fish. As Charles Moore says, “You can buy certified organic produce, but no fishmonger on earth can sell you a certified, organic, wild caught fish.”

The only solution: To stop the plastic at its source. It would be impossible to clean up the ocean. No country or power has the money or wherewithal to remove even a small proportion of plastic trash.

It is the only hope, but Charles hold’s little hope that we can change.
http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/capt_charles_moore_on_the_seas_of_plastic.html

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Ways to Help
Ocean Heroes at Oceana.org
Actual ways to help along with celebrities
Actors, musicians, scientists and authors,
ocean lovers, advocates

Algalita has a DVD that chronicles and explains this massive problem. Undoubtedly the cost helps support their efforts.
http://algalita.org/videos-synthetic-sea.html

Great Links courtesy of Askmen.com

PLASMA: It’s working in other countries
“Since 2002, two commercial waste-to-energy plasma gasification plants have been operating successfully in Japan.

The Mihama-Mikata facility processes 24 tons of municipal sold waste and 4 tons of sewage sludge per day, producing steam and hot water for local use.

The Utashinai plant processes up to 300 tons per day of waste and/or automobile shredder residue.

This facility produces up to 7.9 Megawatts of electricity, of which 3.6 MW are used to run the plasma torches and the plant, and up to 4.3 MW are sent to the electrical power grid.

In Ottawa, Canada, people are evaluating a demonstration facility that is currently processing 94 tons of waste per day, sending 4 MW of power to the grid.”

Note: This technology has been scaled back in the United States by 80%. Why is that? Could it be that it’s not “profitable” enough and the “greed” factor isn’t attractive to investors?

Or, perhaps the technology would impinge upon the profitability of current technologies.

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2 Responses to “Great Pacific Garbage Dump”

  1. Regarding the Great Pacific Garbage Dump. If it is as densely polluted with plastic as I have read, can’t plastic retrieval be profitable?

    I read that coal currently sells for approximately $.045 a pound. I read that low grade plastic sells for $1.70 per pound at the local recycling center here in Los Angeles. There are at estimated 31 million tons of plastic in the GPGD? My numbers are loose and this is partly due to lack of information I can track down on the internet, but it seems to me that this plastic concentration might be profitable, somehow. You just need a big boat and some sifters?

  2. To RW –

    A really good idea that makes sense. : ) From what I’ve read, one challenge is the difficulty in collecting much of the debris due to the massive amount of extremely small particulate sized matter. Such a fine net would be almost impossible to construct and pull behind a boat.

    However, getting the larger items might be possible. Perhaps they think that separating out all the debris is too difficult.

    As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way… : )

    The good news is that Scripps has sent a research vessel to look into the problem and (hopefully!) come up with solutions. Here’s the article link:
    http://sio.ucsd.edu/Expeditions/Seaplex/

    I particularly liked that you raised the profit figures. Looking at the potential income with actual figures is a great way to arouse incentive and inventiveness. : )

    Perhaps you should send them your ideas with facts and figures. It seems to make good financial sense. If they came up with reasons why it wouldn’t work, we could come up with ideas how to address them.