May 23 - NY Times: The Perils of Plastic

The Green Column in this weekend’s New York Times provided a thoughtful, level-headed discussion about the growing problem of plastics in the marine environment.

It acknowledged that plastic material itself can help reduce our impacts on the environment in some ways, but clarified, "The problem is the sheer amount of the stuff out there. Annual production of 1.5 million tons back then [in 1950] has swelled to about 250 million tons now."

Furthermore, it debunked a common myth about the garbage patches in ocean gyres which are not "floating islands of trash" but more like a plastic soup full of tiny fragments. The article provided a link to a UN Environmental Program report on the environmental health impacts of plastics and noted:

"Although these tiny fragments do not trap or choke animals the way plastic bags or abandoned nets do, they are increasingly the focus of scientific concern. Microplastics are easily swallowed and prone to absorb chemical pollutants in the sea, like pesticides, research has shown."

With low recycling rates on plastics and virtually impossible cleanups for ocean gyres, the article concluded that consumers should stop waste at the source by reducing use of disposable plastic products.

 


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