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The Plastic Menace

Scientific discovery and discussion
GoSeigen
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The Plastic Menace

#322426

Postby GoSeigen » June 29th, 2020, 12:57 am

Remember the days before coronavirus, when the greatest threat ever to face mankind -- worse even than the erstwhile religious nuts in letterbox suits armed with machetes and exploding shoes -- was the plastic garbage floating around in the ocean?

The story had proceeded in a series of ludicrous (to me) steps, starting with St David becoming the voice of the anti-plastic lobby, to deployment of "giant" booms to round up the deadly timebombs, to the UK saving the entire planet by banning plastic bags in shops -- and now this little gem.

From Bloomberg I quote three wonderful paragraphs from the middle of a very readable personal perspective which left me wondering whether to cry or laugh. [My emphasis added]


How Sailing Across the Pacific Changed My Thinking About Plastic.
Environmental disaster lurks right below the surface.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles ... ed-my-life

I did know enough about the ocean to realize, a week into our voyage, that we must be nearing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch: an infamous gyre of floating rubbish that by some estimates stretches over 600,000 square miles. I winced in anticipation of seeing that undulating band of blue out my porthole window sullied with jugs of bleach and kelp-gnarled car bumpers, and for the first time in my life, I cared for something in nature as tenderly as I might a dear friend.

But when we reached the shores of Hilo, Hawaii, without my spotting a single bobbing soda bottle—let alone a mountain of rubbish larger than the state of Texas—I asked Ann, our faculty oceanographer, where it was. Her answer baffled me even more: We’d sailed right through it.

Plastic, I quickly learned, photodegrades over time, but only to a point. A bottle cast out to sea will break down into tiny pieces, some smaller than 5 millimeters, then hang suspended like confetti right beneath the sea’s surface. In our pristine-looking path to Hawaii, it was all there—87,000 tons of electronics, toothbrushes, fishing nets, yogurt containers, and CD cases—churned into a thick soup that was invisible to me yet comprises three-quarters of some turtles’ diets.


So now having failed to find the giant island of garbage, we discover to our horror that the plastic villain has invisibility superpowers!


With this demonstrated lack of critical thought and failure to apply basic mathematics, is it such a surprise that that the entire world was duped into going under house arrest for three months to enable the aged amongst us (and sorry TLF readership, I realise that means you) to live for an extra few months, also under house arrest?

It makes me fear for the next wave of stupid that is likely to sweep the planet, while other far more important stuff is being neglected or navigated in the background out of sight of the rest of us (Brexit being one of them, for example).


GS
P.S. My judgement might be off on some of this but I'm pretty confident about the Muslims and the plastic...

redsturgeon
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Re: The Plastic Menace

#322469

Postby redsturgeon » June 29th, 2020, 9:29 am

GoSeigen wrote:
GS
P.S. My judgement might be off on some of this but I'm pretty confident about the Muslims and the plastic...


Just to clarify, are you saying you don't think that there is any problem with plastic?

John

tjh290633
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Re: The Plastic Menace

#322500

Postby tjh290633 » June 29th, 2020, 11:10 am

redsturgeon wrote:
GoSeigen wrote:
GS
P.S. My judgement might be off on some of this but I'm pretty confident about the Muslims and the plastic...


Just to clarify, are you saying you don't think that there is any problem with plastic?

John

The problem is less with plastic and more with waste disposal. If there were no plastic, they would dump something else. Dealing with the plastic already in the oceans is like pushing a piece of wet string. Action needs to be taken at the sources. In much of the third world, dumping your waste in the nearest water course or the sea is the accepted norm.

TJH

redsturgeon
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Re: The Plastic Menace

#322516

Postby redsturgeon » June 29th, 2020, 11:48 am

tjh290633 wrote:
redsturgeon wrote:
GoSeigen wrote:
GS
P.S. My judgement might be off on some of this but I'm pretty confident about the Muslims and the plastic...


Just to clarify, are you saying you don't think that there is any problem with plastic?

John

The problem is less with plastic and more with waste disposal. If there were no plastic, they would dump something else. Dealing with the plastic already in the oceans is like pushing a piece of wet string. Action needs to be taken at the sources. In much of the third world, dumping your waste in the nearest water course or the sea is the accepted norm.

TJH


There are many issues with plastic. It is an incredibly useful material and very durable. It is that durability that is the problem with single use or short life cycle products.
To be making a single use product that will last for tens or even hundreds of years when it is disposed of is madness.
So there are issues with manufacture...make biodegradable plastics where appropriate
There are problems with usage, don't use durable plastics for single or short life cycle usage.
There are problems with consumers choices, don't use and throw away so much stuff.
There are problems with waste disposal...recycle, reuse etc.
Then comes the problem of what to do with the existing waste which is everywhere on the planet from the highest mountain peak to the deepest ocean trench and inside the bodies of every living thing.

John

tjh290633
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Re: The Plastic Menace

#322597

Postby tjh290633 » June 29th, 2020, 4:44 pm

redsturgeon wrote:Then comes the problem of what to do with the existing waste which is everywhere on the planet from the highest mountain peak to the deepest ocean trench and inside the bodies of every living thing.

John

Incineration with electricity generation from the waste heat is an effective method. It does require an efficient waste collection process.

TJH


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