Newspaper article International New York Times

Notes from the Plasticene Epoch

Newspaper article International New York Times

Notes from the Plasticene Epoch

Article excerpt

Picking up tons of plastic that washes ashore may seem futile, but it is better than doing nothing.

Like diamonds, plastics are forever. The tons dumped into the ocean float around, swirling on currents, breaking into smaller bits, never going away. Scientists have identified huge gyres of plastic in the Pacific. There is an Eastern Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California; a Western Garbage Patch, off Japan, and a patch between them called the Subtropical Convergence Zone, north of Hawaii.

The patches are misunderstood to be visible islands of debris; you can't actually see them from a boat or plane. They are more like vast, soupy concentrations of flotsam, some of it large, some tiny, all indigestible, killing fish, birds, whales and turtles. On the southern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii, deep ocean currents rub against the remote and rocky shoreline. Volunteers regularly make a long, hot trip to clean the beaches, hauling away fishing nets, lines and traps, toys, shoes, buckets and bottles. …

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