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  • SCENES LIKE THIS ARE A DAILY REALITY FOR THE CREW OF SEEKER ON THEIR PACIFIC TREK.

  • SOME ESTIMATES HOLD THAT BY 2050, THERE COULD BE AS MUCH PLASTIC AS THERE ARE FISH

  • IN THE OCEAN.

  • BUT WHAT IS ALL THIS JUNK, EXACTLY?

  • WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?

  • AND IS IT REALLY CONCENTRATED IN A GIANT 'GARBAGE PATCH' SOMEWHERE OUT THERE?

  • MARCUS ERIKSEN IS AN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST WHO HAS MADE IT HIS LIFE'S MISSION TO SOLVE

  • THE PROBLEM OF MARINE PLASTIC.

  • IT'S A GLOBAL ISSUE, BECAUSE PLASTIC ACCUMULATES IN GYRES,

  • LARGE CIRCULAR CURRENTS THAT THREAD THROUGH THE WORLD'S OCEANS.

  • What's leaving land heading out to sea is all the single-use packaging: it's the straws,

  • the bags, the bottles, the cup lids, the stir sticks, all this junk that we use once

  • and throw away.

  • A plastic bottle leaving California will get to Japan in about three to five years and

  • come back across the northern half of the North Pacific.

  • That spinning mass of water is a gyre.

  • Plastic trash will migrate to those zones and get stuck.

  • We actually take boats out in the middle of nowhere, we drag our net behind the boat

  • and we count the plastic particles that are floating.

  • Working with ocean modelers, we can get these regional maps of how much trash is out there,

  • what it is and where it is.

  • BUT ANSWERING EVEN THESE BASIC QUESTIONS ABOUT MARINE DEBRIS

  • HAS PROVEN TO BE SURPRISINGLY CHALLENGING.

  • IN FACT, EVERYTHING WE KNOW ABOUT THE PROVERBIAL 'GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH'

  • STARTED IN 1990, WHEN A CONTAINER SHIP SPILLED 61,000 SNEAKERS INTO THE OCEAN.

  • Realizing that a lot of these sneakers would never come to shore, that they would would just

  • be stuck in this vortex, Curtis Ebbesmeyer, working with James Ingraham Jr. at NOAA,

  • they're the ones that came up with the term 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch.'

  • CAPTAIN CHARLES MOORE IS OFTEN CREDITED WITH THE FIRST OBSERVATIONS OF THE PATCH,

  • A CONSTELLATION OF MICROPLASTIC PARTICLES THAT CAPTURED THE PUBLIC'S IMAGINATION.

  • Captain Charles Moore had described the area: he said, 'Look, I'm in an area roughly twice

  • the size of Texas where I'm doing my transects' and that hit the media by storm.

  • There aren't these islands of trash; they don't exist.

  • It's more like a smog of microplastic particles, billions of them, very toxic over a wide area.

  • EVEN WHEN THEY BECOME BRITTLE AND BREAK APART, PLASTIC PIECES PERSIST.

  • UNABLE TO OXIDIZE OR BECOME WATERLOGGED LIKE METALS, WOOD OR PAPER, ALL TYPES OF PLASTIC

  • ARE DESIGNED TO DEFEAT NATURAL DECAY.

  • In general, high density polyethylene, number two plastic, is the most common plastic

  • in consumer use, and it makes your soap bottles, it makes your toothbrushes, it makes many

  • of the consumer goods that float out in the garbage patch.

  • If we think in terms of all the plastic that's been produced since 1950, since it's a synthetic

  • material, hydrocarbons, it's probably still here today on the planet.

  • DR. SARAH-JEANNE ROYER WORKS WITH DR. NIKOLAI MAXIMENKO

  • AND HIS TEAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII

  • TO TACKLE THE PROBLEM OF TRACKING TRASH.

  • Most of the time, we will find only bottle caps and not the bottle itself

  • because the bottle is made out of PET.

  • It's sinking because the density of PET is higher than seawater.

  • DESPITE THE DRAMATIC AMOUNT OF PLASTIC THE CREW OF SEEKER HAS ENCOUNTERED,

  • SOME ESTIMATES HOLD THAT 99% OF OCEAN-BOUND PLASTIC WASTE IS STILL UNACCOUNTED FOR.

  • THAT'S WHY SARAH'S TEAM IS WORKING WITH THE SWIM EXPEDITION

  • AND THE OCEAN VOYAGES INSTITUTE TO TAG AND TRACK THE WASTE THEY FIND.

  • The Swim are using two different protocols.

  • The first protocol is a visual survey of all marine debris they see from the vessel itself.

  • Whenever they find an object that is large enough, they will get closer to the debris,

  • they will take pictures of it.

  • If there are numbers or lettering, they will share this information with us, so we can

  • track back the origin of that debris.

  • The second protocol is basically to attach a GPS buoy onto a marine debris

  • to track their movement in the ocean.

  • ONCE THE TRACKER IS ACTIVATED, IT ENABLES SCIENTISTS TO BOTH IMPROVE MODELS

  • OF HOW TRASH TRAVELS  IN THE OCEAN, AND LEARN WHERE TO FOCUS CLEANUP EFFORTS.

  • MOST OF THE TIME, SARAH AND HER TEAM CAN'T

  • IMMEDIATELY TELL WHERE A PIECE OF PLASTIC COMES FROM.

  • BUT THEY CAN LOOK FOR OTHER CLUES.

  • We need to use an FTIR or micro-Raman spectroscopy.

  • This spectrum is matching a spectrum that is found in the library telling us what is the type of plastic.

  • It's probably the dream of all scientists to have a satellite and a new instrumentation

  • to be able to quantify the amount of plastic floating at sea.

  • THE ENTIRE LIFE CYCLE OF PLASTIC IS POISONOUS.

  • ITS MANUFACTURING PROCESS DEPENDS ON HARMFUL CHEMICALS, AND WHEN RELEASED

  • INTO THE ENVIRONMENT, IT SOAKS UP EVEN MORE TOXINS, AND TRANSPORTS THEM FAR AND WIDE

  • INCLUDING INTO OUR BODIES.

  • PLASTIC CAN CHOKE THE OCEAN'S ABILITY

  • TO ABSORB CO2 FROM THE ATMOSPHERE, EXACERBATING CLIMATE CHANGE.

  • Only 10 percent of the habitat is on land.

  • The rest, 90 percent of the habitat's in the ocean, and it's totally unexplored

  • for the most part.

  • Imagining all the jungles, all the deserts, all the savannas,

  • all the Rocky Mountains... the ocean would be nine times more.

  • The idea that somehow it could be 50 percent plastic, 50 percent fish in a mere 30 years

  • is horrifying.

  • BUT THE SITUATION IS FAR FROM HOPELESS.

  • ORGANIZATIONS ARE DEVELOPING INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS TO CLEAN UP OCEAN PLASTIC.

  • MATERIALS SCIENTISTS ARE TURNING THEIR ATTENTION TO NEW PACKAGING SOLUTIONS.

  • AND CONSUMERS ARE MAKING MORE INFORMED CHOICES EVERY DAY.

  • How can we use our science to influence laws and policymakers?

  • When you refuse the single-use plastics, it has an effect on your neighborhood,

  • on your local watershed, and the ocean.

  • Now, seeing the UN talking about it, seeing companies rise up and say, 'We're going zero waste.'

  • To see countries make a commitment to stop the flow of trash from land to sea...

  • I feel optimistic that we can solve this problem.

  • Be sure to visit Seeker.com/TheSwim to read daily updates from Ben Lecomte, track his

  • progress in real time, and watch more videos about the science happening onboard Seeker.

  • Click here for this next episode, and don't forget to subscribe.

  • Thanks for watching.

SCENES LIKE THIS ARE A DAILY REALITY FOR THE CREW OF SEEKER ON THEIR PACIFIC TREK.

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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Is Not What You Think It Is | The Swim

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    joey joey posted on 2021/04/13
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