OUR AQUATIC DUST BIN
It is a depressing fact of modern times that gyres, areas of water way out in our oceans, where the currents spiral around a central point, have accumulated huge amounts of the rubbish. Most of it is plastic, broken down into particles so small they are invisible to the naked eye.
The sailor Charles Moore first witnessed the scale of the problem in 1997. While returning home from a race and noticed enormous amounts of floating rubbish in the North Pacific Gyre. Two severely polluted areas have since been identified in the Eastern Pacific between Hawaii and California and the Western Pacific off the coast of Japan. Similarly severe problems have been observed in the North Atlantic, and less dense accumulations are also building up in various ocean areas around
the globe. The results are devastating. A wide variety of ocean animals swallow the plastics or become tangled up in the larger pieces. Some choke or are strangled; others are slowly poisoned by the chemicals leaching from the plastic, or its effect on their metabolism. The entire marine food chain is now affected, across huge areas of our oceans. And there is no way we can remove this mess. Sifting vast areas of ocean of billions of tiny particles of plastic without hoovering up the huge variety of ocean wildlife, from the microscopic to the massive, would be impossibly expensive and difficult.
And Camden Howitt from our own Sustainable Coastlines says this problem is on a beach near you: “Plastic pollution is a global illness and New Zealand’s seas are looking sick. Of the 108 tonnes of rubbish we have removed from beaches in the past three years, the vast majority is made of plastic and has only been used once. Food wrappers, foam packaging,
plastic bags and drink bottle caps are the main offenders: all single-use, disposable plastic products.
“These products can have devastating effects on marine life. We have witnessed colonies of Black Backed Gulls nesting amongst piles of rubbish on Auckland’s Rangitoto Island. We’ve seen Pied Shags wrapped in plastic in the Bay of Plenty. We’ve found a Little Blue Penguin strangled by a plastic bottle ring on Aotea/great Barrier Island, and turtles have washed up dead in the Hauraki Gulf with plastic in their guts.” So what can we do? Howitt says: “We can all look after our coastlines by disposing of our litter carefully, whether we are at the beach or on the street. Choosing to buy less disposable, single-use plastic products helps too.”
To find out more, or join a beach clean up, go to: sustainablecoastlines.org
Right: The contents of a Queen Street drain. Camden Howitt
from our own Sustainable Coastlines says:“the ocean is downstream from everywhere. Just as all rivers flow to the sea, so too does the water on our streets. When it rains, litter gets washed
into drains, rivers and waterways, flowing to the sea.”