Saturday, January 8, 2011

'Ban Styrofoam in Pacifica' justification not quite right

Pacific Ocean 'garbage patch' exaggerated, new analysis asserts
Updated: 01/08/2011 07:17:21 AM PST

On her April 22, 2009, Earth Day show, TV host Oprah Winfrey described a plastic garbage patch twice the size of Texas swirling around the Pacific Ocean as "the most shocking thing I've ever seen."

But on Tuesday, a scientist released an analysis debunking as "hyperbole" the vastness of the ocean garbage swirl, citing Winfrey's comment as an example.

"Where did she see it?" asked Angelicque White, an assistant professor of oceanography at Oregon State University.

White joined a crew that traveled from Hawaii to Southern California in summer 2008 through the "North Pacific gyre," as the field of mostly plastic debris is called.

While White said she expected to see large pieces of plastic litter routinely floating by their ship, they only encountered it intermittently. "We had to tow a net through the water for hours" to capture a small bowl of tiny particles of disintegrated plastic, she said.

"We certainly did see fishing gear or Styrofoam floats that would float by at irregular intervals," White added. "But we never saw mats of material."

The journey focused on studying how the plastic waste affects marine microorganisms, and the prevalence and concentration of the trash. It was funded by the National Science Foundation through the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education.


Posted by Steve Sinai

1 comment:

Ocean and Marine Advocate said...

The SEAPLEX Expedition with reseachers from Scripps Institute of Oceanography recently (Aug 2009) traveled to and conducted studies of the Pacific Gyre (aka the Pacific Garbage Patch). The research by this world renowned educational center docmented -- through 100 consecutive samplings -- a 1700 mile stretch of water filled with elevated plastic particles. The plastic, unlike some early reports and assumptions, are not generally large plastic objects, but broken down particles resulting from larger objects that make their way into the ocean as a result of human created litter. These plastic particles are not biodegradable. They will never fully deteriorate, but do break down into smaller and smaller pieces, sometimes containing toxics, and end up being ingested by marine life.

The styrofoam ban in Pacifica was and is a positive step forward to reduce litter in our community and in preventing this human created debris from polluting our oceans and killing wildlife.