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Posts Tagged ‘North Pacific Gyre’

I’ve made a fair amount of noise about the floating plastic in the North Pacific Gyre (aka the Great Garbage Patch).  I do wish I could come up with a two sentence synopsis that I could reel off when I’m in a store and they’re giving me a plastic bag to hold one item.

The guys who sailed a raft made of plastic bottles to Hawaii so that they could draw attention to the plastic soup REALLY did something.  It’s called the JUNK raft.  They just completed their journey a couple of days ago.  I think they are awesome.  Go read the account of the trip.

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My walking partner, who just finished reading Pocketful of Names, by Joe Coomer, asked me this morning the difference between flotsam and jetsam.  I didn’t know, so I’ve just looked it up. Per Merriam-Webster:

  • Flotsam is “floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo; broadly: floating debris.”  Related to ‘float’.
  • Jetsam is “the part of a ship, its equipment, or its cargo that is cast overboard to lighten the load in time of distress and that sinks or is washed ashore.”  From ‘jettison’.

When I looked it up, one of the links was to the Wikipedia article on marine debris. All roads lead back to the North Pacific Gyre, don’t they?

You can go read it yourself, but I’m just going to quote a chilling sentence:

Though it was originally assumed that most oceanic marine waste stemmed directly from ocean dumping, it is now thought that around four fifths of the oceanic debris is from rubbish blown seaward from landfills, and washed seaward by storm drains.

This morning I was thinking about paper plates, and wondering if they degrade in landfills if they are coated with plastic.  IS that coating on the ‘soakproof’ type of plate made of plastic?  If so, does it become nurdles after the paper is gone back into the earth?

We always have some way of being complacent, don’t we?  I can pat myself on the back for using paper plates instead of plastic at a cookout, and for putting my trash in a Kansas landfill as opposed to a coastal landfill, but it’s really all bad.  I’m pretty sure my nurdles, flotsam, and jetsam are contributors to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Faintly related flotsam and jetsam roiling around in my brain:

  • I saw a sticker on a car yesterday that said “Plastic bags blow.”
  • One of those Wikipedia articles used the word ‘anthropogenic’.  Good word, too bad we  have to have it.
  • ‘Flotsam’ seems to be able to stand alone.  ‘Jetsam’ doesn’t.

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Oh, not really the wastebasket, because I’m putting this stuff in the recycling, but little better. (Where does that stuff go? Ultimately to the North Pacific Gyre, I know.)

I’d like to write a funny, lighthearted post about our silly dog and maybe something about how my foot is improving. But good golly.

I ordered some new sheets. OK, it really is time to quit ordering stuff and having it shipped in, at what cost to the environment I don’t even know. But (whine) I couldn’t find what I wanted in town, and this great mail order company had the sheets I wanted. (end whine)

That’s my bad part.

Then, the sheets were backordered in some strange way so that I got 3 separate packages, each plasticked, each trucked in separately. Two arrived on the same day. The other one the next day. That’s their bad part.

I like this company. I imagine this issue has something to do with their computer system, which doesn’t take into account that you could, say, hold all the packages backordered to arrive the same week, and send them together. I might write to them about it.

Eyes rolling back in head . . .

Maybe next time I’ll be light and funny.

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I don’t want you to think I’m asking for a pat on the back about how much we recycle or reuse when I write about what’s in our trash. I’m really looking at how much perma-junk our household of two reasonably careful people is creating all the time. We’re pretty good about reusing plastic. We’ve used the same cereal containers for about 10 years (acquired during a bad grain moth infestation). I reuse every plastic food bag as long as I can, until it gets holes in it or is too dirty to reuse.

This morning I had cranberry relish and Swedish crispbread, both being stored in Rubbermaid plastic containers. I made the relish last night, so in our wastebasket we now have two bags that cranberries came in, and a plastic apple bag with holes in it (not easily reusable). I threw moldy bread into the compost, and threw out the bag. I usually drink an Emergen-C, which comes in a little foil envelope – thrown away. We buy our coffee in bulk, using paper bags that are practically family heirlooms. I ran out of hair conditioner this morning. The bottle went in the recycling. How much plastic can we recycle? It’s still there, just in different form. Our newspaper comes in a blue plastic bag every day. Those go in the recycling. I wonder if I could get the carrier not to use a bag. I doubt it, but I can ask.

I went to Target but didn’t take my own bags. I made the checker consolidate, but I still walked out of there with two plastic bags. And what was in them? A plastic bottle of oil. A plastic spray bottle of environmentally gently all-purpose cleaner. A bag of sugar, yay, biodegradable! Mascara in a plastic tube, blisterpacked to cardboard for easy display and theft prevention. A new throw rug with a non-slip rubber backing (OK, 4 rugs so I can see which one looks OK) – what is that backing made of? Two plastic bottles of dish soap (2 for 1 sale). From the natural foods store, I brought out one plastic bag each of apples and oranges.

Oh gosh, there’s more. I find this critically important, and I can’t see how we’re going to fix it.

Take a look at the video below, Alphabet Soup, about the double-Texas-sized floating trash mass in the North Pacific Gyre. It’s horrifically fascinating.

Or look at the LA Times series on the altered ocean.

I’m going to go make chicken soup (chicken in plastic, broth homemade but stored in plastic, noodles in plastic).

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