November 30th, 2011
The plastic bag ban has had huge success over the past year, with cities all over California taking initiative to ban the distribution of plastic bags in grocery stores. The ban has even extended to paper bags which are considered to be energy guzzlers because of the huge amount of energy required for their production.
However the plastic bag ban movement is facing opposition from the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, which includes members of the plastic bag manufacturing industry. The coalition claims that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a hoax fabricated by environmentalists and legislators, and have gone as far as threatening to sue San Francisco for its attempt to strengthen the plastic bag ban.
They argue that the swirling mass of garbage in the Northern Pacific Gyre, often depicted as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is not a garbage patch at all but instead consists of floating plastic pieces. The coalition also claims that the depiction of marine debris in the gyre as being twice the size of Texas is false and that there exists no actual photos of the “garbage patch”.
In actuality, the coalition’s claim that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a misleading conception, is true! Teams of scientists, organizers, and ocean-health advocates alike, including Sea•thos, have taken care to demystify the popular misconceptions of the Northern Pacific Gyre as a garbage patch or floating island.
The Northern Pacific Gyre, located in the northern pacific ocean between San Francisco and Hawaii, is a region where currents meet and attract floating marine debris via the rotational movement of the currents. Unfortunately, tons of marine debris have accumulated in ocean gyres over time. The Northern Pacific gyre (the largest of the five gyres) has accumulated the most debris- an estimated 3.5 million tons!
As described by Save the Plastic Bag Coalition’s claim, marine debris in the Northern Pacific Gyre does not form a solid patch twice the size of Texas nor an island of debris. In actuality marine debris is scattered throughout the ocean, is heavily concentrated at the center of gyres, and resembles plastic soup.
Exposure to sunlight and wave action cause plastic marine debris to beak down to small fragments which can be bite size for the smallest of ocean creatures from bottom feeders to zoo-plankton. These small plastic fragments either sink to the ocean bottom or are suspended in the upper water column and therefore are not often visible from the ocean surface. Plastic enters our food chain as soon as it is consumed by sea creatures. The toxins which plastics carry intensify as they move up the food chain, eventually ending with the highest concentration of toxins on our very own plates.