Todays NY Times has an article about the big swirls, or gyres, of garbage in the oceans.  A gyre is defined as

a swirling vortex; a circular current, especially a large-scale ocean current; to whirl

The one in the Pacific is apparently twice the size of Texas in area, as the article says.

Among other detritus, there are many small pieces of plastic in these gyres, which can absorb nasty compounds like PCBs.  Fish ingest these small particles, resulting in bioaccumulation of these compounds up the food chain as the big fish eat the little ones.  (This is one reason to reconsider fish consumption, or at least increase fish testing, even fish from the deep sea, some species of which are generally considered safe from contamination.)

One interesting take on these garbage gyres is an attempt to try and mine them, Project Kaisei, as reported by CNN here:

The sheer size of the ocean area affected has been enough to catch public attention, but a number of concerned groups are aiming to capture more than that. Project Kaisei plans to find a way to scoop up the plastic waste and devise a way to turn it into a future fuel source.

I wouldn’t count on this approach being a viable one (both economically and technologically), but it won’t hurt to try, and developing means for at least getting some of this stuff out of the oceans is a great idea.

Meantime we need to figure out how to stop this contamination of the ocean by what is basically municipal solid waste (with industrial components as well, no doubt).  It should be a lot easier to reduce this form of contamination than water pollution, for example, which is another big problem, as well.  At least the gyres are visible.


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