Look beneath your lid some morning,
See those things you didn't quite consume
The world's a can for
Your fresh garbage . . .
I loved that song when I first heard it in 1968, on the compilation LP “The Rock Machine Turns You On” – Jay Ferguson’s distant, lost-sounding, disillusioned tenor voice, perfect for the teenager in turmoil.
It’s still relevant, and the biggest rubbish bin of all is the sea. A lot of this is plastic, not only on shores, where it represents 60% – 80% of all litter (Derraik, 2002) but in vast swirling oceanic garbage patches - and on the sea bed: in 1995 92% of debris on the floor of the Bay of Biscay was plastic. A more recent article by Greenpeace says 70% of plastic litter sinks, and there is an estimated 600,000 tons of it at the bottom of the North Sea.
The debris is unsightly, and can strangle or fill the stomachs of marine wildlife. It’s also toxic, so developing biodegradable versions doesn’t solve the problem – indeed, it could make it worse, since dissolved plastic is much harder to find and nearly impossible to remove.
James Higham posts a picture of a cleanup device still under development. It’s a giant static filter that the inventor, Boyan Slat, hopes will trap surface garbage but allow plankton to pass safely through; work continues. But even if it works perfectly, that still leaves the other, sunken 70% to deal with. Yet again, techno-fixes have limitations.
I can remember when we had shopping baskets and produce wasn’t shrink-wrapped. Will those days ever come again?
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Marine_garbage_patches. There are in fact more than three of them, as the articles go on to explain.
 Derraik, Table 1 (see note 4).
All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.