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Can You Believe This Trash?

Posted February 18, 2010 5:00 AM by Sharkles

Please note: This article was originally posted with a different lead image that was later brought to my attention as being inaccurate. It has since been updated with an image provided by the 5 Gyres organization.

Back in 2007, I blogged about the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," a pile of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean. At the time, the liquid-borne landfill was twice the size of Texas. The mass was created and is maintained by four circulating currents: the North Pacific Current, the California Current, the North Equatorial Current, and the Kuroshio Current. In my 2007 post, I explained how this problem was harming not only the ocean, but also the marine life that depends upon it for food.

Although I hadn't forgotten about the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch", I hadn't heard much about it either - until this week. As if one giant garbage pile wasn't bad enough, it turns out that there are actually five oceanic masses that are accumulating the world's trash. These patches develop in the ocean's gyres, large systems of rotating ocean currents – particularly with large wind movements that are caused by the Coriolis Effect.

Today, the world's five oceanic gyres are the North Atlantic gyre, which contains the Sargasso Sea; the South Atlantic gyre, the Indian Ocean gyre, the North Pacific gyre, and the South Pacific gyre.

What's Being Done?

An organization known as the 5 Gyres Project has teamed up with a number of plastics, sustainability, and marine preservation organizations to visit and study plastic pollution build-up in the gyres. Previous studies of the garbage patches focused upon marine life and its consumption of plastics. The 5 Gyres Project is continuing to study marine life and whether the consumption of harmful chemicals can work its way up the food chain to affect humans.

The project also focuses on proving that plastic pollution is more than a Pacific Rim issue, as many believe. In the meantime, ocean currents continue to move garbage through these gyre vortexes. If you prefer a visual explanation, the 5 Gyres project has put together a brief video of how it believes the gyres will grow over the next ten years.

Do You Hear the Call?

The 5 Gyres organization provides a call to action for those of us who care, but cannot visit and view the gyres ourselves. The site mentions consumption or throwaway culture throughout; this is why its main call to action is to have consumers become more aware of what they're buying and what happens to products after their consumption.

Like many other earth-friendly movements, 5 Gyres encourages the use of reusable bags, bottles, etc. It also encourages legislative advocacy with economic incentives such as return deposits on bottles, cans, and other products. There's a line on the website that says it best: "Efficient recovery of waste is essential - there is no "away" in throw-away."

For more information, I encourage you to check out the 5 Gyres website (which I think is fantastic). You also might want to check out their blog which talks about ongoing efforts, documents past efforts, and maps journeys and discoveries.

Resources:

http://5gyres.org/

http://www.good.is/post/five-gyres-more-ocean-trash-than-we-thought/

http://cr4.globalspec.com/blogentry/3724/Poisonous-Plastics-Part-One

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#1

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 8:11 AM

Just some perspective - if the garbage mass is 2x the size of Texas, and an average of a meter deep, its volume would be about 1,400 km^3.

That is about 1.3 million empire state buildings, and about 0.000006% of our moon.

http://www.universetoday.com/guide-to-space/the-moon/volume-of-the-moon/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas

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#2

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 9:04 AM

Maybe it time they stop spending money studying it. Put the money to a ship that can harvest it and process it on location. Returning to port with cargo of raw plastics to sell. This is not a new problem. They discussed it in school in the 60's. Continued study of it is not going to make it go away.

Other that that we could say it is a human attempt to create land mass. Wait until it stable enough to build homes on. Maybe high speed train from one continent to another competition for the air lines

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#3

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 10:13 AM

The math seems to not add up in my estimates either. If one of them is twice the approximate size of Texas that would mean all 6+ billion people in the world contributed around 8200 cubic feet of trash each to just that one!

Now if there are five of these total that would mean each person on earth contributed about 41,000 cubic feet of trash. Or roughly some 13+ large semi trucks per person.

If they are twice the size of Texas and nearly a meter thick how come I cant find any of them on Google earth? Have they been conveniently photo shopped out?

Something doesn't smell right here and I dont think its the trash thats the source.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 10:32 AM

If they are twice the size of Texas and nearly a meter thick how come I cant find any of them on Google earth?

Good point, tcmtech. I too was curious to see the trash on Google Earth or Google Oceans -- seeing is believing, right? I found an article that quoted Google Ocean product manager, Steve Miller, who explained why the images are not there.

Here's what he had to say (from this article):

Regarding the availability of satellite imagery of the oceans: Unfortunately we haven't found great sources of data for most of the open ocean because most imagery providers focus their efforts on the land. Where we do have satellite imagery for the ocean surface, we've preserved it in the most recent version of Google Earth and the satellite view in Maps. For example you can still see trawling vessels in southeast Asia. There are a number of potential applications for such imagery, from amateur interest in finding ships to looking at off-shore oil platforms to locating illegal fishing vessels, so it's certainly worth exploring how we could track down data for the rest of the ocean.

Regarding the gyre: the trash gyre presents its own set of challenges. Even if we had satellite imagery, the gyre likely wouldn't appear in it. Most of the plastic is particulate and/or a bit under the surface so you can't see it in the imagery. A number of groups are starting to focus on collecting more data about the gyre via expeditions and sampling – we'd love to see one or more of them produce maps that could be viewed in Google Earth.

There are also some interesting things being said in Google's forums in case you are interested. Here and here.

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 10:51 AM

Roughly 100 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year. That's over 15 tonnes of plastic per person per year. Half of the plastic is used for packaging.

8% of the worlds petroleum use is plastics production

So the numbers sound realistic to me.

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 11:13 AM

Thats just more math that doesn't add up!

15 tons per person? but there are 320 million people in the US and 6+ billion world wide? Some how my calculator has a hard time working with any of that.

If I bought and threw out 15 tons of plastics year I would know. Thats about how much scrap iron I process most good years and makes a good sized pile behind my shop!

15000 / 365 = 41.1 pounds.

Yep I am pretty sure I dont buy and toss out 41 pounds of plastics every single day!

Unless you are using this http://cr4.globalspec.com/thread/50687 mathematical system.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 11:25 AM

You Wrote:"If I bought and threw out 15 tons of plastics year I would know."

Of course you wouldn't know. 50% of that is packaging. So when you go to the supermarket and buy a banana, you don't see the plastic stuff it was shipped in on the plane, nor the plastic stuff it was shipped in on the truck to get to the market.

Any plastic stamped item that you buy has excess material that is thrown away and you never see.

Plus not all people have the same amount of trash. Rich people generally use more plastic and produce more plastic waste. It's not a straight average.

So basically I'm saying:

1. There's lots of plastic we waste that we aren't aware of
2. Not everyone wastes the same amount of plastic, some waste much more than others (Just so you know, I'm figuring I'm someone who wastes a lot, though I'm not rich)

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#8
In reply to #7

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 11:43 AM

Just to add my 2 cents about plastics were unaware of...

I worked in grocery where I had to unload and distribute orders for the various departments when they came in. The store I worked for got loads three times a week, stacked high on pallets and tightly-wrapped in layers of plastic wrap for transport. I can't recall exactly how many pallets arrived per delivery, but I would say that it was about 1-2 per aisle for 12 aisles. That is just the plastic used for transportation of goods, which went/goes right into the trash.

Even if we personally don't overuse/toss plastics, there are plenty of other people/companies/etc. that likely make up for it.

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#12
In reply to #8

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 5:26 PM

Stretch wrap the thin plastic used to hold the goods on the pallet from shifting. Shifting that at one time caused many of accidents on our highways. Accidents that claimed lives. Yes it is thrown away. But if it stop one trailer from having a load shift. That caused an accident in which someone lost a life. I don't consider it then a waste of plastic. It is still no where near the amount of plastics taken out the doors of the store. Just for people to carry their groceries home .

Oh and produce is usually never covered in plastic to ship. Plastic retains moisture that causes the produce to rot and creates an atmosphere for mold growth. That's why there are holes in the bags grapes come in. They are not shipped in those bags though they are shipped in wood creates or cardboard boxes as is most produce. They are bagged by the store to protect you. With out the bag one may fall from the display case and you may slip on it and hurt yourself.

Some of the plastics use is there to protect us. Its use has reduced labor cost and company liability costs all to provide us with goods we can afford.

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 5:37 PM

ozzb, I totally understand what you're saying. I realize that most plastics, like the wrap in this situation, has a purpose. I cannot imagine how they'd transport large loads without it. Good point on produce also; plastics are used in some cases, like inside banana boxes, but you're right in that produce is not wrapped in plastic like general goods.

I was commenting on how much is plastic used behind the scenes in many places in addition to what people are consuming individually. Pehaps my ancedote was not as good of an example as I previously thought. I just wanted to make sure that I don't come off as being completely against plastic use; I know that I certainly consume my fair share.

Cheers.

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 6:45 PM

I don't see the use of plastics as a problem it's a disposal issue. We all need to take the same motto spelunker's do in not leaving anything behind. Not just plastic as in this case anything that degrades the natural beauty of our environment.

This is an individual choice which we can't completely control. I as well as most likely you have seen others throw trash from a moving vehicle on to our highways. Even with laws in place with stiff penalties. Some of this makes it into our streams and rivers. Some it's final destination that quagmire of plastic in our oceans.

They say we have become a throw away society. Some have yet to learn were to throw it and where to not.

I all for a mandate which will place deposits on plastic containers. If there is a price on containers someone will pick them up.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 8:42 PM

You Wrote:"I all for a mandate which will place deposits on plastic containers. If there is a price on containers someone will pick them up."

I agree.

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#19
In reply to #14

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 8:47 AM

Mark up the price of plastic containers and then offer a refund upon recycling.

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#41
In reply to #7

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 12:11 PM

Hmm, he is correct though 100 million divided by 6 billion does not equal 15, but rather 0.01667. Even 100 million divided by 320 million does not equal 15, but rather 0.3125. If it were 0.016667 tons would equate to 33.33 lbs per year per person. for it to equate to 15 tons per person you would need a population of slightly less than 6.67 million people.

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#44
In reply to #5

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 1:44 PM

Agreed.

Those folks who are doing the math - consider that this waste has been building up for the past 40 years, so using current population numbers is too low. Got to add another generation or two to the number of people contributing to this problem.

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#47
In reply to #44

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 1:50 PM

Due to the huge population explosion that followed WWII, as well as an explosion since the 1970s in the use of plastics, the two generations you are suggesting we should also add in to account for may only increase that number by another 15% at most to the total population, and much less to the per capita waste generation of plastics. In effect it would likely insignificantly estimates the impact per person, if not reduce them.

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#62
In reply to #5

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 8:07 PM

Someone out there must be producing 30 tons.

In an entire year we've produced two 55gal drums of the stuff, and I can lift each of them. Tamped down as much as we could tho'. Look at the figures.

15 tonnes per person????

Stu.

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#9

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 11:56 AM

A quick search brings up that around 200 billion pounds (100 million tons) of plastics are made world wide every year on average.

About 5% -10% depending on source are recycled. Industrial and commercial application recycling carries a higher percentage.

That works out to around 33.3 pounds of plastics per person world wide with around 1.5 - 6 pounds of it getting recycled on average. This seems far more plausible and likely and the math actually adds up.

Given my life style I would say I use around 100 pounds per year maybe more but mine ends up in my boiler as fuel not in the oceans!

An interesting note is that plastics on the average have a higher value per pound than steel for recycle value!

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 1:44 PM

You're quite right. It does work out to be 33.3 pounds per person per year. I divided by 6 million instead of 6 billion in my original post. Thanks for correcting my mistake.

Of course people in India aren't using 33.3 pounds of plastic per person per year. The amount of plastic used by an individual tracks a power law and correlates with wealth (which I think makes sense). So we in the U.S. probably are responsible for twice that amount at least per year, or less than that if we just say that the supermarket is a massive user of plastic (and ignore that they are a massive user of plastic so we can get our bananas ).

In your first post you raised an eyebrow at the numbers that seemed like they were too big. I think I can provide reasons why those numbers are smaller than you first calculated:

1. We can't assume all the Gyres are the same size. I'm willing to bet the Pacific one is significantly bigger than the others. 6x the pacific gyre is too much of an overestimation.

2. I'm sceptical of the 1 meter thick spec. That seems more convenient than realistic. Remember, if it's only 0.5 meters thick, that's half the volume. Being a scientist, I can spot a (rounding for the journalist) fake number. Thickness would be the most uncertain of the dimensions provided.

So that would cut the total volume you calculated in your first post by an order of magnitude (1/10).

~5000 cubic feet per person on earth has built up over 50 years.

So I guess my question is, how many cubic feet on average is 1 lb of plastic?

That I don't know. Any rough estimate to see if we can recouncile the numbers would be appreciated.

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#11
In reply to #10

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 4:58 PM

Like tcmtech, I sort of resisted the notion that I go through thirty some pounds of plastic a year. As I ponder the issue, I scan my office:

Keyboard, two computer speakers, a desk calculator, a 6-line telephone with handset, printer, monitor, a plastic trash can (with plastic liner), a dozen or so pens or markers with plastic bodies, 38 catalogs (with predominately plastic shells), cell phone, two office chairs with several plastic parts, my shoes have soles of some type of plastic... Some of this stuff is durable, with a life of three of four years, but I still am surrounded by plastic that will someday be replaced with more plastic.

Add to all this my plastic milk containers, cigarette wrappers, plastic bags on frozen foods, sandwich bags, the plastic bags from the grocery, the plastic parts of my auto, I have a small garden shed made of plastic, the shells around my lawnmower and snowblower, plastic gas cans ... boy it really adds up.

You guys are making me think... thanks for that.

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#52
In reply to #10

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 5:04 PM

What is the real density of the trash? Don't assume that this one meter thick is all trash. I have seen picture of it and would evaluate the density at 1% or even 0.1% (1/1000) of the volume. A lot of it is also Styrofoam instead of dense plastic.

Using the density we have more believable numbers.

Regards

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#15

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 7:42 PM

Nobody has mentioned a rumor I heard about the U.S. plastic bag conspiracy.

Story goes that the lobbyists for the plastic grocery bag companies did something to keep them in business because if we converted back to paper or re-usable bags it would hurt their profits and they would have to close and put their employees out of work. They were too big to fail because it would put too many people out of work.

Anybody else heard this who can shed some more light, I only heard it in a passing conversation; probably in line at a grocery store...

Drew

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#25
In reply to #15

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 9:20 AM

When I was in high school (late '60s), I bagged groceries at a local supermarket. Everyone used paper bags. If ALL stores were required to cease from using plastic bags for carry-out purposes, then I don't see how any of the stores would go out of business. They would all be on equal footing. At least that's my logic.

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#29
In reply to #15

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 9:24 AM

Whether or not the conspiracy theory is true in this case, it wouldn't/shouldn't surprise anyone that it happens.

That's how our (American) system "works." Congress is more or less bought and paid for by corporations/business/advocacy groups. Thus it's cheaper to buy a heavily processed cheeseburger than a barely-processed organic burger with locally produced buns and locally grown vegetables.

If I owned a large plastics-producing company (like, say, Exxon or Dow Chemical), then I would made damn sure I had well over half of Congress at least willing to listen to my side of the story, if not directly influence actual legislation.

Our federal government is broken, in other words.

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#31
In reply to #15

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 9:38 AM

Back in 2008/2009 a big "rumour" was circulated that the mega grocery stores were getting rid of plastic bags here in Ontario, this didn't happen. What really happened was they began to charge for the bags, so each customer is now asked if they need bags at around .03 to .05 a piece.

Concerning the calculations in this thread and the size of the floating garbage and how much each person on earth is contributing to it. Are we not forgetting that ALL the plastic garbage does not make it's way into these floating masses, but ends up in landfills as well?

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#54
In reply to #31

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 5:22 PM

And Landfilling plastic is a fantastic way to sequester carbon that may someday be reincorporated into a future geologic formation of coal or oil.

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#89
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Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 12:30 PM

Fantastic Optimism! Extreme forward thinking! Frightening!

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#17

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/18/2010 10:32 PM

Global Warming!!!

Yup, That's it, Global Warming!!!

That is why it does not show up on satellite images; all of that CO2 sucks up the smelly image!!!

Call Al, maybe he can fire up the jet and do a fly-over to check it out; or maybe hire some more Scientologists, I mean, "Scientists"…

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#18

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 8:24 AM

Something is rotten in Denmark, this does not add up. If it were as large as stated it would show up on satellite imagery. Not saying its not a problem, just saying it seems exagerated. A vessel could be disgned and assigned to harvest the trash. Stop studying it and go into business. Harvesting this trash would be easier than harvesting the fish below it.

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#20

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 8:58 AM

I've seen video of the Pacific Gyre (go to youtube). The picture in the OP is misleading as heck. The gyre appears to be clean, open ocean. It's only when you drag a net behind the boat that you find 1/10 cm sized pellets of plastic are floating in the water. Not in dence masses but intersperced among the normal plankton. The consern is that small fish may eat the little brown pellets instead of their normal food and starve. This could effect the food chain at large.

These articles don't mention volume or dencity because it would sound far less dramatic.

BTW. It is NOT developed nations that dump a large percentage of trash into the open ocean. This polution comes from countries with "Developing Nation" status that are not regulated. Most plastic in the US ends up in land fills.

All this sensationalism erks me so.

-A-

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#22
In reply to #20

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 9:11 AM

The picture in the OP is misleading as heck.

Whoops! I admit that I took Google's word that the image was of the area in question. I didn't intend to be misleading.

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#24
In reply to #20

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 9:18 AM

Please note that I've updated the image with one provided by the 5 Gyres Project.

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#30
In reply to #24

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 9:29 AM

Sharkles,

Noted. Thank you. Still a biased image, as it does not accurately show the density of plastics in the open ocean, but a heck of allot more realistic. I honestly appreciate your effort to more accurately portray the truth. Thank you.

-A-

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Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 10:51 AM

I am not saying there is not a problem. I agree your original image was in question as are most of the images used to portray the problem. They all look as if they where taken at a dump or a plastic collection center other then the shore debris. Some of the bundles just too neat to have been floating around out there. I do not see anything that would let me believe that it is was or has been floating in the ocean. As for the shore shots. I can see that here on the Chesapeake Bay but it's nowhere near as bad do to group efforts to clean it up. But I have not come across an image that shows it as bad as the article portrays. I watched the video in which the new image you posted may have been taken from. They pull a net through the water for awhile to accumulate that little bit of plastics in the water. It really does not show the volume of plastic that the article refers to. I do know that there are volumes of debris out there as I have seen images in the pasted. I question the size of Texas and a meter deep.

How do we get the general public involved to do anything to clean it up? Very hard to do if the images portrayed are poor examples of the problem. That they do not show the volumes that are out there. People are more inclined to address the problem if it can be seen. Like if in their back yard. As here with our bay clean ups. Many of the friends I fish with will take the time to remove floating debris from the water to see it get disposed of properly while out fishing.

What I would like to see here is more ideas to curtail the problem and clean it up. We can hash out and find the truth of the matter when its disposed of.

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#32
In reply to #24

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 9:53 AM

BTW, I love your quote. And, having noticed you poster status, I have to ask, "Just what kind of a Guru, are you?"

HAHA, take care and remember to trust your mothers!

-A-

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#37
In reply to #20

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 10:58 AM

I guess the first clue that the image was fake shouldn't have been the excess trash but the guy in a canoe in the Pacific Ocean. How many miles offshore is this gyre?

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#63
In reply to #20

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 8:13 PM

Concurr. The pic in the OP looked more like Aberdeen harbour in Hong Kong when I was there mid 90's

Stu,

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#21

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 9:08 AM

This has the potential to be the next Global Warming fiasco. Yes, we need to be good stewards of our environment in thought and deed. No, we don't need to be taxed and trade "trash footprint" credits.

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#23

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 9:14 AM

Stupid Math...

If you look at the picture, the guy in the canoe is not 1 meter deep! The trash is semi-suspended in the water down to a depth of approximately (sanitized for the press, and no doubt for the effect it has on potential donors) 1 meter. That is probably 3/4 water, not solid plastic. Either way it is atrocious!!!!!!

When I was younger, we used to burn all our garbage. We got paper bags from the grocery stores, and we put our burnable trash in them (at the time a small percentage of which was plastic) and we burned them about once a month or less. We also crushed all our tin cans, aluminum cans, and un-burnables and recycled what we could (glass, steel) and took the rest to the "dump". I remember twice in my pre-graduation years that we went to the dump! I am sure I might have missed as many as 2x that amount by being unobservant, but I also know as soon as I was capable, it would be pretty hard to miss a trip, due to the fact that I was also helping with the laborious task of loading dad's pickup truck. That is (very conservatively) 6 trips to the dump in 18 years.

Now the township does not allow me to burn. My wife is a city girl and too lazy to separate trash, and does not want anything to do with the smells of composting rot ables. We do the easy stuff (containers, aluminum), but most of the stuff we put through our household ends up in a garbage can. Consequently I haul a truckload every other month at the longest. That is easily 12 to 18 x the amount of trash I get rid of as a household of 3 than I used to as a household of 7! Solely because the tree huggers won't let me burn my trash! Looking at it in this light I am ashamed and disappointed that the world has come to this, and I have allowed myself to become a part of it!

However, is all this increase a contributor to the trash dump in the ocean? I can't believe that either. All my trash goes to a proper land fill. The grocery store I worked in as a kid burned all their trash as well - amount of plastic in landfills = 0. They enlarged since then, and the city would not let them continue using their incinerator (neighbors did not like the smell the 1 day out of 100 when the wind was not strong enough), so now they handle twice the groceries and send all their plastic to the dump. Probably somewhere around a semi load a month? Where does all this trash go? To a dump - not the ocean.

If 5% of the world's plastic is recycled, I have to believe something less than 5% reaches the ocean. Sure the oceans are the worlds sewage pits, and everything gets there eventually, but those with more money are not going to flush it to the ocean when they can send it to a tidy dump somewhere.

We have several problems we need to solve:

- figure out a way to make ALL people of the world give a crap (probably impossible).

- stop talking about it and send out recyclers to harvest it.

- beat the crap out of the trash haulers for being sloppy and leaving a trail of trash behind them (I have seen it many times).

- beat the crap out of the marketers until they learn that there is no need for pretty plastic packages to make us buy stuff we don't want to buy when we get in the car and head to the stores.

- mandate biodegradable plastics for any and all packaging.

- mandate corn-based packing peanuts and wraps - period. Big Brother loves to make laws that make no sense and cost us plenty - lets make one that is for everyone's good.

- raise the fines for littering to $10,000 per offence (of course this won't work, because no one enforces them now!).

- shoot those who drive down rural roads and dump their trash in someone else's front yard so they don't have to pay the $5 to send it to the dump properly. Yes, I said SHOOT and I mean it - this happens once a week by my house all summer long. It rarely happens in the winter, due to cold, but the first week of warm weather is always a banner week... Maybe that is why I go to the dump so often...

The oceanic trash dumps have been there for a long time, and they are an accumulation of a LOT of sins, but instead of studying them and talking about them, we need to start sending out recyclers to harvest them. I assume at this time that there is not enough money in it to make it financially feasible for a trash company to do it outright. Maybe instead of looking for donations to study it, the NPO's ought to raise funds to send out crab rigs in the off season to skim the water with nets and put the resultant "catch" onto a floating barge with a sort/shred system on it to consolidate it and haul it back to mainland in a cargo vessel for re-use. I suspect there is a percentage of non-recyclables out there, but cardboard/wood based product will rot, so will steels, so most of this junk has to be plastic. Plastic is amazingly recyclable (though of course not all of it can be), so let's do it and move on trying to prevent future growth.

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#26
In reply to #23

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 9:20 AM

The picture in the OP is NOT OF THE PACIFIC GYRE. We are all being mislead by sensationalist and misleading reporting. PLEASE read my earlier post.

-A-

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 9:23 AM

I responded to your earlier post, -A-, thanking you for pointing this out. The image has since been updated to one from the 5 Gyres Project site. I take writing seriously, and know when to accept that I am wrong; I would never try and mislead or sensationalize intentionally.

Your humble blogger,

Sharkles

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#28
In reply to #23

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 9:23 AM

O man I love this post.

"- beat the crap out of the trash haulers for being sloppy and leaving a trail of trash behind them (I have seen it many times)."

"- shoot those who drive down rural roads and dump their trash in someone else's front yard so they don't have to pay the $5 to send it to the dump properly."

I'm guessing you don't like people that sit around and talk about problems instead of doing something about them.

BTW, I agree although I'm sure there's ways to deal with this without beating or shooting someone (I'm still laughing from reading it).

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#53
In reply to #28

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 5:06 PM

Maybe that was a little strong, but it does not feel that way when you spend a beautiful Saturday morning picking up a truck load (litterally) of trash from your front yard just because someone was too lazy to pay the $5 they would have been charged to drive down the road to get rid of it...

Sometimes I firmly plant my tongue in my cheek before I open my mouth. I do try on occasion to leave my foot out, though.

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#76
In reply to #53

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 9:28 AM

I understand. I get disgusted every time I drive to my grandparents house just outside of town and see trash lining the ditches on both sides. I would think it would take more energy to load up a freezer into the back of your truck and drive away from home to dump it in a ditch than to bring it to the road.

I really enjoyed your response though because it's something I hear at home but not something that I see much on this website.

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#55
In reply to #23

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 5:31 PM

Here, Here! Good Answer.

Regards Dragon

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#33

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 10:20 AM

Dr. Sylvia Earle gave a talk here recently. Issues related to this garbage are the already-mentioned poisoning of tiny creatures at the base of the biosphere, interference with the penetration of light into the water, and that plastic doesn't "biodegrade," but breaks up into smaller and smaller plastic particles, presumably with a problematic lower size limit. That was her assertion, not mine, so I don't know if all plastic degrades in the same manner (I suspect it doesn't).

So someone needs to invent an efficient plastic vacuum machine. Just a WAG, but could static electricity be part of a solution?

The easier solution is social engineering. I vote for taxing the use of plastic products, or applying a premium in some other way like they reportedly do in Montreal.

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#34
In reply to #33

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 10:45 AM

Lynn,

This leap in logic that certain people make is disturbing to me. i.e. The developed world uses allot of plastic. There is lots of plastic in the ocean's gyres. Therefor the plastic in the ocean's gyres is coming from the developed world.

This is simply false. As anyone who has been to some of our poorer countries around the world could tell you, sanitation is atrocious, there is no enforcement on illegal dumping and, the cleaner cities tend to be closer to the sea.

Your comment about "social engineering" is equally false. Taxing the well regulated, tax paying people of the world who already send their plastics to landfills will do NOTHING for the kilo-tons of illegal dumping in the third world!

Now, if we could find a way to filter our top waters for profit, we could actually get it DONE!

-A-

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#38
In reply to #34

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 11:21 AM

A,

Since the oceans don't belong to anybody, everybody is the problem. Of course any solution needs to be applied globally, but that's just not possible. The UN is little more than a debating body, and the US cannot tax India.

If one developed country can substantially limit its contribution to the problem, it should be seriously considered. Saying we're not going to change until/unless EVERYBODY changes is short-sighted and a failure of our leadership. Further, there are always ancillary benefits to such changes that mitigate their costs.

Alternatively, we should use tax dollars to subsidize a crafty solution to the problem.

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#42
In reply to #38

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 12:19 PM

So you think that those of us that take the responsibility for the plastics they consume. Should pay for those that don't by taxation of the plastics. How is that to work when the taxes you paid go into a general fund. Which others in our governments will use as they see fit on other projects. Not a solution taxing it is just throwing good money away.

I see it as an individual choice in how one disposes of plastics. If the plastics container had value many more people would be inclined to dispose of them to get that which they paid back. Those that don't others will collect it for them. When glass bottles had a deposit kids collected them for school fund raisers, or to buy candy or a soda, the homeless for a meal. Lets not misunderstand me that this does not solve any social issues. The more that we can provide them can help. This would be all on those that do not wish to dispose of the plastic they consume responsibly.

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#43
In reply to #42

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 12:55 PM

A redemption tax actually tends to work however. Charge a tax on plastics, and then pay a redemption value. This drives a system of collection where those in need can earn a living from collecting and redeeming the wastes of those who are to lazy to do so themselves, and it reimburses those who manage their plastics well. You just need a redemption tax that is large enough to promote recycling, and to some degree promote the collection of waste, without driving the use of plastics out of the market. Redemption increases the value of the plastics to the end users, and rewards those who recycle. The down side is that increases in costs of containers made from plastics could drive some switch back to glass or other containers, which would be undesirable as their creation, transport and use are more energy intensive. So the redemption costs must not be too great.

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#50
In reply to #43

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 3:13 PM

Okay say we tax plastics. At what part of the process do we do it. If we choose any part other then the point of sale the chain of custody for the reimbursement become costly. If the store at the point of sale does it why do we need the government to get involved. They will surely push the cost up with unnecessary bureaucratic agencies. Returnable glass bottles didn't need the governments involvement.

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#51
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Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 4:57 PM

Actually redemption taxes are charged at the point of sale and are a state run tax. The sales organizations can be authorized to redeem the redemption tax upon return, and you don't necessarily have to return to the point of sale. It is however a State mandated tax. This is exactly the same thing that is required on CRV for Glass bottles. Redemption value on glass bottle is a State mandated requirement, prior to the 1970s, glass did not have a redemption tax attached by law, and as an aside you can not get anyone to reimburse for the non-CRV glass because it has no real value relative to the cost of cleaning the waste and recycling it. Businesses do not take it upon themselves to tax a product, thus the State must enforce a redemption value tax on product containers where they want to improve recycling efforts. Basically,unlike m,exico where you must return Glass to the point of sale, you can pay the tax upon purchase, and redeem the container at any other place that sells products in those types of containers or at a authorized recycling facility.

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#46
In reply to #38

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 1:48 PM

If only US businesses are taxed then only US businesses will charge more for their products. If only US businesses are charging more for their products then eventually the competition will drive them out of business.

Businesses don't pay taxes, they simply pass the taxes on to their customers. Taxing the US or any 1 country for a global problem is a great way to destroy that country's economy.

In other words, I agree with A.

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#49
In reply to #46

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 2:20 PM

Yes, some people have a problem with the very principle of taxation. Beyond raising cash, taxes are also useful for influencing behavior. Since we've entered the spin zone, try this:

We are realizing that the use of "cheap" plastics imposes substantial costs that until recently were hidden, partly but not exclusively by degrading an enourmous biosphere upon which we rely. So I suggest merely correcting the market so plastic costs what it really costs. One way to do that is by taxing the use of plastics, another is to impose tariffs on plastic-reliant imports. Voila, level playing field.

Just as we heavily subsidize the burning of fossil fuels, we subsidize the use of plastics. It's past time to start removing the subsidies.

The US and EU work together on these big soft issues, or rather, the EU leads pretty readily. That takes care of roughly half the world economy. The rest will start playing by the new rules eventually.

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#56
In reply to #49

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 5:43 PM

Fantastic, raise import taxes on countries with substandard environmental policies. Please do.

This would counter the effect that cingold was talking about earlier, taxing the companies here, with the most stringent environmental regulations in the WORLD, pushes down the business here and promotes it where there are NO environmental policies AT ALL! This type of "environmental" policy is a self sinking ship!

The third world is completely unregulated and a danger to the rest of the world because of it. We can best encourage them to change their habits by making it in their financial interest to change.

In addition to that, you make it so that companies here don't have to cut the throats of their workers in order to compete with the rest of the world.

-A-

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#58
In reply to #56

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 5:57 PM

BTW a sales tax at the point of sale on plastic products would cover foriegn made products. Now how do you tax plastic used in containers for imported would be another question. Of course a redemption tax on plastics used in home made products would be recoverable. Keep in mind redemption values are only assigned by the government to certain products. Take glass for instance, glass window panes don't have a CRV, glass bottles do. You typically limit redemption taxes to items that are easily recovered recyclable containers or similar common products.

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#59
In reply to #58

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 6:12 PM

It is difficult for me to understand how it is possible to so consistently miss the concept of treating the problem where the problem occurs. Raising ANY kind of tax here will have NO, NONE, NOT A BIT of effect in the most polluted corners of the world. INCLUDING the Pacific Gyre.

Well, I suppose I've had enough. Like they say, "Don't try to teach a pig to sing. It waists your time. And it annoys the pig." So for this reason, I'm going to politely withdraw.

Y'all take care.

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#61
In reply to #59

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 6:54 PM

First of all Plastics are reall a 1st world issue more so than 3rd world. Being in Texas I would guess you must have traveled a bit into mexico further than the border, at least enough to realize that even our closest neighbor to the south being more advanced and in better financial condition that nearly all of africa, still utilizes Glass for much of its containers. the concept of using plastic for everything is really something we in the 1st world take for granted. A CRV tax is not new, much of the US utilizes something similar since the 1980s or 1990s on containers. The tax is redeemed to the purchaser upon return of the containers, and the interst from holding the redemption value for the 21 days or so more than pays for the government to administer the programs. It actually runs nearly unnoticed, though the current rates are still pretty low at $0.05 per container, such that most people don't notice and still throw away containers. Political pressure would drive other 1st world countries or developing 2nd world countries to adopt a similar policy. This has worked for 1/4 century in California and gone nearly unnoticed by the consumers, and it creates a revenue stream for those people who are in dire need and have no other means to function as a kind of disposal service (cheaper than an actuall garbage company). Since 1987 Californians have purchased over 21 billion containers and 16 billion have been recovered, redeemed and recycled for reuse. Raise the price from $0.05 to say $0.10 and you would seem the redemption rates increase. Admittedly however, it is a much more complicated scenario to redeem styrene shipping filler. However, it would still work quite readily. You place a national CRV on the styrene, and make agreements with other nations for redemption values across the board. Obviously the values would need to be agreeable to all. Then, because the seller would want to reclaim the redemption value tax for the styrene, he pass along the cost to the purchaser, and the purchaser would want to redeem the styrene to recover the cost in many cases. The redemption value would need to be shown as a line item on all billing as a tax. It could work as long as there was a standardized cost agreement between the 1st world nations, who generate the vast majority of styrene. Nations could claim for the redemption from the origin nations of the redemption tax on the shipment based on the recorded taxation on the billing records. Admittedly a bit of administration would be necessary to track shipments and taxes. Plus it is not a hidden fee styled tax, but rather one where the receiver sees the amount he is charged for andd exactly what he is being charge for in physical form, and also redeem that charge if he desires to collect and compile sufficient quantities to make it worthwhile. If they want their money back they simply collect all the styrene and return it to the local collection station, and receive redemption value based on teh weight returned (versus they weight invoiced). If it is not worth the businesses time to redeem the material, local collectors are likely to compile a large portion of it and return it after disposal. You basically tax waste in this way, as those who don't waste get reimbursed. Would this cause the manufacture of plastic products to move to cheaper labor areas, no, because it is a tax at the point of usage that is redeemed upon recycling of the plastic. So it would not matter where the plastic was manufactured, just where it was shipped from and where it was shipped to. So i guess there could be some situations where an intermediate shipping market could develop for using a third party nation not in the agreement, not sure how that would work since the tax on the first shipment to that third party would apply but it may be possible. So maybe you exclude or tax (greater then the redemption tax) shipments containing styrene packing from nations not party to the redemption tax agreement. This would motivate nations to join the agreement. The problem would arise if nations set different taxation values and made separate agreements that contained differing exclusions in the agreements and other loopholes. so one standard in the agreement would be needed for the taxation rates, taxation documentation for shipments and transfer of redemption fees.

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#73
In reply to #61

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 8:38 AM

POsted by DrewK

What I do know from living outside of America for almost 8 years is that all of the middle east countries I visited had incredible problems with plastic waste. They use an incredible amount of the stuff and have very poor methods of disposal. I saw fields of plastic and other detritus all over Iraq, Turkey, and Dubai (to a lesser extent in Dubai). The wind blows much of this through the desert and it seems to tear and break up in the environment; on fences, buildings, trees rocks etc. I know from my time in South Korea that we would have weeks of poor weather after dust storms waged havoc across Asia. I would theorize that anywhere you get third world countries, plastic will be a major material for commerce and it will often be disposed of poorly. The resultant wind storms and the environment might tear it into the small particles shown in the updated OP picture.

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#87
In reply to #73

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 12:02 PM

Iraq, Turkey, Dubai, South Korea, none of those are 3rd world, they have substantial wealth and modern industrial capacity. Chad would be a 3rd world country. Canada would be more of a 3rd world country than South Korea. what this does indicate is that some developed countries have a very poor performance standard for managing their waste.

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#86
In reply to #61

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 11:54 AM

I'm not so concerned that other nations would argue about the amount of the redemption tax (cost/ton - or whatever). They could either agree to the terms or not ship anything into the USA using styrofoam or whatever qualified under the new import laws.

My concern involves the following scenario:

Some manufacturer from another country (3rd world, Euro, China - take your pick) claims on a form that the goods being delivered on their cargo vessel are packaged using 5,000 pounds of styrofoam. They collect the fee at delivery. The goods are dispersed throughout the nation and each vendor/distributor collects his portion as the goods are sold and resold.

At the end, the reimbursement is for only 4,000 pounds of styrofoam because the original shipper lied about the amount and pocketed the difference. Now someone downstream is stuck with the bill. The total could not be verified upon entrance into our ports, because that would require the un-packing of all the goods in order to weigh out the total of the styrofoam packaging. That would be too cost-prohibitive. So some poor end user in the US is stuck with the bill because some importer knew in advance he could cheat the system.

I don't believe I am the only one who might draw this conclusion. Bad deal for the USA.

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#88
In reply to #86

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 12:10 PM

That scenario is a concern of the businesses involved, currently you can already get ripped off on the intangible taxes for shipping, someone say the entire package weighed 1000 lbs when it weighed 800 lbs. This type of scenario is the type of thing where the businesses negotiate or refuse to use the shipper. Also, if they collected a tax it should have went into the governments coffers, not into the individual businesses funds, even if they over collected, because it was invoiced as a tax. So no real motivation for the businesses to risk a tax law violation, possible fines and penalties, for stealing some money they will get caught on and lose business from. Plus if the rates are standardized then it is a well understood tax. How they partition it is another issue for the business to resolve. It is very simple and because of that it tends to work, tax the purchaser and reimburse the tax upon return of the waste container/packing materials, fail to return equals a loss of money.

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#60
In reply to #46

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 6:30 PM

I'm not disagreeing with what your saying, because I think you raise some valid points regarding taxation, but I think it would be more constructive if maybe you or -A- offer an alternative solution. If not taxes (I personally was leaning towards a deposites like on soda cans, like someone earlier said, someone will gather it if its worth money, but I realize that "solution" could have problems too.

So do you have any solutions in mind? You think we should do something, right?

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#72
In reply to #60

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 8:35 AM

Fantastic, raise import taxes on countries with substandard environmental policies. Please do.

This would counter the effect that cingold was talking about earlier, taxing the companies here, with the most stringent environmental regulations in the WORLD, pushes down the business here and promotes it where there are NO environmental policies AT ALL! This type of "environmental" policy is a self sinking ship!

The third world is completely unregulated and a danger to the rest of the world because of it. We can best encourage them to change their habits by making it in their financial interest to change.

In addition to that, you make it so that companies here don't have to cut the throats of their workers in order to compete with the rest of the world.

-A-

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#74
In reply to #72

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 9:11 AM

-A-

If we were to do as your suggesting, tax "third world" companies, that would be basically no different than a tax on our own companies.

Our companies rely on the third world for parts and often labor. If we tax those foreign companies they simply pass along the extra cost to our companies who than pass them along to us.

Walmart for example would have to raise it's prices to maintain its profit margins since many of their products are made in the third world. The reason we can get desktop computers for under 500 dollars is because the components are made overseas, tax them and those costs go up. Then any American company that uses desktop computers will have to pay more and then they pass those higher costs on to the American consumer.

In other words, in a global economy, there is little difference in "taxing us" versus "taxing them" as we are all interrelated.

You also seem to be overlooking the fact that if we start taxing third world nations (is China still third word?), they can do the same to us. Thus we get in a trade war that raises prices for everyone.

I don't think taxing only foreign companies is the answer.

Roger

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#78
In reply to #74

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 10:17 AM

I refuse to glaze over the details that make all the difference. What you describe as "basically no difference," is precisely the difference we need. The slight increase on imports would lead to a slight lean toward domestic production. I know it would lead to an increase in inflation. The inflation would offset the drop in prices caused by the artificial injection of cheap and, environmentally dangerous, labor from around the world. Ultimately, this increase in the cost of imports would be answered by domestic job growth.

But all these are side effects. The goal is to promote better environmental policies in countries around the world by making changes here.

Remember my friend, we sold our souls for cheaper products made overseas. Those products can be made cheaper because of porer standards of living, porer health care, no OSHA, no EPA, no workers comp, no retirement.

Is China a third world country? Well, they passed us as the #1 co2 producer back in 2007. Remember, when they were building a new coal burning powerplant every week? The only reason they are demanding to keep their "developing nation" status is so they can continue to pollute without international restrictions. They know it would hurt their ability to undercut American production if they had to meet our same standards of environmental protection. Why is this not obvious?

"Trade War?" Are you serious? We surrendered to the trade war years ago. We pay 10 times the import duties to get goods into the countries we regularly import out of. This is a get tough or die world today, and we are not the ones getting tough.

Besides, I am not talking about competing with other countries. I am talking about "saving the planet." Who could argue about that? The goal is to promote better environmental policies in countries around the world by making changes here. That is all.

Well Roger, I know I have not changed your mind. Somehow you are going to clean up the world's oceans by creating a cast of rag-pickers here in this country, just like they have in India and around the world. Except here they will be scrounging our land fills for sandwich wrappers. After all, why try to encourage the third world to adopt the environmental policies of the first world, when you can tax the first world until it looks like the third world?

-A-

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#80
In reply to #78

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 10:52 AM

You Wrote:"Ultimately, this increase in the cost of imports would be answered by domestic job growth."

I don't agree. First, you are assuming that the amount of tax we are talking about would be sufficient to equal the playing field for American Manufacturing. That would require a HUGE tax on overseas companies, which would seriously disrupt our economy. We're talking double digit inflation. A smaller punitive overseas tax would be passed onto the US consumer the way I described in my earlier post. I wasn't glossing over anything. Manufacturing gains would be negligible, though service jobs (say at Walmart) would certainly be lost.

You Wrote:"Remember my friend, we sold our souls for cheaper products made overseas. Those products can be made cheaper because of porer standards of living, porer health care, no OSHA, no EPA, no workers comp, no retirement."

Which of course is exactly what manufacturing was like here when we were developing our country in the late 19th early 20th centuries. What gives us the right to demand a different standard of development (and costlier) than we enjoyed? Countries like China and India view that as a hypocrisy. "Do as we say, not as we did to become 1st world".

You Wrote:"Is China a third world country? Well, they passed us as the #1 co2 producer back in 2007. Remember, when they were building a new coal burning powerplant every week? The only reason they are demanding to keep their "developing nation" status is so they can continue to pollute without international restrictions."

I agree with you here. China does seem to be emerging as a 1st world nation but still wants to play by 3rd world rules.

Personally, as a person who saves and is trying to build themselves up financially, I'm acutely aware that our tax system in this country punishes savers and rewards borrowers. I'd like to see more consumption taxes and less income taxes. In that spirit I'd like it to be a sales tax on plastics, along with a deposit.

You Wrote:""Trade War?" Are you serious? We surrendered to the trade war years ago. We pay 10 times the import duties to get goods into the countries we regularly import out of. This is a get tough or die world today, and we are not the ones getting tough."

Sadly I agree with you there. The multinational corporations from our countries push for this unbalanced system because they stand to lose a lot if we actually started standing up for ourselves economically.

You Wrote:"Well Roger, I know I have not changed your mind. Somehow you are going to clean up the world's oceans by creating a cast of rag-pickers here in this country, just like they have in India and around the world. Except here they will be scrounging our land fills for sandwich wrappers. After all, why try to encourage the third world to adopt the environmental policies of the first world, when you can tax the first world until it looks like the third world?"

We don't have to bring the Third World to this country, it's already here. Right now there are people who are gutting abandoned buildings for their copper and selling it. When was the last time you saw a soda can laying around? It's a solution that requires nominal cost increases and doesn't require us to tax businesses.

Essentially I'm saying that taxing other countries is basically is the same as taxing ourselves since they are our cheap labor and is impractical. I think that is a reasonable assessment. I also believe in what another poster in this thread said "make it worth something and someone will pick it up". The deposit idea is a free market approach that doesn't require taxes. The recycled plastic, along with reducing pollution would also reduce our dependence on foreign petroleum. It worked for tin cans, why wouldn't it work for plastic?

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#82
In reply to #80

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 11:06 AM

"The recycled plastic, along with reducing pollution would also reduce our dependence on foreign petroleum. It worked for tin cans, why wouldn't it work for plastic?"

I wish there were more places to recycle around here. I remember when I was little my parents bought a can crusher so my brothers and I could recycle cans. When we first started it was fun and a good way to make a little money. After a while my parents realized that you would have to crush about 4 times as many cans as we would in 1 trip just to pay for the gas.

Of course at that age, my parents gave us all the money but we didn't have enough money to make frequent trips to recycle.

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#84
In reply to #82

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 11:27 AM

I live in a small city, Albany. I don't recycle personally. I used to put my soda and beer cans and bottles in the regular trash. Every night before garbage day people come down the block and rummage through the trash for those cans and bottles. Finally I realized that if I didn't want people rummaging through my trash every week I should separate the recyclables out. So now when I put out the trash, I put the cans and bottles separate. The people come up the block and take them. They don't have cars, so the money they make is pure profit. The system works. Why not expand it?

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#79
In reply to #74

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 10:24 AM

I am not worried about Wal-Mart's profits, they contribute to your trade imbalance significantly. The root of our trade imbalance problem is the greed and weakness many Americans share. What would happen if American companies couldn't get cheap third world parts??? They would have to find local parts!

Here is the kicker for me. What happens when yo buy local? You stop exporting money! I like to use the example of a small town before a large chain store moves in:

When the locals spend money at local businesses who then give part of that money to local employees, they all spend much of that money locally. Some will go on vacation or buy items not found locally and export some money, but they will spend more in their own town than any executive board or investors from the big chain stores who export most of the profits out of your local area!

If you wonder about urban decay and they decay of our small to medium towns, I see it is greed for this substandard, cheap merchandise we are importing in from countries that do not spend much of their profits here.

After re-reading this, I realize it sounds much more ethnocentric than I really am. I feel this goes for any country that has an unhealthy trade balance. I understand that exports and imports are important to an economy, just realize, my argument is against trade imbalance. No matter if it is Abingdon Virginia being considered for a new Wal-Mart despite having a K-Mart already and a Wal-Mart less than 10 miles away. Or it is a developing nation struggling for its economic independence.

Sorry for the rant and for this being so far from the topic of plastic and pollutants in our ecosystem.

Drew

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#81
In reply to #79

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 11:01 AM

The problem is you are greatly underestimating the inflation of moving manufacturing back into this country. Prices would be 10x higher because manufacturing costs are 10x higher here. Do you really want to pay $5000 dollars for a computer? Or do you believe that even though manufacturing costs are 10x more expensive here, somehow that wont have an effect on prices?

You Wrote:"I am not worried about Wal-Mart's profits"

Well you should be because Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in this country and when they lose money people get fired.

All that said, let me say that I agree with you about our trade imbalances, however I don't think protectionism will solve anything. People seem to forget that our standard of living was much lower when we had manufacturing in this country. That isn't a coincidence.

What we produce here in this country is intellectual products. The fact that you can buy Microsoft Office in China and India for $1 is a serious problem. It's not that we don't make stuff, it's that they refuse to pay for the stuff we make.

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#83
In reply to #81

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 11:20 AM

I am not saying a complete reversal of our trade imbalance, I just want to get what we are paying for. Not just in higher quality products but in elevation of these underprivileged developing nations.

There would be some belt tightening if Wal-Mart lost some money. There was a lot more tightening as factories across our nation shut down because they cannot compete with the imports.

Wal-Mart's profits are a symptom of the problem, certainly not the solution.

Drew

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#85
In reply to #83

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 11:31 AM

I hear and agree with you. I'm in favor of consumption taxes (but only with a reduction in income taxes) so that we stop spending like drunken sailors (I apologize to any alcoholic sailors I may have insulted with that remark).

Reduce income taxes, raise sales tax, and institute deposits on things that we want to recycle. Also, while we're at it, lets eliminate monopolies again like we used to. Wal-Mart is part of the problem for sure, and partly because it is waaay too big.

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#75
In reply to #60

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 9:23 AM

Of course we should do something. But the "we" I'm talking about is people across the world not just in the US or other "developed nations."

As for solutions, I think, like other people in this thread, that we should find some way to clean it up or harvest it. I'm not getting paid to develop a detailed solution so I'm not going to design many of the details right now.

The problem is, as -A- has said, that 3rd world nations pollute without environmental controls. As much as I love this planet, I just don't feel that one country can push it's views on another.

If most of the world (let's say a majority of the UN) were to back this point then I wouldn't feel wrong with that either but I just don't think we have the worldwide support for the issue like we do in the US.

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#77
In reply to #75

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 9:34 AM

You Wrote:"If most of the world (let's say a majority of the UN) were to back this point then I wouldn't feel wrong with that either but I just don't think we have the worldwide support for the issue like we do in the US."

I don't quite agree with that logic. Let me use a very extreme example to illustrate why. Slavery was banned in Britain and most of it's colonies in 1833. Now most of the world still used slaves and it definitely put Britain at a competitive disadvantage, but it was impractical for Britain to wait for worldwide consensus on slavery, it would never have happened. It took a bloody civil war that killed over half a million Americans to end it in this country.

Do I think plastic recycling is the same as slavery as an issue? Of course not. What I do believe is one can't wait for the world to come to a consensus on an issue in order to act. If we all acknowledge pollution is an issue, we should do something about it, accepting that in the beginning it will be unilateral. That's just my opinion though.

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#68
In reply to #46

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/20/2010 10:32 AM

Good, do you have an alternative solution?

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#36
In reply to #33

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 10:51 AM

"I vote for taxing the use of plastic products, or applying a premium in some other way like they reportedly do in Montreal."

I disagree with the first part of your statement. Another tax we do not need.

I believe the second part has merit. An earlier poster suggested a deposit on plastic containers. I could live with that.

Does anyone remember when soft drinks and beer only came in bottles? There was a deposit on the bottles. The manufacturers decided to save (earn) money by using cans. The first ones were made of steel.

To save (earn) more money, they switched to aluminum. Even when the price of aluminum soared in the 80s, a very small percentage of aluminum cans were recycled.

To save (earn) more money, they switched to plastic. If a bounty were awarded for the return of plastic bottles, a very small number of folks would take the time to turn them in for the bounty.

People are just too busy to care. Quite cynical, I'm afraid. (I'm trying to be pragmatic.)

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#57
In reply to #36

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 5:52 PM

Oh believe me, if the redemption value was high enough people would take the time, definitely businesses would. In mexico they have redemption at the point of sale on glass bottles of beer, and they have to be redeemed at the point of sale. The redemption value on a bottle is about 3 or 4 times the cost of a beer, so you pay something like $1 for the beer and $4 total for the purchase, but drink the beer and immediately return the bottle, because the redemption is worth it. In California you see homelees people and recyclers picjking up waste recyclables all over the place, becasue thety can get the redemption value. The homeless can easily redeem the value at recycling center or local markets, and have a kind of job paid piece-meal cleaning the local environment of pollutants. Redemption taxes, as someone indicated earlier directly tax the polluter only. Aluminum on the other hand had a true worth in recycling, but maybe all containers that can be recycled should have a redemption tax, and those that are not recyclable just have a straight tax at point of sale until such a time as they find a market for recycling such materials.

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#48
In reply to #33

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 2:03 PM

Any "Doctor" who claims pastics won't biodegrade has highly questionable understanding of geomorphology and chemistry in my opinion. as particles get smaller they increase the reactive surface areas increasing the biodegradability of that particle. Plastics are all organic compounds, and there are an enormous number of microorganism that degrade even the most resistant organic compounds. So while a large block of plastic is highly durable to biodegradation, the smallest particles are not very durable in terms of the time it would take to break them down. Thus as they get smaller, they become more bio-available. In additiona the increase in surface area actually increases the chemical reactivity and susceptibility to energy related effects. Bear in mind plastics degrade under exposure to sun light, water and other nautrally occuring chemicals, the reaction just might be slow per unit surface area exposed. Thus to increase the reaction rate overall you increase the surface area by reducing particle sizes. Plastics are made of very common ubiquitous constituent atoms that are utilized in all life forms on the planet, so there is no case where it can reduce to atomic sizes, and even molecular levels are not likely to exist for long in the natural environment (unless inherently toxic, in which case the plastics would kill the people in contact with the containers)

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#90
In reply to #48

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 1:23 PM

Now you have hit on the crux of the problems with plastics in the environment. Yes they do break down to smaller and smaller components but many of the base components remain. It is even believed that all the base components of polymers of plastic are simply not breaking down but are accumulating in the environment. We are creating new molecules at alarming rates without studying effects. What are they doing or going to do? Polystyrene will break down to the styrene base. Styrenes are heavier than water and will sink to anaerobic parts of the ocean where they can persist and are likely found throughout the column depth of oceans under these gyres. PVC or polyvinyl chloride has a chlorine atom that decomposing bacteria do not like and I would expect PVC to persist indefinitely insitu. We really haven't seen a full cycle for plastic as they are relatively new. There are very few micro-organism that can consume base plastics but I understand there are some out there. Perhaps they will eventually adapt or evolve to eat plastic. Why would they when they can get food elsewhere easier.

Phthalates are endocrine disruptors and found in lots of plastic. They can be degraded by bacteria but are often consumed by fish and phytoplankton before they are degraded and then enter the food chain. Humans are affected by these phthalates and styrene as they mimic hormones. PVC if degraded anaerobically will form carcinogenic vinyl chloride.

http://www.csn-deutschland.de/blog/en/tags/phthalates/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/sep/12/gender.sciencenews

http://www.grinningplanet.com/2005/03-01/endocrine-disruptors-hormone-imbalance-article.htm

I am not a tree hugger but a medically retired land lubber who worked in the groundwater microbiology and geochemistry field. And yes bacteria are very clever in restrained environments.

In this thread I stated that the price of oil will soon create a more rigorous recycling industry and we will stop throwing away expensive plastic. The price of oil will rise globally so everyone will be on an equal footing. Maybe we shouldn't complain too much when it does.

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#91
In reply to #90

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/22/2010 2:30 PM

Bacteria already eat many forms of plastic, and had the pathways already present for degrading most plastice we use. Actually, even PVC breaks down relatively rapidly in nature. Even the monomer base VC breaks down relatively rapidly even in deep ground water (cold, far from surface and no sunlight. This is a basic highly studied remediation process pathway along the bioremedaition of TCE. Add sunlight, some nutrients, high concentrations of microboes, and PVC starts to break down very rapidly. The issue becomes a problem when the input rates exceed the degradation rates. Other plastics like PE and PP are are just hydrocarbons, and highly susceptible to degradation when there is sufficient surface areas for the chemical and bacterial reactions to occur. There are also much less rapid anaerobic pathways. the thing is that it may take a couple of centuries to degrade a PVC pipe and break it down small enough to present a substantial chemically reactive surface for a growth substrate for bacteria/fungi colonize. The carbon in any form always has some form of microbial ecosystem existent to utilize it. Even non-carbon sources can be degraded, such as glass (just much slower and the ecology is much more limited. It is an issue of the amount of chemically reactive surface, heat, water, oxygen and nutrients. The balance of input rate versus degradation rate can lead to an aesthetic quality issue for many people.

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#92
In reply to #91

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/23/2010 10:26 AM

Vinyl chloride, TCE, PCE, and ethylenes are all DNAPLs (Dense non aqueous phase liquids) they will sink in an ocean environment and will likely be found in the column of ocean water beneath the gyres. So as plastics breakdown to smaller component, they sink and they will exist throughout the underlying column or be dispersed by ocean currents. There are only very specific bacterium that can attack these chlorinated products and any chlorinated ethylene(s). Methanogens may attack these products once on the ocean floor. Bioremediation of these products is very slow and under aerobic conditions (can be induced in a deep well environment) is likely at a rate of 1-3% per year. That is still a long time considering the aquifer is artificially bioremediated. It is unlikely that any specific bacteria used in ground water will survive the high salts of the oceans. Salt will be toxic to them. I am not aware of any bacteria that can do the job in an ocean environment. That doesn't mean they are not out there, I just think nobody has studied this problem in oceans.

Most polyethylene (with the exception of some films) has UV stabilizers in the form of carbon black. It is unlikely that sunlight will readily break this down. Remember most containers for things like hypochlorites, peroxides (35-70%), strong bases, and strong acids are constructed of polyethylene because they will be compatible (inert to the chemical). Expect PE to last a long time. We just dont know how long because PE has not been around long enough. PE is the material of choice for most bio-remediation work on wells. Our pipes have never been eaten by the microbes.

In an ocean environment expect very slow degradation of the plastic mix. They will break down but some of the degraded fractions will be with us for a long time. Hopefully we will only do minimum damage to ocean life and eventually to human life.

Future archeologists may find some of our plastic interesting.

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#93
In reply to #92

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/23/2010 12:42 PM

Bear in mind there are multiple pathways for degrading chlorinated organics, methanogens just happen to be one of the best known. Even then 1 % degradation by methanogens per year would be extemely rapid, i would expect something much less any an extremely degraded PVC. A PVC pipe is unlikely to perform for more than a decade or two before it begins to fail (less than 5 to 10 years if exposed to sunlight and not stabilized with carbon black), and this is due to stress failures caused by the enbrittlement of PVC in the environment over time. This embrittlement is due to chemical change of the PVC as it degrades in place. HDPE with carbon black has a shorter life expectancy in the environment. The carbon black is a sacrificial component added to extend life of the product not stabilize it indefinitely. Thus a PVC pipe, as PVC would be more resistant than PE to biological degradations, due to the organochloride polymer, might be visibly persistent for a few centuries, which is not all that long. If the plastic sinks to the ocean floor that is good also, as it becomes part of the geologic marine formations, and pressure would further degrade it into something like coal, carbon sequestration, in a few hundred millenia. Additionally while it exist, the plastic may represent a risk to some creatures in the ocean, but also like forms a habitat otherhwise missing for many other smaller creature, much like sunken ships can form habitat for fish (but are a hazard for whales if they were stupid enough and tried to get to those fish). I have a high level of confidence that there are many creatures in the seas capable of degrading any plastics we put into the sea in the upper regimes, and if the material gets deposited on the floor, that would be even better as it pulls the waste carbon out of the environment. Afterall there is more life in the ocean than on land, including microbiological life, we just really haven't put forth much effort to study it to that same degree since the benefitical uses for humans, like consumption, drive for more immediate reactions to pollution of more limited and highly demanded resources like groundwater.

With regards to PE and HDPE, they are resistant to some chemicals, like strong acids, but not to many relatively weak organic compounds like acetic acid or even many oxidizers like perchloric acid, heated (60C) hydrogen peroxide, and nitric acid (and actually form a fire hazard when exposed to such compounds, thus storage of H2O2 in PE is acceptable for short term storage, but not for long term storage). PE and HDPE both degrade under the influence of such compounds, just slowly enough in some cases to work as a functional container for short periods of storage (less than 1 year). Plus PE (and the more common Storage container material HDPE) are both readily flammable materials, so storage of an oxidizer for any extended period in PE is a risky proposition.

While I have seen PE pipe used, it is infrequently used for well pipe for monitoring wells in part due to the fact it is much weaker, flexes (and stretches a lot) and is more expensive than PVC, it requires welding to join sections (rather than threaded and it doesn't perform well slotted. PE pipe doe not perform well under pressure, including localized vacuum pressure induced by pumping, and can collapse. I have never seen anyone install it for any real well networks except for the one tiome pop water collection studies. It is far more typical in long duration monitoring wells to utlize PVC or stainless steel. It does get used a lot where we need a highly flexible pipe, such and inverted siphons, as it can readily make the bends needed, though it is very expensive. For almost all remediation, including in-situ bioremediation PVC is the standard material that I have ever seen, and only a very few companies have used PE, it just is not structurally strong enough, harder to install, have the life expectancy, permeable and reactive with organic compounds and too expensive. Even in PCE and TCE remediation projects, I believe you would find that PVC is more typically used across the remediation industry, and you have only had a limited experience to draw on or represent a distributors perspective.

In the end a long time is really a relative term, in the terms of a single individuals lifetime it is probably a year or few years, but in terms of the span of life or geologic time the entire industrial revolution to present is a blip. Anything we do, no matter what, just presents another evolutionary pressure driving life grow stronger and more resilient.

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#94
In reply to #93

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/23/2010 2:32 PM

Hello RCE:

I do appreciate your discussion. The whole anthropogenic age is just a blip compared to geological ages. We seem to be doing a lot of things wrong and if we keep the blinkers on I fear we may just be a blip too. I worry that we will damage the oceans before we or mother nature can react. It is all about time. The ocean garbage size should be a serious concern. We also do not know what else gets dumped in the oceans from countries like China and India. Beijing did not have proper sewage treatment prior to the Olympics and I am not sure if they have really corrected their discharge problems. The solution to pollution is dilution and the oceans are vast. I would bet dollars to donuts these discharges are not good even if dilution could be achieved.

Yes PE containers are short lived about 5 years or so for 35% peroxide. When I first started purchasing H2O2 we payed refundable deposits on the containers but that option was removed. I suspect the deposit was removed because a lot of containers were old or made from recycled PE with impurities. We never did experience an issue with the containers. Five years seems to be the longest we have ever left peroxide on a project site. A lot of my experience in remediation was with well injection, pump, and treat with BAC. The injection (H2O2) was primarily on PE lines and the pumping was with PE lines. These lines are still in service after 25 years. Mostly dealing with shallows soils over limestone. And yes PVC was used for monitoring wells providing it was threaded pipe.

When I was in the business we belonged to NGWA and AGWSE and our local chapter of Ontario Ground Water Ass. We employed no PHDs but had chemists on staff. We implemented the work for many Engineering firms. I am retired but did find the work interesting and the learning never stopped. Are you familiar with these organizations/

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#39

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 11:26 AM

Hi,

make the plastic become rigid after 3 months so it is disintegrating into 0.5mm pieces, or make it water-soluble (after 3 months) by some chemical process and the problem will vanish. (Maybe not).

Put a tax of $10/Kg on imported not compliant stuff will pay our governments debts and see us happy again.

This will not happen as globalisation is more important than healthy food or inhabitants.

RHABE

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#40

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 12:08 PM

Like Rosanne Rosanadana says "Don't cha know, it's always sumpthin". When it's profitable to collect the plastic, it will happen.

For a power source to process the plastic, how about going over the areas where methane is bubbling up from the ocean floor. Free energy. I say again, FREE ENERGY! Take two pollutants and make something good. I like the idea of making pavers out of waste plastic. It doesn't matter what the plastics are, just melt them together into a block. Pavers, building blocks, whatever. Last forever, free raw materials. Use the FREE METHANE ENERGY to melt them, and there you go.

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#45

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/19/2010 1:47 PM

I have read a couple of good books on this subject. One is "What We Throw Away" 2009 by Derrick Jenson and Aric McBay. The other was a hot issue book that escapes my memory and is out on loan for about the past year.

Both of these books discuss the issue with plastics in the oceans. One thing is very clear that the plastic fork we get from McDonalds or Wendys or any of the fast food sections is actually only in practical use for 5 minutes or so but then once in disposal it will last many thousands of years. the plastic polymers do break down to ever smaller polymers and perhaps to monomers. This breakdown applies to so called bio-degradable plastics. Phytoplankton in turn take up the smaller bits and they are food for many of the ocean fauna.

Further these trash seas are millions (yes millions) of times more toxic than thought. Doxins, Bisphenol A, PCB, and Agent orange are just a few of these toxins. Some of the fish and turtles have very high levels of toxins associated with plastic trash. The smaller plastics are ingested by ocean fauna and are then bio-amplified. We as consumers may eat the same bio-amplified fish. It is now not unusual to detect PCB in human breast milk.

One other aspect of this trash is that it may be a small portion of the total. Much of the dumped trash will end up on the ocean floors and we can only guess at the damage this type of disposal causes.

We as individuals must respond. Do we really need that plastic fork or the plastic grocery bag when we have better alternatives.

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#64

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/20/2010 1:53 AM

In my opinion a prudent approach would be to:

  1. Investigate the problem (don't believe environmentalist or non-environmentalist but gather a group of scientist with an established history of objective researching).
  2. Quantify the size of the problem - is it really twice the size of Texas? And as pointed out in previous replies, how deep?
  3. Attempt to determine the source - it makes no sense to penalize one country (be it the US or any other nation) if they are a minor contributor relative to another.
  4. If there truly is a problem that needs to be addressed, then attack it from to point of view of finding a way to utilize the trash for something productive (as previously mentioned) as well as a strategy to reduce adding to the problem.

I don't know, but I suspect the trash is the result of contributions from around the world and should require all countries to contribute to the solution in some way or another. Quite frankly, I don't see the UN being effective at promoting a solution. I do think a creative solution can be found.

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#66
In reply to #64

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/20/2010 10:26 AM

Let's say hypothetically your 1 and 2 and 3 confirm what is being said. I'm not saying it would, but lets say that it does.

In 4 you offer philosophy of a solution. Can you offer something specific? How could we force 3rd world countries to do their part? How do we utilize the trash for something productive. How do we alter people's habits? Should we try?

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#69
In reply to #66

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/20/2010 11:24 AM

Reasonable questions.

Getting polluters to clean up:

I did not offer specifics on getting 3rd world countries to assist because it really depends on what is discovered. If it's determined that 80% comes from the US, then the US has more control over resolving the problem. If not and 80% comes from another country, then some options would be to

  1. Engage in discussion and attempt to persuade them to do something
  2. Provide incentives (perhaps direct financial means or favored trading)
  3. Provide disincentives for current actions (trade restrictions)
  4. Attempt to convince the UN (or a large block of concerned countries) to impose international sanctions
  5. Direct invasion - I do not suggest this option as something I would like to see happen, but if the problem is serious enough and truly a serious threat to our country and lives then it is an option that has to be considered.

I'm sure there are many more ideas that can be added to the list. Each option would have some associated cost ranging from trivial (in the first case) to quite expense for the last option. So even if option 5 is justified, it may not be the best option as it may be more economical to just clean up the mess ourself even if we are not primarily responsible for it.

If it's found that the source is even spread among the vast majority of countries then that may be more difficult to resolve. Many countries may be willing to do something without any nudging, others require lots of nudging and some may require a lot more.

Utilizing the trash for something productive:

As was already mentioned, what about making pavers from the trash? Is it possible to utilize it to make construction materials? Discarded rubber tires are now shredded and used in covering the ground at kid's play grounds. Can something along those lines be done? I don't know specifically what can be created....but I do believe that given a favorable entrepreneurial environment someone or some company could come up with something.

Altering people's habits:

I do not see anything wrong with trying to convince someone to change what they are doing. If I know someone who smokes, I may try to convince him it's in his best interest to give up smoking. If he doesn't that's his business and it doesn't affect me much. The neighborhood effects of pollution are a slightly different matter. We already have laws against polluting such as fines for littering, fines for dumping etc. If the problem is truly a big threat then laws can be enacted, fines established, taxes etc. to encourage people to change behavior. If the problem is not a direct threat to the citizens of a our country then it becomes a moral issue. If we are destroying marine life in the middle of the ocean that is not adversely harming any humans nor have the expected possibility of harming humans then I may want to do something about it, but I don't know if I have the right to force others to join me. I could try to get as many people as I can to contribute to help.

That's my opinion....which I may change as I give more thought to the subject.

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#70
In reply to #69

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/20/2010 11:48 AM

Thanks, that's a great set of ideas. I've given a good answer.

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#65

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/20/2010 3:45 AM

I do not know about taxes or recovery and reclamation of all this plastic.

What I do know from living outside of America for almost 8 years is that all of the middle east countries I visited had incredible problems with plastic waste. They use an incredible amount of the stuff and have very poor methods of disposal. I saw fields of plastic and other detritus all over Iraq, Turkey, and Dubai (to a lesser extent in Dubai). The wind blows much of this through the desert and it seems to tear and break up in the environment; on fences, buildings, trees rocks etc. I know from my time in South Korea that we would have weeks of poor weather after dust storms waged havoc across Asia. I would theorize that anywhere you get third world countries, plastic will be a major material for commerce and it will often be disposed of poorly. The resultant wind storms and the environment might tear it into the small particles shown in the updated OP picture.

Much of the plastics I saw were of a brittle poor quality that was prone to cracking or tearing. I would be willing to bet any significant research into the types of plastic found in the oceans would be a mix of these plastics I described and the trash the more modernized countries dump directly into the oceans.

I realize I have written much here and not offered any solutions. My answer to that is we need to do more research into exactly what the problem is then devise a solution from that data; not sit here at our desks so far detached from the problem. If you really want to do something about this find the people dong the research and volunteer your skills or money. As for me, I will do what I can within my realm of influence to reduce the plastic I see go places it shouldn't go.

Drew

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#67
In reply to #65

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/20/2010 10:31 AM

How much more research? What would be an adequate amount of research for us to be satisfied that we understand the problem completely?

I agree we should be sure we understand the problem fully before we try to fix it. I also know that we can consider solutions without enacting them and perhaps be better prepared when we are convinced by the data that we need to act.

So hypothetically, if we do enough research and find there is in fact a problem, how do we fix it. Certainly we can consider ideas, right?

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#71

Re: Can You Believe This Trash?

02/20/2010 1:02 PM

We, all people, are great consumers of plastic. With the price of oil increasing and not likely to reverse because it is depleting from easy to access locations, recycling only makes sense. Future plastic will not be discarded but will actually be a resource. I am optimistic that all people and especially ocean fauna will benefit from impending future aggressive recycling of plastic. It is rare that plastic based items last more than 20 years. They become obsolete and are discarded. TV, Auto, stereos, fencing, pens, paper clips,etc. are all included. I do not know how high the price of oil must reach before plastic trash will be a valuable resource.

I do not think that the current squandering and trashing of plastic goods needs to be regulated or taxed. It is not too distant in the future when a oil price break will make the current practices seem silly.

What do we do with the current ocean problems? Storm drains in most cities everywhere flush directly into streams and oceans. I have inspected many municipal sewage and storm outfalls. And we have anecdotal evidence of mid-east waste from a prior contributor. So it is not likely we will curb these major infrastructure issues soon. All I can say that if we are soon to be paying more for gas then I take some comfort in knowing that the resolution of the plastic issues is closer. Perhaps doing nothing but watching our own personal consumption and trashing of plastic practice is all we can do.

Here is a link to recycling of interest:

http://www.wasteonline.org.uk/resources/InformationSheets/Plastics.htm

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