September 1, 2018
What’s long and thin, made of plastic, often brightly colored, floats in the Pacific and is the bane of humanity? If you said kayaktivists, you’d be right, but that’s not where we’re going with this. No, we’re talking about plastic soda straws, which are so hazardous to life on the planet that they have been banned by the Seattle City Council.
The banning of plastic straws comes on the heels of reports by almost every online and cable TV news show of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” which is said to be a floating island of plastic debris the size of Texas.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would like to set us straight. “While everything may be bigger in Texas, some reports about the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ would lead you to believe that this marine mass of plastic is bigger than Texas – maybe twice as big as the Lone Star State, or even twice as big as the continental US.”
No, NOAA says, there isn’t actually a “garbage patch” but rather there are areas of the ocean where plastic debris concentrates more than other parts of the ocean.
NOAA says these natural gathering points appear where rotating currents, winds, and other ocean features converge to accumulate marine debris, as well as plankton, seaweed, and other sea life.
We don’t believe mankind needs plastic straws to survive, but we wonder whether Seattle doesn’t have more important things to do, like addressing the city’s violent crime rate, which is 59 percent higher than the national average and a property crime rate 124 percent higher than the national average – especially since the US is responsible for only slightly more than 1 percent of the waste in the world’s oceans. Five countries – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – account for as much as 60 percent of the floating junk, according to a recent report from the Ocean Conservancy.
To combat the increasing pile of trash in the Pacific, a Dutch nonprofit, the Ocean Cleanup Project (http://www.theoceancleanup.com), is counting on a new system to collect some of the junk.
The Ocean Cleanup Project’s passive system involves a series of connected pipes the length of five football fields that float at the surface of the ocean. Each closed pipe is 4 feet in diameter. Below these hangs a 9-foot net.
The system allows currents and waves to push trash into its center, and trash is captured by the net while the push of water against the net propels fish and other marine life under and beyond.
The system is fitted with solar-powered lights and anti-collision systems to keep any stray ships from running into it, along with cameras, sensors and satellites that allow it to communicate with its creators.
For the most part the system will operate on its own, though a few engineers will remain on a nearby ship to observe. Periodically a garbage ship will be sent out to scoop up the collected trash and transport it to shore, where it will be recycled.
The collector is set to launch from San Francisco later this month.
We approve of the project, and hope it’s successful. By the same token, perhaps municipalities on the west coast and worldwide should focus on collecting trash and disposing of it properly so it doesn’t end up in the ocean.
Chris can be reached at email@example.com