Plastic islands

Plastic islands

On the next planispheres we should probably add “new six islands”… of garbage. There are two in the Pacific, two in the Atlantic, one in the Indian Ocean and one in the Mediterranean Sea: they are called Trash Vortex. The largest whirlpool in the world is in the North Pacific, called the Pacific Trash Vortex and all are made of 90% plastic. The “discoverer” of the Pacific Trash Vortex, the oceanographer Charles Moore has once affirmed: «The plastic, like diamonds, is forever».

The plastic, in fact, does not biodegrade, but it photo-degrades, that is it breaks down into smaller and smaller particles, without ever completely destroying. The pollution from plastics into the sea, as well as being a potential threat to marine ecosystems, it can also represent a danger for anthropic activities. In particular, the plastic bags can get stuck in the mesh network, or end up in the propellers of boats: in British waters, only in 2008, the Coast Guard has rescued 266 ships that had had some failures to this type of  propellers.

The last annual report compiled by UNEP, the ONU agency for the Environment, said that the plastic in the oceans is one of the two greatest dangers that humanity will have to deal in the next years. According to UNEP, even if it is not possible to estimate exactly the quantity, there is no doubt that plastic represents the predominant product fraction of waste found in the sea: with a percentage varying between 60 and 80% of the total and points of 90-95% in some regions of the world.

The contamination of the marine environment by plastic debris knows no boundaries, on the other hand, it is a worldwide problem. Plastic residues have been found everywhere, from the polar regions to the equator. To get an idea of what the plastic is “mobile” think about the story of “friendly floatees”, the 28,800 plastic ducks (but also frogs, turtles and beavers), that in 1992 in order to a failure in the hold of ship carried them, ended up in the Pacific Ocean. Since then, the toys have gone well 17,000 miles, crossing the Atlantic ocean have come up in Britain passing through Alaska, Japan and Australia.

The mobility of plastic waste, then, contributes to a highly damaging phenomenon, namely the transport of “alien species” (non-native marine species) that use waste as a sort of “raft”. This event is considered, at a global level, the second threat cause for the biodiversity.The plastic trash in the sea can also be a direct threat to marine life due to the so-called “entanglement”, i.e. when the animals are entangled in bags, nets or other plastic waste and eventually die of starvation, suffocation or drowning. Elephant seals, dolphins, whales, manatees, according to UNEP and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency of 115 species of marine mammals, 49 are at risk for entrapment or ingestion of waste.

In connection with this data, it is clear that it is necessary to develop effective measures to protect the marine environment. A necessity that is legal obligation, to many. In fact, the agreement of the United Nations about the Sea Law signed in 1982 by more than 155 countries - better known as the Montego Bay Convention - expressly provides in the  art. 192 the duty of all contracting States to preserve and protect the marine environment.

The protection of the sea is a moral responsibility to future generations: the set of processes, described above, can significantly alter the marine environment, contradicting the concept of intergenerational equity is an integral part of the principle of sustainable development. Environmental responsibility is a main value for Globeco, that during all these years has collected 12 millions of m3 of plastic.