Plasticized

Posted by Ken Campbell June 14, 2010 0 Comment 801 views

I was thumbing through the paper the other day when I came across a story about plastic. More specifically, the story dealt with the tiny, virtually microscopic, pieces of plastic that are ubiquitous in the world’s oceans. Little specks of polymers, suspended in the water, that are eaten by fish, then by bigger fish and birds, and eventually move all the way up the food chain.

Plastic is the future, just like that old sot told Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. I’m sure he didn’t see all the problems associated with a future of this sort, but no one else gave them much heed either. Plastics are never going away, ever. There’s a helplessness that dominates the psyche in the face of such a quiet destruction.

All that plastic, every bit of it concocted from oil. The millions of tons of plastic detritus that line the worlds beaches and float in its waters are just a different kind of oil spill, less visible than the ongoing disaster in the Gulf, but just as deadly in every other way. The images aren’t as captivating and the march to ruin is far less obvious to the casual viewer, but the devastation is every bit as real.

The article I read had a picture of a researcher dipping a cheesecloth net into the Foss Waterway to examine the types and quantity of suspended particulates found there. As someone who paddles the Foss on a daily basis, I see debris on the beaches and in the water all the time, and I pick up what I can. But it turns out that the stuff we can see is only one aspect of the problem; the stuff we can’t see is even more deadly.

Personally, I’m not in favor of plastic recycling. I know it seems like a good idea but I don’t think it really is. All it does is delay the day when those polymers either enter a landfill or are tossed aside as litter. The way I see it, all that can be found should be collected, processed into hundred-pound blocks and stacked up in the desert somewhere (I’d pick Iran, or the wastelands of New Jersey). Remove the plastic that we have, don’t make any more, and gradually move to clean up the stuff that’s even smaller. We are changing the world, and that is not a good thing. We are all BP.

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