I read this article below on Boing Boing…and it makes me very sick. Months ago, we stopped using plastic bags from grocery stores and bought plastic bins and reusable cloth bags. It’s really made a difference in the amount of bags that pile up at home. I also refuse plastic bags at many stores and just put anything I buy in another bag I already have. The thought that every single plastic bag I’ve ever touched in my entire life is still out there floating around somewhere is horrifying. Out of sight, out of mind. But soon they won’t be out of sight for much longer. I’d like to see photos of this mass of plastic floating in the ocean. Leave me a comment if you’ve seen photos.
Salon has a heart-rending feature on the ubiquitous, eternal plastic bag. These things last forever, and they’re piling up so fast, they’re choking us. Americans throw away 12
bmillion oil barrels’ worth of plastic bags every year.
Once aloft, stray bags cartwheel down city streets, alight in trees, billow from fences like flags, clog storm drains, wash into rivers and bays and even end up in the ocean, washed out to sea. Bits of plastic bags have been found in the nests of albatrosses in the remote Midway Islands. Floating bags can look all too much like tasty jellyfish to hungry marine critters. According to the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation, more than a million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die every year from eating or getting entangled in plastic. The conservation group estimates that 50 percent of all marine litter is some form of plastic. There are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. In the Northern Pacific Gyre, a great vortex of ocean currents, there’s now a swirling mass of plastic trash about 1,000 miles off the coast of California, which spans an area that’s twice the size of Texas, including fragments of plastic bags. There’s six times as much plastic as biomass, including plankton and jellyfish, in the gyre. “It’s an endless stream of incessant plastic particles everywhere you look,” says Dr. Marcus Eriksen, director of education and research for the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which studies plastics in the marine environment. “Fifty or 60 years ago, there was no plastic out there.”…
The problem with plastic bags isn’t just where they end up, it’s that they never seem to end. “All the plastic that has been made is still around in smaller and smaller pieces,” says Stephanie Barger, executive director of the Earth Resource Foundation, which has undertaken a Campaign Against the Plastic Plague. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade. That means unless they’ve been incinerated — a noxious proposition — every plastic bag you’ve ever used in your entire life, including all those bags that the newspaper arrives in on your doorstep, even on cloudless days when there isn’t a sliver of a chance of rain, still exists in some form, even fragmented bits, and will exist long after you’re dead.