January 7, 2009

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Have You Heard—of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch?”
It’s millions of tons of floating debris, on or just under the surface, held in place by swirling currents and winds. First seen by a sailor in 1997, this mega-flotsam is now almost as large as the continental U.S—and growing at an alarming rate.  Cleaning it up is not considered feasible at this time. It will not disappear in our lifetime, our children's lifetime, or the lifetime of our grandchildren.

Why is this important to Virginians? At least 80 percent of this shameful garbage soup is plastic, and that’s 100 percent appalling. Much of it is "nurdles" or small pieces of plastic, sometimes called "mermaid tears." Haven’t we always said that plastics would never biodegrade? Almost everything in this “floating landfill” started out as litter. It makes a strong case for reducing our use of disposable single-use consumables such as plastic water bottles. I find these frequently along the banks of the James and York rivers.