The ocean plastic crisis is a fantasy

The ocean plastic crisis is a fantasy. By Kip Hansen.

First, from a recent US National Academies report on ocean plastics:

In the United States, ocean plastic waste has become a top public concern, but the developing plastic waste crisis has been building for decades. …

Sampling on the ocean’s surface has allowed scientists to assess the large-scale accumulation of floating debris across ocean basins, which occurs in ocean gyres in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

These accumulation zones, commonly referred to as “garbage patches,” are mainly composed of microplastics that have broken apart from larger items, although large floating debris (especially derelict fishing gear, including nets, floats, and buoys) is also found.

Kip Hansen:

You may be confused by the language used, even if you are a native English speaker. The “large scale accumulation” is not “of floating debris across ocean basins” at all, though the report expressly makes that claim, while simultaneously clarifying that the non-existent (but ever so popular in advocacy propaganda) garbage patches “are mainly composed of microplastics that have broken apart from larger items”.

Just what are these dangerous microplastics? They are bits of plastic that are 4 to 120 micrometers in size … from one and a half ten-thousandths of an inch all the way up to five one-thousandths of an inch. To see microplastics, you generally need a microscope. …

Almost all of the created-crisis-creating plastic pollution in the oceans is so small that you cannot see it. This admission aligns well with my personal experience.

Until I retired five years ago, I had spent one half of my adult life living on the sea on boats and ships, both as a professional mariner and as Captain of my own vessels. I have a lot of sea miles under my belt. To actually see something floating on the surface of the sea is so very rare that it invariably calls for closer inspection at least by binoculars or at other times by a brief divergence from one’s intended course to “go have a look”. Failing to investigate an object large enough to be seen at any distance was considered negligent by the Captains I have served under and I have followed suit when I was the Captain.

The “garbage patch” is a fraudulent invention — a fantasy. 

Here is a view of the worst area of the pacific Garbage Patch …

All the famous photos of claimed to be of the Pacific garbage patch are really of harbors where storms have washed street trash into the bay. …

Plastics degrade, then are eaten by bacteria. Like oil spills. Plastics and oil are hydrocarbons, with lots of energy tied up in their chemical bonds. So they are quickly cleaned up by bacteria that feast on them for the energy they contain.

Oceanic plastic, where found, fragments into smaller and smaller pieces and then undergoes … biodegradation. …

Plastic are not forever as they wish you to believe, but are broken down into smaller and smaller pieces and then into simpler and simpler chemical compounds, they are literally eaten by microbes and itty-bitty living things in the sea. …

Under a certain size, the number of plastic bits — which should be increasing exponentially as larger bits break into many smaller bits — sharply drops to zero as size decreases. Like ice chips in a glass of water, as size decreases, the ratio between surface area and volume increases. The biota eating the plastic bit from the outside in eventually end up consuming the entire little bit.

The activists also lie by omission:

In every ocean basin, as particle size decreases through natural fragmentation, especially when the size drops below 0.5 mm, the number of findable plastic particles rapidly approaches zero. Plastic Waste Crisis advocates simply don’t mention this glaring scientific fact — it doesn’t contribute to their agenda. …

If you read the Academies report, you will discover that the whole crisis is based on the new and developing ability to detect such small bits of plastic – the amount of plastic entering the oceans used in the report are, even by the most lenient scientific standards, mere wild-ass guesses. These SWAGs are then used in over-confident computer models to create further alarming estimates of total number of microplastic bits and potential harms, despite very few documented cases of any real harm at all.

Real garbage:

Creatures can become entangled in floating masses of discarded fishing nets and the like, but not with microplastics. … While floating masses of discarded fishing nets and plastic ropes are a hazard to maritime shipping because they can become entangled in ship’s propellers — which I know from sad personal experience — they are also floating reefs and make wonderful habitat for innumerable sea creatures on the high seas. …

These masses of nets, ropes, traps, etc are usually discarded from commercial fishing vessels or lost overboard in storms etc. The action of wind and waves rolls them into these masses, just like the air currents in your house create dust bunnies.

I read an account of an environmentalist who went out to sea to collect net-tangles to “save the whatevers” — but when he finally found one and started to winch it aboard he realized that he would be killing sea life not saving it — so he set it back into the ocean and sailed on. …

There is no nation in the world that still disposes of collected municipal waste in the sea. Poor third world countries are responsible for almost all of the plastic waste problem — but due to lack of care and ability to control their waste.

It’s not a secret:

If you ever need to debunk the Garbage Patch for true believers, use this NOAA link:

The name “Pacific Garbage Patch” has led many to believe that this area is a large and continuous patch of easily visible marine debris items such as bottles and other litter — akin to a literal island of trash that should be visible with satellite or aerial photographs. This is not the case. While higher concentrations of litter items can be found in this area, much of the debris is actually small pieces of floating plastic that are not immediately evident to the naked eye.

Another myth: That 90% of floating plastic trash comes from a handful of rivers in Asia.

That 90% comes from a well-known study that didn’t clearly spell out where all ocean plastic comes from. The study is only for “River-borne” plastic. … While 90% of the river-borne plastic comes from those 10 rivers, the total river-borne plastic is a much smaller percent, anywhere from 5-30% (large uncertainty in the estimate) of all land-borne plastic (80% of all plastic) that eventually gets to sea. … Taking a mid-range of the estimates, that “90%” is probably in the 10-25% range of all ocean plastic origins.

[OC] Where every plastic ever made ended up from dataisbeautiful

Can we have our plastic bags back?