I checked a neat book out the library a while ago. It is called Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsom, and the Science of Ocean Motion. Did you know that there is a giant mass of garbage, primarily plastic, that is floating in the ocean, and that it is about the size of Alaska? I know, crazy, right? Also pretty disgusting. The author of this book quotes a man who said if we could somehow turn off the “plastic switch” namely by stopping the production of plastic, there would still be plastic washing ashore for 30 or 40 years. Ick. And unfortunately, animals are mistakening the plastic for food, so they eat it. They can’t digest it, so it stays in their stomach, taking up space that food should be in. So the animals starve to death. Pretty grim picture.
So you might be wondering why I’m promoting this book if it is such a dismal picture. Well, it’s interesting, for a start. There are scientists who track things that have fallen into the ocean, say from a cargo ship. Two instances are discussed in particular…a cargo ship carrying Nike shoes, and another carrying plastic bathtub toys. Both of these products float, so the scientists were able to take the bad event (the spill) and turn it into an experiment to see how the ocean currents work.
The book also highlights certain organizations that help with the cleanup effort, such as the Ocean Conservancy, and The GhostNet Project. The Ocean Conservancy organization sponsors an event called the International Coastal Cleanup, during which participants record and cleanup things that wash up on the coasts of waterways. The GhostNet project is pretty cool, too. What they too is attach satellite tags to discarded fishing nets that are in the ocean so that they can be picked up later by bigger ships. I’m not sure if that project is still in existence, because the most recent news is from 2005. But it would still be interesting to read about the project.
What else can you do, besides read this book and perhaps support the work of the Ocean Conservancy? Well, try to reduce the amount of plastic that you buy. And recycle what you do buy. Don’t litter, because a lot of the plastic comes to the oceans through waterways such as rivers. It really gets me when I see people throwing trash out of their car windows….where do they think the trash is going to go? It certainly isn’t going to dissolve. It’s going to get washed into a sewer, and eventually into a waterway. So, in two words, don’t litter. That’s a start!