Ghosts of Plastic Past

May 4, 2012

Yesterday we went for a walk along Gibraltar Point beach and collected bits of glass that were tucked in the sand . . .

This afternoon while doing research for Osculations I learned a couple of frightening things – one is that excepting the plastic ‘eliminated’ from the planet through incineration, every piece of plastic ever created is still in existence (in some form) today. Plastic does not disappear. It is lost (and found) at sea, it is broken down into plankton size pieces that are consumed by fish and turtles and marine mammals but it is not digested, it is not transformed. Part of our piece is about the floating island of plastic in the Pacific the size of a CONTINENT that is known as the Garbage Patch. There is a naturally occurring gyre in the Pacific Ocean – a gyre is essentially a natural vortex, there are five major oceanic ones –

and this gyre has become a repository for disposed plastics, which are broken down by the ocean currents, salt, and sun into smaller and smaller pieces that can be found from the surface to 100 metres below sea level . . . scientists describe the ocean water in their study as a ‘plastic soup’ – and their study area within the Garbage Patch is the size of Texas – TWICE. This plastic makes it way back to land in some fairly gruesome ways, grounding albatross chicks indefinitely:

If you eat seafood (especially filter feeders), you’re eating plastic. Plastic returns to us: cosier, filtered through time and ocean. It won’t break down, but it will open us to the possibility of immortality. How fast lasting forever has changed the world . . .

In a very short period of time, we will be able to walk the shore and find the kernels of sand are composed not of coral or rocks but plastic . . . and it won’t be hard to stroll the length of the beach and collect buckets of our indestructible nostalgia.

As you were,

kb

PS. You can see more images of the effects of our desire for and disposal of plastics on Midway’s albatrosses documented by Chris Jordan here.

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