Sea change

flotsam_050208

It’s big; enormous in fact. But it’s certainly not clever. There is a massive area of circulating rubbish in the Pacific Ocean, stretching from the coast of California to Japan.

Around 100 million tons of floating, mostly plastic, debris bobs just below the surface of the waters, covering an area twice the size of the continental United States.

This island of trash is not visible from satellite photographs because the plastic is translucent and lies beneath the surface. But it is there. And it is growing.

We in Europe cannot afford to shrug off the problem. The Mediterranean is the most polluted sea in the world, with 2,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometre.

The problem is less conspicuous because most of it lies on the seabed and there are only very weak tides to bring it together. Our polluted seas are a depressing phenomenon.

These colossal tracts of trash are an indictment of how careless with the environment we have become. Historically, the flotsam of the oceans has biodegraded. But modern plastics take hundreds of years to disintegrate.

As Mario Rodriguez of Greenpeace says: “We have to understand the sea is not a tip; it will constantly return to us what we throw in.”

The solution should be obvious. We must cut down drastically on our use of plastics. We also need to start disposing of them properly rather than allowing them to end up cast into the sea.

Finally we need to begin removing our choking rubbish from the oceans. After years of thoughtless dumping, it’s time to take in the trash.

Source: The Independent