the trash vortex

The Life Cycle of a Plastic Bottle

We’ve all been told that we should recycle plastic bottles and containers. But what actually happens to the plastic if we just throw it away? Here are the life cycles of three different plastic bottles.

Bottle One, like hundreds of millions of tons of its plastic brethren, ends up in a landfill. This huge dump expands each day, as more trash moves in and continues to take up space. 

As plastics sit there being compressed, rainwater flows through the waste and absorbs the water soluble compounds it contains, and some of those are highly toxic. Together they create a harmful stew called “leachate”, which can move into groundwater, soil, and streams, poisoning ecosystems and harming wildlife. It can take Bottle One an agonizing 1,000 years to decompose.

Bottle Two floats on a trickle that reaches a stream, a stream that flows into a river, and a river that reaches the ocean. After months lost at sea, it’s slowly drawn into a massive vortex, where trash accumulates - place known as “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” This is one of five plastic filled gyres in the worlds seas. 

Some animals mistake the brightly colored plastic bits for food. Plastic makes them feel full when they’re not, so they starve to death, passing the toxins from the plastic up the food chain, eventually to us.

Bottle Three, on the other hand, is recycled. It’s taken away on a truck to a plant, where it and its companions are squeezed flat and compressed into a block. The blocks are shredded into tiny pieces, which are washed and melted, so they become the raw materials that can be used again. Bottle Three is ready to be reborn, as something new.

So, what can you do? First - reduce your use of plastic altogether! And when you do find yourself needing to buy a bottle, don’t forget to recycle it. You’ll be doing Planet Earth a great, big favor.

From the TED-Ed Lesson What really happens to the plastic you throw away - Emma Bryce

Animation by Sharon Colman Graham

So I heard this meme waS A THING

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Sea Soup: Mandy Barker’s Photo Collages of Ocean Trash

Scientists have informally dubbed the discarded human waste accumulating in our oceans with a number of names: “soup,” “trash vortex,” and most nobly, the “Great Pacific garbage patch.” The last term makes particular reference to the exceptionally high relative concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre, one of the five major oceanic gyres on the planet. Gyres, large systems of rotating ocean currents, are the largest ecosystems in the world and, more recently, ground zero for massive accretions of plastic trash. In researching this phenomenon, UK photographer Mandy Barker developed a series of images entitled ‘Soup’ which depicts these plastics and discarded items salvaged from beaches around the world. Presented in beautifully precise, color-coded arrangements, the collected objects appear as a taxonomy of unique species in a toxic “ecosystem.” The images also underscore the longevity of even the tiniest pieces of trash: though haphazardly discarded and forgotten, they form an ever-growing environmental issue. Barker’s project, by bringing a seemingly remote subject into clear view, compels us to address this elephant in the room.

Guess How Much Plastic There Is In the Ocean

Imagine a Venn diagram composed on one side of plastic and on the other, the ocean. In the middle, then, would undoubtedly be the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (or the Pacific trash vortex, depending on where you’re from)––that vast edifice of human material waste that swirls in the North Pacific Ocean and can be seen from space.

Bottled Water PSA

Unless you are a disaster relief victim or your tap water is unsafe because of nearby fracking, there is no excuse for pre-bottled water! The recent massive use of water bottles is a HUGE contributor to global ocean pollution–there are literally beaches with plastic sand and a Texas-sized trash vortex in the Pacific Ocean.

Get a reusable water bottle and fill it up at taps and fountains. If you MUST use bottled water:

A) do Not buy Nestle. they’re evil. google it.

B) keep your plastic and take it to the nearest recycling facility. if you throw it away with your garbage, it will end up in the ocean.

Please, save money and save the oceans. Don’t buy bottled water.