Tag Archives: pacific gyres


Plastic bag bans are spreading in the United States

Los Angeles rang in the 2014 New Year with a ban on the distribution of plastic bags at the checkout counter of big retailers, making it the largest of the 132 cities and counties around the United States with anti-plastic bag legislation. And a movement that gained momentum in California is going national. More than 20 million Americans live in communities with plastic bag bans or fees. Currently 100 billion plastic bags pass through the hands of U.S. consumers every year—almost one bag per person each day. Laid end-to-end, they could circle the equator 1,330 times. But this number will soon fall as more communities, including large cities like New York and Chicago, look for ways to reduce the plastic litter that blights landscapes and clogs up sewers and streams.

The following “mockumentary” narrated by Oscar winning actor Jeremy Irons tells of the “amazing” journey of a plastic bag from the supermarket checkout until it finally reaches the ocean and becomes yet another part of the Great Pacific Gyre.

While now ubiquitous, the plastic bag has a relatively short history. Invented in Sweden in 1962, the single-use plastic shopping bag was first popularized by Mobil Oil in the 1970s in an attempt to increase its market for polyethylene, a fossil-fuel-derived compound. Many American customers disliked the plastic bag when it was introduced in 1976, disgusted by the checkout clerks having to lick their fingers when pulling the bags from the rack and infuriated when a bag full of groceries would break or spill over. But retailers continued to push for plastic because it was cheaper and took up less space than paper, and now a generation of people can hardly conceive of shopping without being offered a plastic bag at the checkout counter.

The popularity of plastic grocery bags stems from their light weight and their perceived low cost, but it is these very qualities that make them unpleasant, difficult, and expensive to manage. Over one third of all plastic production is for packaging, designed for short-term use. Plastic bags are made from natural gas or petroleum that formed over millions of years, yet they are often used for mere minutes before being discarded to make their way to a dump or incinerator—if they don’t blow away and end up as litter first. The amount of energy required to make 12 plastic bags could drive a car for a mile.

In landfills and waterways, plastic is persistent, lasting for hundreds of years, breaking into smaller pieces and leaching out chemical components as it ages, but never fully disappearing. Animals that confuse plastic bags with food can end up entangled, injured, or dead. Recent studies have shown that plastic from discarded bags actually soaks up additional pollutants like pesticides and industrial waste that are in the ocean and delivers them in large doses to sea life. The harmful substances then can move up the food chain to the food people eat. Plastics and the various additives that they contain have been tied to a number of human health concerns, including disruption of the endocrine and reproductive systems, infertility, and a possible link to some cancers.

This is where YOU can get involved……….by signing our petition to #BanPlasticBags.  It’s very easy and only involves a couple of clicks.  You can sign using either your Facebook or Twitter account and share share share!!!!!  We want to get enough signatures to take it to government to get single use plastic bags banned completely.  Many places have introduced a tax/levy on each bag but whilst the money raised may be used for worthwhile causes, we want the option of having these bags taken away completely.

Click here to sign our petition

California—with its long coastline and abundant beaches where plastic trash is all too common—has been the epicenter of the U.S. movement against plastic bags. San Francisco was the first American city to regulate their use, starting with a ban on non-compostable plastic bags from large supermarkets and chain pharmacies in 2007. As part of its overall strategy to reach “zero waste” by 2020 (the city now diverts 80 percent of its trash to recyclers or composters instead of landfills), it extended the plastic bag ban to other stores and restaurants in 2012 and 2013. Recipients of recycled paper or compostable bags are charged at least 10ȼ, but—as is common in cities with plastic bag bans—bags for produce or other bulk items are still allowed at no cost. San Francisco also is one of a number of Californian cities banning the use of polystyrene (commonly referred to as Styrofoam) food containers, and it has gone a step further against disposable plastic packaging by banning sales of water in plastic bottles in city property.


The Problem with Plastics

What is the problem with plastics?

Plastic is everywhere… and I do mean everywhere! This is because people make it in large quantities because it is so useful in just about everything people do. That’s why waste plastic is becoming a serious problem, especially around the world’s coastlines and oceans.

turtle trapped in plastic

Did you know…………?

  • that since the 1950s, one billion tons of plastic has been thrown away? And where do you think most of this has gone……….?  Straight into the Oceans!
  • the USA produced almost 32 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2012 and that less than 9 per cent of that waste got recycled.
  • By 2012, the world’s oceans contained 165 million tons of plastic pollution.
  • If all the plastic humans make every year was weighed in elephants, how many elephants would you need? Answer: 30 million!!! If all those elephants stood in a line, it would stretch more than 5 times round our planet.

Why do we use plastics?

People make a lot of things out of plastic because it is cheap and versatile. Plastic things also last a long time. This can be very useful for people but it’s one of the biggest problems for the environment. This is because of the second — and bad — property. Most plastics last just about forever because no life form has yet evolved which can EAT plastic. Almost everything else made by humans gets broken down, either by microbes which can use waste as food or by natural decay of metals like steel. The sun or the pounding of waves on the seashores of the world does break up plastic into little bits but the little bits don’t vanish… and that is one of the biggest problems with this human-made stuff.

50 billion plastic bottles used in US
50 billion plastic bottles used in US

Where does all the plastic end up?

Imagine you’re sailing across the Pacific Ocean, way out of sight of land, right? So you don’t expect your boat to be pushing through great rafts of floating plastic for mile after mile, do you? Welcome to the great Pacific garbage patch… and to a modern myth because there aren’t “great rafts of floating plastic”. The “garbage patch” certainly exists — and there are several others — but the plastic is mostly small bits the size of confetti or smaller. It floats in the surface layers of the ocean forming a sort of thin ‘soup’ (yuk!). This plastic garbage is caught in the best known of 5 giant rotating ocean currents called gyres. These floating patches of plastic debris have become worrying new ecosystems which scientists call the “Plastisphere”.

Unfortunately, many marine animals mistake some types of plastic for food and eat them. Turtles often die because the plastic they eat blocks their digestive system so they starve. Marine mammals (like dolphins) often get trapped by plastic nets or ropes and either drown or starve to death: “ghost fishing“. Great and rare sea birds like albatrosses also get tangled up in old fishing gear and die. Around 400,000 marine mammals die every year due to plastic pollution in oceans. The list of horrible facts about plastics goes on and on.

Plastics also poison the animals that eat them. Eventually, much of the floating ocean plastic sinks to the sea floor or ends up on beaches all around the world. People don’t see the rubbish on the sea floor but the animals (filter feeders like worms) accidentally eat it.

What can you all do about it?

Obviously people aren’t going to stop making plastics. They are just so useful in so many things. So first, you humans need to know that plastic is a big problem. Then you can start to do something about it. Here are some ideas for you to think about and then get active!

The Three Rs are now Four – do you know what they are?

  1. Reduce – don’t buy so much that is packaged in plastic
  2. Re-use – if you must buy plastic bottles, then use them over again
  3. Recycle – find out what you can recycle and where to take it
    and number 4…….?
  4. REFUSE – many cities have now banned single use plastic bags – make sure you go shopping prepare with your own supply of bags.