Monday 25th of May 2020

eating polymers of high molecular mass...



This collection of hundreds of coloured, jagged shards could be a work of abstract art. But the objects in the photograph to the right are the contents of the stomach of a sea turtle that lost its battle with plastic pollution.

Environmentalists examined the stomach of the juvenile turtle found off the coast of Argentina. The bellyful of debris that they found is symptomatic of the increasing threat to the sea turtles from a human addiction to plastic.

Sea turtles often mistake plastic items for jellyfish or other food. Ingesting non-biodegradable ocean pollution can cause a digestive blockage and internal lacerations. The result can be debilitation, followed by death.

Humans currently produce 260 million tons of plastic a year. When those products are pulled into the sea's currents, the plastics do not biodegrade but are broken into smaller pieces which are consumed by marine life at the bottom of the food chain. An examination of gastrointestinal obstruction in a green turtle found off Florida discovered that, over the course of a month, the animal's faeces had contained 74 foreign objects, including "four types of latex balloons, different types of hard plastic, a piece of carpet-like material and two 2-4mm tar balls."

The biggest rubbish "swill" is the North Pacific Gyre, known as the "great garbage patch", which is the size of Texas and contains an estimated 3.5 million items of detritus, ranging from toys to toothbrushes.

"The oceans have become one giant refuse bin for all manner of plastics. All sea turtle species are particularly prone and may be seriously harmed," according to the biologists Colette Wabnitz, from the University of British Columbia, and Wallace Nichols, of the California Academy of Sciences. In "Plastic Pollution: An Ocean Emergency", they write: "Continued research on the impacts of plastic on the ocean environment and human health is likely to conclude the problem is worse than currently understood.

don't eat the packaging as well...

Chemical Migration from Plastic Packaging into Contents

People are exposed to these chemicals not only during manufacturing, but also by using plastic packages, because some chemicals migrate from the plastic packaging to the foods they contain. Examples of plastics contaminating food have been reported with most plastic types, including Styrene from polystyrene, plasticizers from PVC, antioxidants from polyethylene, and Acetaldehyde from PET.

Among the factors controlling migration are the chemical structure of the migrants and the nature of the packaged food. In studies cited in Food Additives and Contaminants, LDPE, HDPE, and polypropylene bottles released measurable levels of BHT, Chimassorb 81, Irganox PS 800, Irganix 1076, and Irganox 1010 into their contents of vegetable oil and ethanol. Evidence was also found that acetaldehyde migrated out of PET and into water.


Find alternatives to plastic products whenever possible. Some specific suggestions:
* Buy food in glass or metal containers; avoid polycarbonate drinking bottles with Bisphenol A
* Avoid heating food in plastic containers, or storing fatty foods in plastic containers or plastic wrap.
* Do not give young children plastic teethers or toys
* Use natural fiber clothing, bedding and furniture
* Avoid all PVC and Styrene products

Buy food in glass or metal containers
Avoid heating food in plastic containers, or storing fatty foods in plastic containers or plastic wrap
Do not give young children plastic teethers or toys
Use natural fiber clothing, bedding and furniture
Avoid all PVC and Styrene products

turf war...

The MDA didn’t respond to a request for comment. But Vernon W. Cooper, president of the Maryland Turfgrass Council, disagreed with the study, saying that turf is “one of the best filters to prevent damage to the bay,” because it acts as a sponge that filters nutrients from rain runoff.

“A weak or thin lawn allows more sediment to be washed in the bay,” Cooper said.

The state agriculture department pledged last year to make nutrient management a high priority but collected only one fine, according to the study,

On its Web site, the Maryland Department of the Environment addressed lawn care in reports and a pollution checklist for homes, offices and cars.

“Try to purchase ‘low phosphorous’ or ‘no phosphorous’ fertilizers,” it says. “Any fertilizer that falls on your sidewalks or driveway should be swept back into the grass.”

As a result of nutrient pollution, “more than 80 percent of the bay and its . . . tributaries are either low-oxygen or no oxygen,” said the study, “Urban Fertilizers and the Chesapeake Bay.” Furthermore, the bay and its waters are “plagued with . . . harmful algae blooms,” causing seafood harvests that support commercial fisherman to plummet.

In a watershed in suburban Baltimore, researchers found that 56 percent of nutrients in one stream came from lawn fertilizer.

The Environmental Protection Agency initiated an effort this year to reduce the bay’s “pollution diet,” which addresses turf runoff. The plan has been criticized by conservatives in Congress, municipalities in Virginia, home builders and farm groups.

in the china shop...

Pretty Patterns That Camouflage a Poison


When Dr. Gerald F. O’Malley began work last summer in the department of emergency medicine at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, he took a walk around nearby Chinatown and noticed the variety of elaborately adorned pottery for sale.

From a previous posting in Colorado, he knew that colorful Mexican ceramics were a significant source of lead contamination. He wondered if the same held true with the pottery in Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

The answer, he and a group of researchers has found, is yes. While the ceramics’ sources are not yet known — and neither is the extent of their distribution — the contamination that Dr. O’Malley and his group found in the cooking and eating utensils appeared to be severe enough to cause health problems.

“What we’ve demonstrated is that there’s a problem in Philadelphia’s Chinatown,” Dr. O’Malley said. “We’ve conclusively shown that. If it’s happening in Philadelphia, it’s happening in other Chinatowns in other cities.”

To do the research, Dr. O’Malley, 48, enlisted four medical students and a colleague, Dr. Thomas J. Gilmore, a second-year resident at Jefferson, to buy pottery samples and test them. They wound up with a collection sold at 32 locations, with 87 pieces bought in Chinatown and 49 in nearby neighborhoods.

Using a screening device commonly used for paint, the researchers examined each piece for lead content. More than a quarter of the samples tested positive.

Then Dr. O’Malley’s team performed additional laboratory tests on 25 of the pieces to confirm the findings, establish the degree of contamination and determine if the lead is leachable — that is, if it could be ingested along with food. Three plates and two spoons were found to be leaching lead in quantities that far exceeded the limits set by the Food and Drug Administration. One of the plates leached lead at more than 145 parts per million. The agency’s limit is 2 parts per million.

Dr. O’Malley and his group have sent their data to the F.D.A., and Michael E. Kashtock, a consumer safety officer at the agency, confirmed that he had received the information.

“We collect our own samples and do our own testing,” Dr. Kashtock said. “We have to have complete confidence that the test results we have are fully defensible if any kind of administrative proceeding arises. We’re in the process of following up.”

fishing flotsam for cash...

"Ending this practice of throwing away edible fish is in the interest of fishermen, and consumers," Damanaki told the Guardian in an interview. "It has to happen – we cannot have consumers afraid to eat fish because they hate this problem of discards."

But she acknowledged: "People [in the fishing industry] feel insecure, because this is a change. That is why they need incentives."

Fishermen who clear plastic will be subsidised initially by EU member states, but in future the scheme could turn into a self-sustaining profitable enterprise, as fleets cash in on the increasing value of recycled plastics. Cleaning up the rubbish will also improve the prospects for fish, seabirds and other marine species, which frequently choke or suffer internal damage from ingesting small pieces of non-biodegradable packaging.

In a boost to Scottish fishermen, Damanaki also said she was seeking a legal instrument that would allow the EU to ban imports of fish products – such as fish oils and fish meal – from countries that did not meet high sustainability standards. This would help to level the playing field, she said, between EU and non-EU fleets. It would also deprive Iceland of a significant export market, and cheer Scottish fleets who have complained that Icelandic fishermen have too high a quota of mackerel, putting huge pressure on the shared stock.

killed by human rubbish...

Researchers say they were shocked to find about a third of dead turtles they looked at were killed by marine rubbish.

Scientists from the University of Queensland surveyed turtles washed up in the eastern areas of Brisbane's Moreton Bay over a period of four years.

They found that 36 per cent of turtles were killed after eating soft plastics such as plastic bags and cling wrap.

Lead researcher Dr Kathy Townsend says that is much higher than previously thought.

"Back when I was starting this, it was looking like only 2 per cent of the animals were being impacted," she said.

"I instinctively felt it was a little bit higher than that, but when we finally crunched the numbers and found it was as high as 30 per cent, that was quite a shock."

dead seas...

Scientists are warning of a potential marine massacre with a mass extinction of sea life akin to the death of the dinosaurs.

A new report says the seas are battling pollutants, overfishing and warming, and warns that without swift action the fight to save species could be lost.

The International Program on the State of the Oceans report brought together coral reef ecologists, toxicologists and fisheries scientists.

And when they compared notes, the result was grim.

Co-author Professor Ove Hoegh Guldberg, who specialises in reef ecosystems, says scientists found "unprecedented warming".

"We're seeing acidification in the ocean and now we're starting to see a drop in oxygen concentration throughout the major part of the ocean," he said.

plastic food...

A green sea turtle has been found dead on a New South Wales beach with more than 300 pieces of plastic in its digestive system.

The turtle was found washed up at Ballina, in the state's north, earlier this month.

Australian Seabird Rescue spokeswoman Rochelle Ferris says it is the most shocking case she has seen in 15 years.

She says there is no doubt the plastic killed the animal.

"We see 40 or 50 sea turtles each year that are suffering from plastic ingestion," Ms Ferris said.

"This is definitely an extreme of that, but we're only looking at 250 kilometres of coastline.

"There's a million turtles out there on the Barrier Reef of this species and I have no doubt there are more out there in this condition.

"The governments must take charge of stormwater drainage that goes into our rivers and waterways, which is just feeding a constant stream of this garbage into our marine environment.

pesticide for breakfast...

The Queensland and Federal Government's first report card on water quality in the Great Barrier Reef has found pesticides used in agriculture are causing significant problems for the reef.

The report says some farmers need to be more careful with their chemicals, finding that nearly one-quarter of horticulture producers and 12 per cent of graziers are using practices considered unacceptable by industry and the community.

In the case of the sugar cane industry, roughly one-third face the same criticism.

Nick Heath from the World Wildlife Fund Australia says the sugar cane industry in the wet tropics had a 72 per cent rate of "unacceptable practice".

Mr Heath says the report shows government needs to further limit the use of chemicals, and he has called for a ban on the weedkiller Diuron.

"Pesticides have been found at toxic concentrations up to 60 kilometres inside the World Heritage area and at concentrations known to harm coral," he said.

"And you may be aware that there's a big die-off in turtle and dugong numbers at the moment as a result of the floods. Those floods are carrying these pollutants and they're basically destroying the sea-grass beds of Queensland."

But the sugar cane industry's peak body, Canegrowers, says the data reflects practices of a few years ago, and says there has been significant change since then.

outliving its usefulness...

In our throw away world a plastic bag outlives its usefulness after around fifteen minutes. A plastic bottle might last a little longer, party balloons a whole occasion. But the ocean likes to hang onto these discarded treasures for decades, even centuries giving many other consumers a taste for plastic.

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
Open it up and have a quick look.

This is a dead flesh footed shearwater. What you're about to see may make you feel sick to the stomach. But if you care about your own health and you like the odd bit of seafood this is essential viewing.

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
Oh look at that.

Anja Taylor
Oh my God!

Bloody hell! Oh you're kidding.

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
I am not.

A hundred and seventy-five pieces of plastic, including bottle tops, balloon ties and a doll's arm.

Anja Taylor
These are all of the pieces of plastic taken from that bird's stomach three days ago. It represents about five to eight percent of the bird's body weight. That's the equivalent of me carrying around three to five kilograms of plastic in my stomach.

What makes this even more disturbing is where it's occurring, the beautiful and seemingly pristine Lord Howe Island. Sadly deaths like these are nothing new to local biologist, Ian Hutton.

Anja Taylor
So you have been documenting this for quite a while?

Ian Hutton
Yeah back about the year 2000 I started to notice there's little bits of plastic on the forest floor here and began searching and then I started to find skeletons of birds, chicks, look here's one over here in the forest. So this is the sort of thing that we do find here in ...

Anja Taylor
Oh my goodness.

Ian Hutton
... in May and June after the chicks have been either fledged or perished like this one. So that's a chick, we can see the down on it, so it is a chick.

Anja Taylor
So these are all of the bits of plastic that it's swallowed?

Ian Hutton
That's right.

Anja Taylor
Is this something that you find often?

Ian Hutton
Well walking through the forest I find carcass after carcass just like this.

These plastic delicacies are fed to shearwater chicks by their parents who mistake floating rubbish for fish.

Ian Hutton 
We have this year flushed the stomachs of about fifty chicks and each one of those did have some plastic, some large amounts.

Many chicks don't make it to adulthood. It's hardly a surprise that the local shearwaters are in rapid population decline. But this is not a story about a bird species in trouble, nor is it the story of some littering Lord Howe locals. What we're seeing here is a world problem so severe it's hard to fathom. 

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
Our fishing nets are no longer made from hemp and from natural fibres. I mean we drive in plastic, we talk on plastic, we sit on plastic chairs. We, we package our food in it, you can go on an airplane now and there might be fifteen or twenty pieces of plastic just to get you from point A to point B.

It's estimated three point five million pieces of new plastic enter the world's oceans daily. Carried on global currents they accumulate in huge circulating gyres causing countless injuries to marine life along the way.

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
It's a global issue. We're finding plastics in seabirds all around Australia. It's happening on our own shores and with our own breeding populations around here as well. Where's it coming from, what's the overall impact on wildlife, where's it going to? Understanding the sources and sinks of that marine debris is a really big question still. 

Denise is spear heading a nationwide study to tackle these questions. It's the first time marine debris has been assessed on such a huge scale.

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
Yep that's perfect. So we're going to just walk up either side of the transect, we're going to look out either side about a metre from us, okay?

Anja Taylor

On this deserted island beach plastic can be found within seconds.

Anja Taylor
There's a bit. There's a big bit.

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
There's a big bit here. So I'm going to pick that piece up and I'm going to actually look at it on my size chart and I'm going to record how big that piece is there.

Anja Taylor
What is that?

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
Oh that actually looks to me like the top of a, of a big jerry can.

Anja Taylor
Just big enough to fit around a bird's neck?

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
Ah that's certainly correct.

The debris we're finding here is well travelled, sometimes covered in foreign species. Stowaways like these tiny barnacles may survive for thousands of kilometres and cause devastation to native species when they arrive.

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
So as we go out on these beaches and we pick up rubbish on our shores, we say okay, 'This is the debris that's come here. We can then use oceanographic models that tell us, you know, what are the winds, what are the currents? These bits of garbage that ended up here where did they most likely come from?

There's thirty-five thousand kilometres of Australian coastline to cover. To fill in information gaps CSIRO is joining forces with Earth Watch and training up volunteers. 

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
We're working with school groups, teachers, citizen scientists around the country, because we simply can't get all the information at every little beach along the way.I really think that by teaching kids that's where we're going to start to see that change.

So far the survey is more than three quarters of the way around the continent. Lord Howe Island is just one stop on the map.

Anja Taylor
It's an important survey point due to its location and its numerous species of nesting seabirds. This one's the Providence Petrel. And he's very friendly.

Over two hundred and seventy species worldwide are known to be affected by marine debris, including nearly half of all seabird species.

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
Well our ultimate goal is to get a priority list to understand which of the species are more and less threatened by marine debris. And to do that we need to know you know where those birds are foraging for example. Where those turtles are foraging or how they feed, or the size of the birds and those sorts of things.

Like many people I've been aware for some time that plastic is not great for marine life. But it wasn't until I looked closely at the tide line of Ned's Beach that the penny really dropped.

Anja Taylor
There's lot of little tiny bits.

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
This is getting into what they, what they call micro plastics right. And if you look here I bet we've got fifty or a hundred bits just in this little bit. So you can see where the waterline would have come up. Here's little bits ...

Plastics don't biodegrade but over many years in the sun and elements they break down into smaller and smaller pieces until they're so small they're hard to see.

Anja Taylor
Look on any beach in the tide line and you're likely to find hundreds of these tiny little pieces of plastic. It starts to give you an inkling of just how much must be out there. But the real problem with these harmless looking pieces is they can be ingested by animals right down at the bottom of the food chain. As far down as plankton, and that's where plastics come back to meet their maker.

Zoologist Doctor Dr Jennifer Lavers has spent the past five seasons working on the Lord Howe shearwater problem and has found the severe effects of micro plastics are happening at a molecular level.

Dr Jennifer Lavers 
They have what I call the invisible toxic effect. It, it's less easy to detect but equally as scary.
The plastic itself inherently contains a wide array of chemicals that are used during the manufacturing and processes. When the plastic is put out into the marine environment and it floats around in the ocean for let's say ten or forty years it really does last forever, it basically acts like a little magnet or a sponge and it takes all the contaminates that are out there in the ocean environment that are really diluted in the ocean water and it concentrates it up, onto the surface. 
Plastic itself has up to a thousand times a higher concentration of containments on its surface than the surrounding seawater from which it came. And when the animal, whether it's a turtle or a seabird takes that into their body those contaminants leach out into the blood stream and is incorporated into the tissues.

Jennifer Lavers collects and weighs plastic from dead birds and sends the feathers off for lab analysis. They reveal what contaminants are in the body.

Dr Jennifer Lavers 
The flesh footed shearwater on Lord Howe Island is officially the world's most heavily contaminated seabird just from mercury alone. So the toxic threshold that's widely regarded around the world for birds is four point three parts per million. Anything above that four point three PPM is considered toxic to the birds. Well flesh footed shearwaters on Lord Howe Island are between one thousand and three thousand parts per million.

Asides from death, mercury can cause a wide array of effects from neurological damage to infertility. And mercury is just one of the many toxic contaminates found in and on plastic debris.

Dr Jennifer Lavers 
There is now a huge range of studies that are coming out almost every month that are showing marine species at the absolute base of the food chain are ingesting these plastics and these contaminates.
Anything really that comes out of the ocean you cannot certify that as organic any longer.

Its estimated fish in the North Pacific now consume up to twenty-four thousand tonnes of plastic a year.
As one predator eats another contaminates biomagnify. This means the most vulnerable animal to the effects of toxic plastic contamination is the one at the very top of the food chain, us.

Dr Jennifer Lavers 
If you eat seafood in any fashion whatsoever the plastic pollution and corresponding contaminate problem has relevance to you.

Results from the marine debris study are yet to be analysed but major sources of debris are apparent.

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
We do know from the rubbish that we find in the modelling that we're doing that are major population centres, that rubbish on those beaches is local. We're also seeing that say areas like Perth and WA that a lot of our rubbish is actually blowing offshore, which means that we may be delivering that to other places much further afield. If I can say, hey we know that where we've got those covers over the river mouth like we do in some of the major cities, we know that that really helps stop the rubbish from getting out there, then we can start to make management decisions at really relevant scales.

Anja Taylor
So does anybody get a gold star? Is anyone doing it right?

Dr Britta Denise Hardesty
Observationally we do not find full plastic bottles or cans or glass bottles in, in South Australia and I would likely attribute that to the, to the container deposit scheme that they have there. The waste that's associated with the beverage industry comprises about a third and some estimates are as high as a half of the marine debris that we find globally. So that's bottles and cans and straws and disposal coffee cups, bring your to go cup with you.

Dr Jennifer Lavers 
A lot of the solutions to the plastic problem are really simple and we can each and every one person can make a change and that it's not just governments that need to come in and enact sweeping changes. 

With each one of us contributing around sixty-seven kilograms of plastic waste a year, avoiding single use plastics can make an enormous difference to the environment and ultimately are own wellbeing.

Dr Jennifer Lavers 
Whether or not you interact with the ocean on a daily basis or you've been fortunate enough to see an albatross come into your life, you really need to kind of think twice about where your food is coming from and what role you and your surrounding community have played in the plastic pollution contaminate problem.


see image and story at top...

sick puppy?...

A seal that stopped traffic on a busy Melbourne road this morning has been taken to the zoo after it ventured back onto the road.

Beachgoers encountered a rather unusual sight just after 8:00am as the seal tried to cross Beaconsfield Parade in Middle Park.

The road was partly cordoned off by police as they assisted a Wildlife Victoria rescuer to shepherd the seal back into Port Phillip Bay, but it returned about two hours later.

Volunteer rescuer Amy Amato says seals occasionally come out of the water to sunbake, but this was a different case.

"We received a call at the Wildlife Victoria emergency phone service about a seal on the road, which was a little bit concerning," she said.

"So as a volunteer, I quickly ran out and got down there as quick as I could and sure enough, it was crossing Beaconsfield Parade and ready to go into one of the houses there."

Ms Amato says the seal's apparent aversion to water is concerning.

"The seal has come back onto Beaconsfield Parade, which causes even more alarm because he doesn't want to be in the water so that's a real problem," she said.

pollution of the southern ocean...


The first traces of plastic debris have been found in what was thought to be the pristine environment of the Southern Ocean, according to a study released in London by the French scientific research vessel Tara.

The finding comes following a two-and-a-half-year, 70,000-mile voyage by the schooner across the Atlantic, Pacific, Antarctic and Indian Oceans, to investigate marine ecosystems and biodiversity under climate change.

"We had always assumed that this was a pristine environment, very little touched by human beings," said Chris Bowler, scientific co-ordinator of Tara Oceans. "The fact that we found these plastics is a sign that the reach of human beings is truly planetary in scale."

Samples taken from four different stations at locations in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica revealed traces of plastic at a measure of approximately 50,000 fragments per square kilometre — a rate comparable to the global average. While traces of plastic pollutants are customary in many of the world's oceans, with the highest levels found in the North Atlantic and North Sea, researchers had anticipated rates in the Southern Ocean to be some 10 times lower than the global average.

"Discovering plastic at these very high levels was completely unexpected because the Southern Ocean is relatively separated from the world's other oceans and does not normally mix with them," Bowler explained before unveiling Tara's findings at an event at the Science Museum in London on Wednesday. The microscopic fragments, invisible until accumulated in trawling nets, are the result of waste products such as plastic bags and bottles, degraded over years or decades by UV light and sea water. Tara researchers, whose work was recently hailed by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, were also surprised to find that synthetic fibres, largely constituted by clothing from washing-machine residue, made up a significant portion of the plastic fragments.

Identifying the regional source of such general waste, which has made its way to the Southern Ocean over some half a century, remains more problematic. However, it is believed to originate from Africa, South America or Australia.

The fatal impact of plastic pollutants on the marine environment has been widely observed, as birds and fish regularly consume waste products, which can be easily mistaken for jellyfish or other prey but cannot be degraded in the stomach. Plastics also slowly release toxins and other chemical substances that work their way up the marine food chain.


see story at top...


sick sea birds...

Pollution may ‘wipe out’ a generation of seabirds




Wednesday, 17 April 2013

An entire generation of seabirds could be wiped out on a section of the British coastline after hundreds were found dead last week, wildlife authorities have warned.

More than 700 guillemots, razorbills and puffins have been washed up in Devon and Cornwall in the last fortnight covered in a clear sticky substance thought to be polyisobutene (PIB).

Wildlife agencies in the two counties said the number of birds killed or rendered helpless could now reach thousands and warned that a “whole generation of seabirds” may have been wiped out by a single pollution incident.

PIB is an oil additive often used to improve the performance of lubricating oil and is considered a hazard to the marine environment. But it is legal to discharge it in certain quantities directly into the sea.

The Cornwall Wildlife Trust renewed calls for PIB discharges to be outlawed by the International Maritime Organisation. It said “urgent action” was required to prevent “further death and destruction” in the South West.

“It has been a terribly sad time for everyone seeing these beautiful birds washing up dead in horrific numbers along our coastline,” said Abby Crosby, a marine conservation officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said it had been unable to trace the source of the spill, although it appears to be the same as that which affected more than 300 birds along a 200-mile stretch of coastline in January and February.



I have not been able to find major references for polyisobutene, but there are plenty for polyisobutylene. See also:



a sponge for other nasties...

The waters around Australia are riddled with more than 4,000 tiny pieces of plastic per square kilometre, posing a threat to marine life and humans, new research has found.

The study, conducted by the University of Western Australia and CSIRO, found the vast majority of plastic particles were polyethylene and polypropylene, used to create disposable packaging, such as water bottles, and fishing equipment.

Researchers took seven voyages along Australia’s coastline, finding plastic concentrations were heaviest near Sydney and Brisbane, although the remote region of south-west Tasmania was also inundated with plastic, potentially swept in by the Antarctic current.

Overall, Australia is judged to have a plastic contamination level similar to the Caribbean Sea, but lower than the Mediterranean Sea. Australia, the research notes, uses nearly 1.5m tonnes of plastic a year, with only 20% of it recycled.

The study warns that plastics, if ingested by fish, “can affect the health of food webs, which include humans as an apex predator”.

Julia Reisser, lead author of the report, told Guardian Australia she was surprised to see such large quantities of plastics in Australian waters.

“Since the 1970s, we’ve been aware of the issue of plastic pollution when it comes to large vertebrae animals such as turtles and seabirds, but these particles are also affecting the little fish and plankton,” she said.

“We know that plastic is ingested by a broad range of organisms. What concerns me most is that these plastics are loaded with pollutants, such as fertilisers, because the plastic acts as a sponge for other things.

the northern-pacific vortex of crap...


Researchers are about to head to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to spend a month analysing the huge build-up of rubbish that's polluting the ocean.

The patch, also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex, was discovered in 1988 by Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Institute in California.

Since then, the patch has grown in size and is estimated to be at least 700,000 square kilometres.

"We're dealing with more than just a little bit of rubbish out there in a few places in the ocean," Captain Moore told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat.

The patch is located in the North Pacific Ocean and is made up of huge concentrations of plastic waste and sludge.

"We are trying to tell people what's going on."

"I think it's killing more animals now than climate change."

Captain Charles Moore

Captain Moore says marine life is feeding on the garbage patch, effectively putting organisms of the ocean on a plastic diet.

"35 per cent of the fish that we caught out there had an average of two pieces of plastic in their stomach," he said.

"We're dealing with a new phenomenon. Really, a new habitat that is unknown in the history of the planet."

Computer modelling also suggested debris washed out to sea from the 2011 tsunami also drifted towards the vortex.

"This is sort of humanity's footstep in the ocean. We do want to make humanity aware that they are having a plastic footprint on the planet,"

Captain Moore and his team will head to the ocean garbage patch in early July.

read more:



Gus note: Climate change may kill less animals than the "vortex of crap"... But climate change certainly contributes to the extinction of more species than the "vortex"... See story at top.

to plastic or not to plastic?

A new study has ranked the top 20 plastic polluters and found that most of the plastic entering into the ocean comes from China.

Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste is washed into the ocean each year, according to the research published today in the journal Science.

The study found the highest contributor to plastic marine debris was China, at 1.32 to 3.52 million tonnes a year.

"That's a function of the mix of population size and the level of development in the country," says ecologist Dr Chris Wilcox, from CSIRO.

Indonesia was in second place, followed by Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

Australia - which didn't make it onto the list of the top 20 worst polluters - contributed less than 0.01 million tonnes to ocean plastic pollution in 2010, says Wilcox.

"We don't have a very large population and we have well developed waste disposal systems."

Having said that, Wilcox and colleagues found Australian litterbugs are responsible for 13,888 tonnes of plastic per year getting into the ocean.

read more:

as time goes by, trying to stop it with a barrier ...

It was in the 1950s that Scientists and technologists were seriously thinking of building a gigantic barrier between Greenland and Iceland to stop the advancement of ice and iceberg "as a new ice age was coming". Of course they have not read Arrhenius's predictions which though he was cool about the prospect of it being correct, there were still a few problem with his assessment :


"To a certain extent the temperature of the earth's surface, as we shall presently see, is conditioned by the properties of the atmosphere surrounding it, and particularly by the permeability of the latter for the rays of heat." (p46)
"That the atmospheric envelopes limit the heat losses from the planets had been suggested about 1800 by the great French physicist Fourier. His ideas were further developed afterwards by Pouillet and Tyndall. Their theory has been styled the hot-house theory, because they thought that the atmosphere acted after the manner of the glass panes of hot-houses." (p51)
"If the quantity of carbonic acid [CO2] in the air should sink to one-half its present percentage, the temperature would fall by about 4°; a diminution to one-quarter would reduce the temperature by 8°. On the other hand, any doubling of the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air would raise the temperature of the earth's surface by 4°; and if the carbon dioxide were increased fourfold, the temperature would rise by 8°." (p53)
"Although the sea, by absorbing carbonic acid, acts as a regulator of huge capacity, which takes up about five-sixths of the produced carbonic acid, we yet recognize that the slight percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere may by the advances of industry be changed to a noticeable degree in the course of a few centuries." (p54)
"Since, now, warm ages have alternated with glacial periods, even after man appeared on the earth, we have to ask ourselves: Is it probable that we shall in the coming geological ages be visited by a new ice period that will drive us from our temperate countries into the hotter climates of Africa? There does not appear to be much ground for such an apprehension. The enormous combustion of coal by our industrial establishments suffices to increase the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air to a perceptible degree." (p61)
"We often hear lamentations that the coal stored up in the earth is wasted by the present generation without any thought of the future, and we are terrified by the awful destruction of life and property which has followed the volcanic eruptions of our days. We may find a kind of consolation in the consideration that here, as in every other case, there is good mixed with the evil. By the influence of the increasing percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates, especially as regards the colder regions of the earth, ages when the earth will bring forth much more abundant crops than at present, for the benefit of rapidly propagating mankind." (p63)

Gus: Of course we know by know that just a few decimal point of a degree extra can actually increase the power of storms and other nasties like the rise of sea level... This is why the IPCC is trying hard to limit the damage at a rise of 2 degrees C by 2100. But this is a tall order, because anyone in the know knows that the rise won't stop by 2100... So we are in deep shit. But this is not about the cold and hot vortexes that will ebb and flow on the surface of continents but about the vortex of plastic pieces gathering in a space larger than Texas in the middle of the north Pacific:

Scientists and volunteers who have spent the last month gathering data on how much plastic garbage is floating in the Pacific Ocean returned to San Francisco on Sunday and said most of the trash they found is in medium to large-sized pieces, as opposed to tiny ones.

Volunteer crews on 30 boats have been measuring the size and mapping the location of tons of plastic waste floating between the west coast and Hawaii that according to some estimates covers an area twice the size of Texas.

“It was a good illustration of why it is such an urgent thing to clean up, because if we don’t clean it up soon, then we’ll give the big plastic time to break into smaller and smaller pieces,” said Boyan Slat, who has developed a technology he says could start removing the garbage by 2020.

A 171ft mother ship carrying fishing nets, buckets, buoys and bottles, among other items, and two sailing boats with volunteers who helped collect the garbage samples arrived at San Francisco’s Piers 30-32. The boats went on a 30-day voyage as part of the “Mega Expedition”, a major step in an effort to clean up what is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The expedition was sponsored by the Ocean Cleanup, an organisation founded by Slat, a 21-year-old innovator from the Netherlands.

Slat said the group would publish a report of its findings by mid-2016 and after that hoped to test out a one-mile barrier to collect garbage near Japan. The ultimate goal is the construction of a 60 mile (96.5km) barrier in the middle of the Pacific.

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stopping the microbeads...

Just before Christmas, Congress passed a law banning microbeads—those tiny pieces of plastic that act as exfoliants in face washes, toothpastes, and other personal-care products.

Researchers have found that the beads are too small to be caught by water treatment plants, so they end up in waterways. There, they act as sponges for toxins—such as pesticides, heavy metals, and phthalates—and are frequently mistaken by fish for food. Roughly 300 million tons of the plastics per year end up in US waterways.

The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which requires companies to stop using plastic microbeads by June of 2017, was introduced to the House in March. The House passed the bill in December, and the Senate passed it a week later with unanimous consent.

The law comes after several states had passed bans on the beads; in response to consumer pressure, large personal-care companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble had already announced initiatives to phase out the microbeads.

But several popular consumer products still contain the plastics, and these brands have some reworking to do before summer of 2017. Here are some big-name products that contain plastic microbeads—and some that don't.

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rubbish in the footsteps of robinson crusoe...


One of the world’s most remote places, an uninhabited coral atoll, is also one of its most polluted.

Henderson Island, a tiny landmass in the eastern South Pacific, has been found by marine scientists to have the highest density of anthropogenic debris recorded anywhere in the world, with 99.8% of the pollution plastic.

The nearly 18 tonnes of plastic piling up on an island that is otherwise mostly untouched by humans have been pointed to as evidence of the catastrophic, “grotesque” extent of marine plastic pollution.


Nearly 38m pieces of plastic were estimated to be on Henderson by researchers from the University of Tasmania and the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, weighing a combined 17.6 tonnes.

The majority of the debris – approximately 68% – was not even visible, with as many as 4,500 items per square metre buried to a depth of 10cm. About 13,000 new items were washing up daily.

Jennifer Lavers, of the University of Tasmania’s institute for marine and antarctic studies, told the Guardian the sheer volume of plastic pollution on Henderson had defied her expectations.

“I’ve travelled to some of the most far-flung islands in the world and regardless of where I’ve gone, in what year, and in what area of the ocean, the story is generally the same: the beaches are littered with evidence of human activity ...

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human rubbish kills...

The Scottish Marine Animal Strandings Scheme said researchers performed an autopsy on the young whale at the weekend after it stranded itself and died on a beach on the island of Harris in the Western Isles last week.

In a post to their Facebook page, the researchers described the "huge ball" of netting, rope, plastic cups, bags, gloves, packing straps and plastic tubing inside the sperm whale's stomach as "shameful" and "horrific".

They said although it was plausible the amount of debris inside the whale played a role in its live stranding, they did not find evidence the waste had obstructed the whale's intestines.

"This amount of plastic in the stomach is nonetheless horrific, must have compromised digestion, and serves to demonstrate, yet again, the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life," the post reads.


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