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Engineering Materials

Good News & Bad News About Ocean Plastics

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Elizabeth M
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Sobering stats
Elizabeth M   7/28/2014 7:30:16 AM
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Ann, thanks for the in-depth article about this incredibly worrisome problem. As a surfer and ocean lover, this is an issue that is near to my heart. The statistics are sobering but at least people are trying to do something about it. I just fear it's too late.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Sobering stats
Ann R. Thryft   7/28/2014 2:12:16 PM
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Liz, I think our views on this subject are very similar. Prevention would be the best solution, but that's a work in progress. Meanwhile, the cleanup efforts must get accelerated. We need a lot more than awareness campaigns to make a large-scale difference.



GTOlover
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Re: Sobering stats
GTOlover   7/28/2014 4:23:25 PM
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Prevention is something that a great many people in the plastics industry is really taking seriously. Primarily for resaons of economics. With a lot of bans and future legislation at all levels of government, it behoves the industry to get serious about the use and disposal of plastics. If they continue to ignore it, many could find that their product is banned and they go out of business.

Having worked in the plastics industry for many years, I always found it painful to see a lot of plastic (both in product and raw material) placed in the dumpster. It was cheaper for management to dispose of the plastic in this manner than to recycle or re-use. But what is even more painful to see, is a fence line or beach front full of plastic bags and bottles. This is not industry tossing this waste out, this is individuals carelessly tossing their garbage out the window.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Sobering stats
Ann R. Thryft   7/28/2014 4:39:48 PM
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Thanks for those thoughtful comments, GTOlover. You're certainly right about changing legislation and increased controls for makers of plastics and their products. What plastics makers are also beginning to realize is that they can recoup some costs by reusing and recycling their own, or others', materials.
Consumers treating the environment as a dumpsite is a different set of problems to solve. I just don't understand littering. I regularly pick up others' trash along the roadside in the forest area where I live and I resent every minute of it. Of course, the alternative is worse, but best would be if everyone was adult enough to pick up after themselves.

NadineJ
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Re: Sobering stats
NadineJ   7/28/2014 4:37:58 PM
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Very sobering and informative article.  Thank you.  Years I'd heard about a P2O (plastic to oil) company called JBI, Inc in Canada.  It seemed like a possible solution for our dependency on plastics and gasoline.  Converting post consumer plastic into fuel.  Wow!  I haven't heard much lately though.  I fear the technology hasn't met the expectations or needs.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Sobering stats
Ann R. Thryft   7/28/2014 4:42:57 PM
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Thanks, Nadine. I wrote about JBI a couple years ago, and have covered plastics-to-oil technology and trends from time to time. Try searching on that term, or on pyrolysis, in our site's search box.



Cabe Atwell
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Re: Sobering stats
Cabe Atwell   7/29/2014 2:15:51 AM
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This is only the garbage that floats... keep in mind!

We are the worst thing to happen to the planet. Only solution, leave the planet.

C

Pubudu
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Re: Sobering stats
Pubudu   7/29/2014 1:49:12 PM
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Very true cabe all these things are happen to the planet because of us,


Just think about the tooth brush that we are using, if it is weight 10g and half of the planet population (3.5b)are using those and changing that monthly ......... How many plastic that we all have add to the planet.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Sobering stats
Ann R. Thryft   7/30/2014 11:42:06 AM
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Pubudu, that's an especially good point about toothbrushes: I've been told by recycling experts that they are extremely difficult, basically impossible, to recycle because they contain several different types of plastic. Multiply that by the zillions of people using them, as you point out, and that's quite a problem.

William K.
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Unintended secondary consequences
William K.   7/29/2014 9:00:58 AM
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I am wondering about the effect of the proposed giant "Ocean Cleanup Array" and what unintended effects something that large may have on various aquatic life. It seems like it might produce an un-naturak Sargasso-sea type of mass, or possibly even form large floating islands.

My main point is that the concept shuld be studied by others who understand the marine life a lot better, prior to being built and turned loose. Just because it "seems like a good idea at this time" does not mean that there are no unknown effects.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Unintended secondary consequences
Ann R. Thryft   7/29/2014 11:39:51 AM
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William, the Ocean Cleanup Array does have its critics. The executive summary of the feasibility report addresses these issues, as does at least one page on that organization's website.
Once gathered, of course, the plastic debris would be periodically removed for recycling or for use in plastics-to-oil operations.



William K.
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Re: Unintended secondary consequences
William K.   7/29/2014 9:24:50 PM
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OK, Ann, but I was not challenging the feasability, but rather wondering just how far an analysis of secondary results had gone. Just think about all of those ideas, over the years, that "seemed like a good idea at the time", but later were found to have some unfortunate secondary effects. Like disposable bottles and some Freons and lead-free solders, to name three areas. Even DDT, which solved a bunch of serious problems, was later found to have some less desirable long-term issues. 

Of course, secondary and tertiary results are part of my business, so I am more aware of them than many folks.

bobjengr
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Platinum
OCEAN PLASTICS
bobjengr   7/29/2014 5:41:39 PM
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Ann, I have a good friend who just got back from a cruise in the Caribbean.  It was not his first but this time, but he noticed more than ever, debris floating on the ocean's surface.  He was amazed at the amount.  This prompted him to ask one member of the crew if debris was dumped at sea.  A resounding NO was given to that question. At least on this cruise line, the garbage is stored until the ship docks then hauled to an appropriate land fill.  I have no idea if this is common practice and all lines do it but I suspect not all.  I think it is time or time long overdue, that solutions be made to address this problem and it looks as though companies are slowly but surely moving in that direction.  I keep reading about significant drops in the number of fish available and what might be causing this problem.  Ocean debris was given as one big issue causing indirectly as one possibility.   

Trenth
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Silver
We can get energy and fuels from that waste...
Trenth   7/29/2014 7:45:03 PM
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We will always have "leakage", though it's tragic how we have abused the oceans.  All big ships should have trash collector scoops. The ships should have waste pyrolysis to fuels and energy system in them, they will save money, and dump fees.  They could probably sell the charcoal instead of paying to dump the wastes. Pyrolysis fuels are far cleaner than the bunker crude they use now. 


Sorry about the word wrap, it's a striaght cut and paste from open office of a .txt doc.


Ann R. Thryft
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Re: OCEAN PLASTICS
Ann R. Thryft   7/30/2014 11:50:10 AM
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bobjengr, most of the plastics dumped on land, or blown away from landfills by wind, or tossed into waterways, or flushed down the drain eventually make it out to the ocean via the world's rivers and streams. This action by plastics is one of the most visible demonstrations of how the planet's circulation system works. And imagine all the stuff we can't see, not just the non-floating plastic, as Cabe points out, but smaller particles, chemicals in solution...etc.

AnandY
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Gold
Plastic pollution
AnandY   7/30/2014 6:12:14 AM
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Plastic pollution is a serious threat which is continuously rising. I think we should have a large scale funding of water soluble plastics and other ecologically acceptable forms of plastics to ensure that the marine ecosystems aren?t affected. We know that the coral reefs recycle carbon dioxides and maintain the oceanic thermal average point to maintain the ocean conveyor belt. If this belt is damaged then we cannot prevent large scale destruction due to storms, floods, complete meltdown of polar icecaps and a new permanent winter over the northern hemisphere.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Plastic pollution
Ann R. Thryft   7/30/2014 11:54:55 AM
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AnandY, unfortunately water-soluble plastics won't solve the ocean plastics problem for at least two reasons: one, as mentioned in my reply to bobjengr, whatever goes into rivers and creeks and streams eventually ends up in the ocean, since that's the way the planet's water systems work, and two, plastics are a chemical pollutant that we don't need in our drinking water, or water for crops, or for wildlife, or well, anywhere.

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