Plastic Soup

Seen something interesting in the news or on the intertubes? Discuss it here.

Moderators: Zamfir, Hawknc, Moderators General, Prelates

User avatar
Felstaff
Occam's Taser
Posts: 5181
Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2008 7:10 pm UTC
Location: ¢ ₪ ¿ ¶ § ∴ ® © ™ ؟ ¡ ‽ æ Þ ° ₰ ₤ ಡಢ

Plastic Soup

Postby Felstaff » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:01 am UTC

Environmental Tree-huggery Follows.

So, I've been following the adventures of the Plastiki for a while; a boat made from 12,000 plastic bottles which is sailing across the Pacific, raising awareness about the Texas-sized island of floating plastic goo. In a nutshell, the island is a large congloberation of waste plastic, increasing by 40 tonnes per week, that gets carried by currents and swirled in the centre of its respective ocean. (The Pacific one is the largest). Typically, a discarded plastic bottle takes six years to float there from California, and one year from Japan. What happens is; the plastic is degraded by the sun, and breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, creating a kind of goo that just sorta sits there, below the waterline. This goo is several hundred thousand miles squared. The breakdown occurs all the way down to the molecular level. The fish consume this plastic soup, and it enters the food chain. Bigger fish eat those fish and we eat the bigger fish and over time, you may end up with more plastic in your body than Reed Richards.

Anywho, this is all common knowledge, and there's lots of concern already, but I found a good article on it, via the Plastiki blog, nonetheless. And I thought I'd share the love. Some interesting quotes:
Except for a small amount that's been incinerated--and it's a very small amount--every piece of plastic made still exists
[Plastic soup] covers 40% of the world's oceans
We throw away 185 lbs of plastic each year.


Stuff from Project Kaisei is also rather interesting.

Image
Frank's weight loss tactics were rather extreme
Away, you scullion! you rampallion! You fustilarian! I'll tickle your catastrophe.

MrGee
Posts: 998
Joined: Sat Jun 14, 2008 9:33 pm UTC

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby MrGee » Wed Jul 14, 2010 2:27 pm UTC

Meh...I think we can do better. Let me know when it's thick enough to walk on.

User avatar
(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
As the Arbiter of Everything, Everything Sucks
Posts: 8314
Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 6:17 pm UTC
Location: I FUCKING MOVED TO THE WOODS

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ » Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:41 pm UTC

I have decided that as of Sept. 1, 2010 (the day I move in with fewer roommates) I will challenge myself to produce as little waste as humanly possible.
Things like this are so horribly depressing.
Heyyy baby wanna kill all humans?

User avatar
Mighty Jalapeno
Inne Juste 7 Dayes I Wille Make You A Hero!
Posts: 11265
Joined: Mon May 07, 2007 9:16 pm UTC
Location: Prince George In A Can
Contact:

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Mighty Jalapeno » Wed Jul 14, 2010 4:43 pm UTC

This is one of the things that has prompted us to cut back on our trash. We're a modern family of 5, and we're down to one-half of our little curbside garbage bin worth of garbage every week. Our 75% larger Recycling bin is crammed full (sometimes with some waiting in the wings for NEXT week) and we have two very robust compost piles going in the back yard.

I know this makes no difference on a global scale, but it eases my abashed horror ever so slightly

Kyrn
Posts: 937
Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2009 3:55 pm UTC
Location: The Internet

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Kyrn » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:42 am UTC

Just a question: sooner or later the plastic would degrade to a point where it is no longer plastic (only problem: it takes a very long time, compared to the lifespan of a human). Would the toxic effects grow faster than the natural (and extremely slow) decomposition of plastics?
I am NOT a snake.

Opinions discussed are not necessarily the opinions of the people discussing them.

User avatar
(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
As the Arbiter of Everything, Everything Sucks
Posts: 8314
Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 6:17 pm UTC
Location: I FUCKING MOVED TO THE WOODS

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ » Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:14 am UTC

I am trying to understand your question. I mean... will the plastic degrade before it becomes toxic to us? Nope. Probably not.
Depends on your definition of 'toxic to us' because if it kills everything we want to eat then same difference right?
I am not a chemical biologist, but I'm guessing, like with heavy metals and such, we would see the direct toxicity in fetuses before adult humans.
I guess it's a good thing we do so many autopsies on miscarriages.
Oh, wait.

/rambling morbidity
Heyyy baby wanna kill all humans?

Glmclain
Posts: 442
Joined: Thu May 20, 2010 12:51 pm UTC

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Glmclain » Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:19 am UTC

Plastic Soup sounds like a Primus album. I'd listen to it

/derail
You Samoans are all the same! You have no faith in the essential decency of the white man's culture!

User avatar
bigglesworth
I feel like Biggles should have a title
Posts: 7461
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:29 pm UTC
Location: Airstrip One

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby bigglesworth » Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:56 am UTC

You can already listen to Gorillaz' Plastic Beach.

I am personally content that I am gradually reducing the plastic waste I use and that my local council responsibly landfills it. I reckon that at some point a better recycling method will be found, and the landfills can be strip-mined. It's not harming much in the ground.

As for the sea-plastic, well, there needs to be better regulation of the oceans. There is a tragedy of the commons afoot.
Generation Y. I don't remember the First Gulf War, but do remember floppy disks.

User avatar
dubsola
Posts: 2327
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2007 11:55 am UTC
Location: Sunny Snakeville

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby dubsola » Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:53 am UTC

What's even better than recycling is reducing the amount of packaging you use. Why is that better? Well, it saves having to transport the recyclable waste to the processing plant. Why is that good? Because trucks don't spew rose scented petals. For example, around 3,000 garbage trucks go through the Bronx per day, and whee, it has some of the highest asthma rates in the US. It also reduces the need for recycling plants and the energy that they consume. And anyway, this article shows that not all plastic gets recycled. It can end up in the sea. Better regulation of the oceans is all very well and good, but it's possible for us individuals to make a difference too.

Warning: incoming rant.

I'd love to see more stores like Unpackaged, where you bring your own containers and pay by weight. Yesterday I bought some olive oil, some clothes washing powder, some dishwashing liquid, some rice, and some cheese, and not a single shred of plastic ended up in the bin.

I'd love it if shops didn't use so much packaging.

I'd love it if supermarkets charged £10 per plastic bag - I bet people would remember to bring their own bags then.

Everyone knows we didn't always have plastic bags and prepackaged food. But those old corner stores have been largely replaced by big supermarkets... for convenience. But I'm not at all convinced it's more convenient to get in your car, drive to the supermarket at the edge of town, find a parking spot, wheel a trolley around, get back in the car and drive home as opposed to walking to the corner store (assuming there is one) every evening and just buying enough to last you a day. Bonus points: you can fit everything in a backpack, you can take the kids and the dog and get some excercise, and you can say hello to your neighbours.

I realise this doesn't work for everyone, but I think it would work for a lot of people who live in the city, and the reason it's not that common any more is what seems to me to be a skewed perspective of convenience.

User avatar
bigglesworth
I feel like Biggles should have a title
Posts: 7461
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:29 pm UTC
Location: Airstrip One

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby bigglesworth » Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:48 am UTC

Yeah, but: my local shop is a Tesco's. And most places I've seen, the local shops are the chains, who are moving in wherever there's gentrification.

To a certain extent I buy the companies' excuses: to have the same high standards of cleanliness and attractive produce/products, they can either package it more or throw away more. Though that doesn't excuse choosing materials that can't be recycled/biodegraded.
Generation Y. I don't remember the First Gulf War, but do remember floppy disks.

General_Norris
Posts: 1399
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:10 pm UTC

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby General_Norris » Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:52 am UTC

Or you can use the bags you get in the supermarket to dipose your rubbish. Remember than not every country follows the same sistem. I usually take my plastic/metal/tetrabrick bag every two days, meaning I need at least 15 bags per month. How I get those bags doesn't change the fact that I, by law, need them to dump my rubbish.

The overpackaging link you posted is interesting but I really dont' see how the orbit packaging is excesive. It is identical to the one used by medicines: A tray that separates every dosis and a cardboard box that covers them. The cucumber will always have extra plastic coming out as it seems to be enclosed by vacumm. Without those extra bits of plastic you wouldn't be able to enclose them.

However I agree that there's no reason for McDonalds to use disponsable everything (Except for the ketchup packets, they don't belong in the picture) and if they want to have spam on your tray they can make them transpartent and put it under that surface so you need less materials.

The problem is that they are in their right as this is not regulated by law. As long as it is unregulated this will happen.

Also I doubt you get asthma because garbage smells bad.

PD: And there's no excuse for those crappy DVD cases we are getting now.

User avatar
bigglesworth
I feel like Biggles should have a title
Posts: 7461
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:29 pm UTC
Location: Airstrip One

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby bigglesworth » Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:57 am UTC

General_Norris wrote:The problem is that they are in their right as this is not regulated by law. As long as it is unregulated this will happen.
Agreed
General_Norris wrote:The overpackaging link you posted is interesting but I really dont' see how the orbit packaging is excesive. It is identical to the one used by medicines: A tray that separates every dosis and a cardboard box that covers them.
Yeah, but why does gum need medicine packaging? Hint: it doesn't
General_Norris wrote:Also I doubt you get asthma because garbage smells bad.
I think dubsola was thinking more of the engine fumes from the trucks.
Generation Y. I don't remember the First Gulf War, but do remember floppy disks.

User avatar
SlyReaper
inflatable
Posts: 8015
Joined: Mon Dec 31, 2007 11:09 pm UTC
Location: Bristol, Old Blighty

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby SlyReaper » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:14 pm UTC

dubsola wrote:I'd love it if shops didn't use so much packaging.


It's not just shops, you get that with buying pretty much anything that needs delivering. My crowning moment of overpackaging came when I took delivery of an mp3 player which was about the size of two thumbnails and would have fit very comfortably in a small jiffy bag. It came in a box bigger than my torso.
Image
What would Baron Harkonnen do?

User avatar
dubsola
Posts: 2327
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2007 11:55 am UTC
Location: Sunny Snakeville

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby dubsola » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:29 pm UTC

I agree that there are some things that we as individuals cannot change, I do not agree that there is nothing we cannot change.

User avatar
SlyReaper
inflatable
Posts: 8015
Joined: Mon Dec 31, 2007 11:09 pm UTC
Location: Bristol, Old Blighty

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby SlyReaper » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:37 pm UTC

dubsola wrote:I agree that there are some things that we as individuals cannot change, I do not agree that there is nothing we cannot change.


You realise you just said the same thing twice, right?
Image
What would Baron Harkonnen do?

User avatar
bigglesworth
I feel like Biggles should have a title
Posts: 7461
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:29 pm UTC
Location: Airstrip One

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby bigglesworth » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:39 pm UTC

I was thinking more about making sure our MPs/other representatives know we as voters care about this, dubsola.
Generation Y. I don't remember the First Gulf War, but do remember floppy disks.

User avatar
dubsola
Posts: 2327
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2007 11:55 am UTC
Location: Sunny Snakeville

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby dubsola » Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:38 pm UTC

SlyReaper wrote:
dubsola wrote:I agree that there are some things that we as individuals cannot change, I do not agree that there is nothing we cannot change.


You realise you just said the same thing twice, right?

Did I? Wait, you're right. That second 'cannot' should be 'can'.

bigglesworth wrote:my local shop is a Tesco's

bigglesworth wrote:To a certain extent I buy the companies' excuses

General_Norris wrote: really dont' see how the orbit packaging is excesive

General_Norris wrote:As long as it is unregulated this will happen.

SlyReaper wrote:you get that with buying pretty much anything that needs delivering


This conversation always seems to go the same - suggestions that individuals can do thigns to reduce their waste, or use less energy or whatever, are guaranteed responses of 'I can't do that because of X' or 'It's the companies / government's fault'.

Now it sounds like I'm judging you all for being garbage producers. Well, I'm one too. My intention is to point out that there is loads of stuff we can do. Isn't it better to focus on things you can do than things you cannot?

User avatar
bigglesworth
I feel like Biggles should have a title
Posts: 7461
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:29 pm UTC
Location: Airstrip One

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby bigglesworth » Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:49 pm UTC

And I'm saying that in return for more packaging, sometimes less produce (that has been shipped at great carbon cost) has to be thrown away, but the design and materials can be improved. I'm saying that government has a role, and one that we can influence.

I am not the one here being negative, dubsola.
Generation Y. I don't remember the First Gulf War, but do remember floppy disks.

User avatar
dubsola
Posts: 2327
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2007 11:55 am UTC
Location: Sunny Snakeville

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby dubsola » Thu Jul 15, 2010 2:01 pm UTC

Sorry, I shouldn't be grumpy about this. There is certainly room for improvement in existing necessary packaging.

On that, though - a lot of supermarkets will put unnecessarily aggressive 'use by' or 'best before' dates on produce. More often than not these can be safely ignored, and it's possible to judge by look and smell whether something is still safe or good to eat. Like salad leaves - these often have a use by date of a couple of days later, but are still fine a week later.

User avatar
bigglesworth
I feel like Biggles should have a title
Posts: 7461
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:29 pm UTC
Location: Airstrip One

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby bigglesworth » Thu Jul 15, 2010 2:06 pm UTC

Yeah, that's a good point. Also, that you as a consumer can choose relatively less packaged alternatives amongst those on offer in any one place.
Generation Y. I don't remember the First Gulf War, but do remember floppy disks.

User avatar
Oregonaut
Posts: 6511
Joined: Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:58 pm UTC
Location: Oregon

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Oregonaut » Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:54 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:Yeah, that's a good point. Also, that you as a consumer can choose relatively less packaged alternatives amongst those on offer in any one place.


You can also make a salad instead of buying one pre-packaged. Or make fried rice instead of buying it pre-packaged. Buying food and storing it in my fridge that doesn't have packaging, I have managed to cut my garbage by at least half just by switching to doing my cooking myself. It hasn't taken me any more time to prepare the food, and I multitask by doing other things as I prepare the food.
- Ochigo the Earth-Stomper

The EGE wrote:
Mumpy wrote:And to this day, librarians revile Oregonaut as the Antichrist.

False! We sacrifice our card catalogues to him in the name of Job Security!

General_Norris
Posts: 1399
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:10 pm UTC

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby General_Norris » Thu Jul 15, 2010 5:29 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:]Yeah, but why does gum need medicine packaging? Hint: it doesn't

Because they have similar needs. The both need to have each serving/dose separated from the next one. It is desirable to have individual portions of gum separated in their own space so you can eat one without ruining the rest of the product. This is also important is such gums have something inside, a very sizable part of Orbit gums have it.

dubsola wrote:This conversation always seems to go the same - suggestions that individuals can do thigns to reduce their waste, or use less energy or whatever, are guaranteed responses of 'I can't do that because of X' or 'It's the companies / government's fault'.

Perhaps because your suggestions are not good. If you propose X and X is not viable or useful I thinkit's good methodology to say so and explain why. I said that the gum case, the ketchup case and the cucumber case were not, in my opinion, cases of overpackaging. I think that that MP3 in that huge box is overpackaging.

And, of course, if there's no law we the only thing we can do is to boycott. Both creating a new law and a boycott require political means so it stops being an individual choice. All I can do as an individual over an overpackaged product is not to buy it. As a politician I can try to get a law passed or to lobby the company who practises this.

User avatar
Oregonaut
Posts: 6511
Joined: Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:58 pm UTC
Location: Oregon

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Oregonaut » Thu Jul 15, 2010 5:41 pm UTC

Many times the reason for all that packaging on an MP3 player is theft deterrence. A larger box is hard to hide on your person.
- Ochigo the Earth-Stomper

The EGE wrote:
Mumpy wrote:And to this day, librarians revile Oregonaut as the Antichrist.

False! We sacrifice our card catalogues to him in the name of Job Security!

Technical Ben
Posts: 2986
Joined: Tue May 27, 2008 10:42 pm UTC

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Technical Ben » Thu Jul 15, 2010 6:37 pm UTC

It took me quite a while to figure out what happened to that turtle!
PS, can you not make packaging big but use the materials better? Like less cardboard, but spread thinner?
Reminds me of the joke regarding chocolate bars. "When I was young, I ate mini chocolate bars. Then they brought out king size. By the time I'm old and grey, they will be as big as a house!"
It's all physics and stamp collecting.
It's not a particle or a wave. It's just an exchange.

User avatar
bigglesworth
I feel like Biggles should have a title
Posts: 7461
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:29 pm UTC
Location: Airstrip One

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby bigglesworth » Thu Jul 15, 2010 7:28 pm UTC

Yeah, there is opportunities for making better packaging. And it needs bright people like you (*points hand to screen*) to work out how a cardboard box can eliminate the need for plastic insets and bags. It's even a field where an inventor can make some money, it has been known.
Generation Y. I don't remember the First Gulf War, but do remember floppy disks.

User avatar
meatyochre
Posts: 1524
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:09 am UTC
Location: flying with the Conchords

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby meatyochre » Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:21 pm UTC

I don't think recycling is the answer. The energy it takes to recycle can outweigh the energy it takes to create new things (see Penn and Teller's Bullshit episode on recycling for more info). Recycling plants create pollution, too. And citizens (like my roommates, for one) who believe in recycling can end up spending a lot of time washing out milk jugs and glasses and sorting out different types of recyclables. Time which could be better spent on... pretty much anything else.

I don't have a problem with reducing packaging and reusing grocery bags. Those are good things which I make efforts to do. I stopped buying a certain brand of pot noodles because they package everything individually (small packet of vegetables, soy sauce, flavor powder, and noodles are plastic wrapped, and all of this is thrown together into another plastic container). And I have those little go-green bags from Dominick's and Whole Foods.

But recycling.... ehhh, it's frankly a boondoggle in many parts of the world (see http://mises.org/daily/2855).
Dark567 wrote:"Hey, I created a perpetual motion device"

"yeah, but your poster sucks. F-"

Image

User avatar
Bakemaster
pretty nice future dick
Posts: 8933
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:33 pm UTC
Location: One of those hot places

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Bakemaster » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:38 am UTC

dubsola wrote:Isn't it better to focus on things you can do than things you cannot?

Not when that focus equates to turning a blind eye to the actions of entities other than private individuals and their part in the problem.

Telling people to set out their recycling bin every week is all well and good. Mandating it by law, as some have done in areas around San Francisco, is an interesting step with practicality issues but overall probably a good thing. Be that as it may, making personal responsibility the focal point of the issue of waste management is a horrible, horrible mistake that's being strongly supported by corporations who for decades have devoted immense advertising budgets to the task of framing the debate over environmental and regulatory issues.

As an individual, I can make the choice to recycle the plastic blister pack around the screwdriver I just bought at Ace. Together, if we all make a good decision, we can recycle a lot of plastic and make a huge difference. Just look at how much damager we, private individuals, are doing when we don't recycle! Just look how we, private individuals, have the power to be the solution!

The above is how the Ace Hardware Corporation, a multi-billion-dollar entity which manufactured and packaged the screwdriver I just bought, would like to frame the debate. (I am using Ace purely as a general example; I don't know whether they package their screwdrivers in blister packs, just that I have seen plenty of unnecessary plastic packaging around tools in hardware stores that are basically pieces of very durable metal.) A business entity such as Ace might spend quite a bit of money advertising for personal responsibility in order to position themselves as an eco-conscious member of the marketplace, improving their corporate image and possibly also their sales (though this tactic has become so widespread and disingenuous that I'm not sure how effective it is at generating sales; certainly there are more effective ways to use advertising dollars just to generate sales). But that's not all that's going on. Large corporations like Proctor & Gamble, Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart, etc. employ very intelligent people to develop long-term strategies that unfold over years and decades. Some of these strategies are intended to influence public opinion, and thereby, potential legislation and regulation. By framing the debate as an issue of personal responsibility on the part of private individuals and/or government's responsibility to encourage private individuals to recycle, industry is implementing a long-term strategy intended to deflect, discourage or otherwise protect against harsh regulation which would cut into their bottom line.

At the end of the day, one individual working in upper management at the hardware company could make the decision to stop selling their screwdrivers in plastic blister packs. Or maybe it would be two dozen individuals. It's certainly a hell of a lot fewer than the number of everyone who ever buys a screwdriver, and it would reduce the amount of plastic being manufactured to a far greater degree even than mandatory recycling of every blister pack.
Image
c0 = 2.13085531 × 1014 smoots per fortnight
"Apparently you can't summon an alternate timeline clone of your inner demon, guys! Remember that." —Noc

User avatar
meatyochre
Posts: 1524
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:09 am UTC
Location: flying with the Conchords

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby meatyochre » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:59 am UTC

I thought this article was relevant to the discussion as well:

Mandatory Recycling Wastes Resources, Harms Environment
Environment & Climate News > March 2004
Environment
Environment > Recycling

Written By: Daniel K. Benjamin
Published In: Environment & Climate News > March 2004
Publication date: 03/01/2004
Publisher: The Heartland Institute

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In mid-December 2003, the Seattle City Council decided to make curbside recycling mandatory. The measure, which goes into effect in January 2005, is a misguided step that will burden taxpayers, antagonize residents, and waste resources.

As an economist who has been studying recycling for nearly 15 years, I long ago learned that the desire for curbside recycling is based mostly on misconceptions. Here are some of the most serious errors.


Myth: We are running out of room for trash.

In the 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency launched this myth with a study showing the number of landfills in the United States was falling. True, but the landfills were getting bigger, and the total capacity was increasing! Today we have 18 years’ worth of landfill capacity nationwide--even if no other landfills are built. Seattle sends its trash to Gillam County, Oregon. Additional landfills can be added there when needed.


Myth: Our garbage is dangerous.

EPA (known for being extra-cautious) says a modern landfill could cause one cancer-related death every 50 years. To put this in perspective, cancer kills more than 560,000 people every year in the United States. Fears of landfills are based largely on confusion with hazardous industrial waste disposal sites.


Myth: Packaging is our problem.

Actually, modern packaging reduces rubbish. American households produce one-third less trash than do Mexican households. Turning a chicken into a meal produces waste, but when chickens are processed and packaged commercially, the byproducts become marketable products such as pet food--something possible only if packaging is used.


Myth: Recycling always protects the environment.

Recycling is a manufacturing process, so it has environmental impacts. An EPA study found more toxic materials in recycling paper processes than in virgin paper manufacturing. And, as one expert puts it, adding curbside recycling is “like moving from once-a-week garbage collection to twice a week.” That means more trucks, with their extra air pollution.


Myth: Recycling saves irreplaceable resources.

Available stocks of most natural resources are actually growing rather than shrinking. How do we know? Market prices measure natural resource scarcity. Falling prices indicate a material is becoming more plentiful, and that is exactly what continues to happen for almost all raw materials. Resources such as timber are renewable, and non-renewable resources are more available than ever. They go much farther than they used to, and some have been replaced by resources that are even more plentiful. Skyscrapers and bridges use less steel than in the past; optical fiber (made from sand) carries 625 times more calls than the copper wire of 20 years ago. The list goes on.


Myth: Recycling must be mandatory.

Private-sector recycling is as old as trash itself. Scavenging may, in fact, be the oldest profession. Rag dealers were a constant of American life until they were driven out of business by a federal labeling law. Long before state or local governments had even contemplated recycling, manufacturers of steel and aluminum were recycling manufacturing scraps, and some even operated post-consumer drop-off centers.


Myth: Recycling saves resources.

Not necessarily. Using less of one resource often means using more of other resources. When the total costs of recycling and disposal are compared, on average curbside recycling is 35 to 55 percent more costly nationwide than conventional disposal. In Seattle, the city wastes resources by overcharging for trash pickup and under-pricing recycling pickup.
--
Recycling is a productive part of the market system. Informed, voluntary recycling conserves resources. In sharp contrast, mandatory recycling wastes resources--and Seattle’s latest political action misleads the public into supporting such wastefulness.
Dark567 wrote:"Hey, I created a perpetual motion device"

"yeah, but your poster sucks. F-"

Image

User avatar
TaintedDeity
Posts: 4003
Joined: Sun Feb 10, 2008 7:22 pm UTC
Location: England;

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby TaintedDeity » Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:07 am UTC

Well that's just confused me now. My entire concept of recycling and being green has been turned upside down!
Ⓞⓞ◯

Kyrn
Posts: 937
Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2009 3:55 pm UTC
Location: The Internet

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Kyrn » Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:27 am UTC

TaintedDeity wrote:Well that's just confused me now. My entire concept of recycling and being green has been turned upside down!

Regardless, reduction and reusing still gives tangible benefits, at least to yourself, if not for the environment.
I am NOT a snake.

Opinions discussed are not necessarily the opinions of the people discussing them.

User avatar
meatyochre
Posts: 1524
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:09 am UTC
Location: flying with the Conchords

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby meatyochre » Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:30 am UTC

The P&T Bullshit episode on recycling does state that recycling is generally something that makes people feel good about themselves. So, that's an intangible benefit. I just don't know that it's worth it in the long run.
Dark567 wrote:"Hey, I created a perpetual motion device"

"yeah, but your poster sucks. F-"

Image

User avatar
Bakemaster
pretty nice future dick
Posts: 8933
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:33 pm UTC
Location: One of those hot places

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Bakemaster » Fri Jul 16, 2010 3:48 am UTC

While the Benjamin article makes some good points, I have to call bullshit on it in general. The overall point it's trying to make certainly is shocking and will attract attention and generate link-ins, but he presents very little for each of his claims, some of which are misleading and others of which simply leave out a lot of salient facts.

The amount of land in this country being used for landfills is increasing. We also have an increasing population and areas are generally becoming more developed rather than yes. It's perfectly reasonable to raise concerns about the availability of landfill space, and the potential difference in value of that space if it were used for other purposes.

One cancer statistic does not address the dangers of landfills. The fact that the author claims the EPA is "known for being extra-cautious" also makes me think he's generally full of shit. The fact is that it's really incredibly hard to trace the origins of any cancer back to an environmental cause, except in the most obvious of cases. Landfills also have great potential for groundwater contamination and offgassing of various undesirable products of decay. Pretending that the only way a landfill can be dangerous is by giving people cancer is incredibly counter to the all but the most anthropocentric environmental philosophies, and just generally disingenuous.

And suggesting that we're not running out of any non-renewable resources? Seriously? What's next, is he going to write an article on the myth of peak oil? The availability of some renewable resources, and the fact that not all non-renewable resources are in great danger of running out in the foreseeable future, does not mean that everything will last forever so we shouldn't bother reusing things.

He's right that it's not appropriate to recycle everything we use. In many cases, bio-degradation is hot stuff (no compost jokes please) and the best of all available options. And there are a lot of ways to conserve and reuse things than simply throwing it into a curbside bin. But the article reads more like an attack on the concept of recycling in general than a carefully positioned, credible critique of a specific policy or group of policies.
Image
c0 = 2.13085531 × 1014 smoots per fortnight
"Apparently you can't summon an alternate timeline clone of your inner demon, guys! Remember that." —Noc

johnny_7713
Posts: 555
Joined: Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:31 pm UTC

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby johnny_7713 » Fri Jul 16, 2010 6:19 am UTC

Kyrn wrote:Just a question: sooner or later the plastic would degrade to a point where it is no longer plastic (only problem: it takes a very long time, compared to the lifespan of a human). Would the toxic effects grow faster than the natural (and extremely slow) decomposition of plastics?


If I understand the OP correctly its the degradation that's the problem. Only once the plastic has degraded to goo does it enter the food chain. Or do you mean would the plastic degrade once inside the food chain before it accumulates to toxic levels? My guess would be no, since once in the food chain it would be protected from UV, one of the main degraders of plastic, IANA polymer chemist though.

Edit: On the supermarket vs. corner store convenience issue. I think the reasons supermarkets win out is that: 1. They have a larger selection of products (if only because they have more floorspace to display products), 2. you only have to visit 1 store, as supposed to having to go to the baker, the butcher, the grocerer etc. 3. Economies of scale allow supermarkets to sell their products cheaper (which is quite possibly the most important reason people go to supermarkets rather than corner shops.)

User avatar
bigglesworth
I feel like Biggles should have a title
Posts: 7461
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 9:29 pm UTC
Location: Airstrip One

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby bigglesworth » Fri Jul 16, 2010 7:26 am UTC

johnny_7713 wrote:If I understand the OP correctly its the degradation that's the problem. Only once the plastic has degraded to goo does it enter the food chain. Or do you mean would the plastic degrade once inside the food chain before it accumulates to toxic levels? My guess would be no, since once in the food chain it would be protected from UV, one of the main degraders of plastic, IANA polymer chemist though.
Hence biodegradable plastic.
Generation Y. I don't remember the First Gulf War, but do remember floppy disks.

User avatar
Dream
WINNING
Posts: 4338
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2007 7:20 pm UTC
Location: The Hollow Scene Epic

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Dream » Fri Jul 16, 2010 9:12 am UTC

Bakemaster wrote:But the article reads more like an attack on the concept of recycling in general than a carefully positioned, credible critique of a specific policy or group of policies.

It is. The Heartland Institute is a lobby group for several conservative causes, like climate change and passive smoking. Regardless of whether there is any substance to the article, it's an attempt to push a particular viewpoint rather than to investigate an issue.
I knew a woman once, but she died soon after.

Kyrn
Posts: 937
Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2009 3:55 pm UTC
Location: The Internet

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Kyrn » Fri Jul 16, 2010 9:24 am UTC

johnny_7713 wrote:Edit: On the supermarket vs. corner store convenience issue. I think the reasons supermarkets win out is that: 1. They have a larger selection of products (if only because they have more floorspace to display products), 2. you only have to visit 1 store, as supposed to having to go to the baker, the butcher, the grocerer etc. 3. Economies of scale allow supermarkets to sell their products cheaper (which is quite possibly the most important reason people go to supermarkets rather than corner shops.)

Point 3 is not entirely true, in cases of franchised convenience shops. In fact over here, some of the convenience shop franchises are also under said supermarket corps. Essentially, they serve the "convenience" side of the equation.

/derail
I am NOT a snake.

Opinions discussed are not necessarily the opinions of the people discussing them.

User avatar
dubsola
Posts: 2327
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2007 11:55 am UTC
Location: Sunny Snakeville

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby dubsola » Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:53 pm UTC

Bakemaster wrote:
dubsola wrote:Isn't it better to focus on things you can do than things you cannot?

Not when that focus equates to turning a blind eye to the actions of entities other than private individuals and their part in the problem.

Actually, I think you're right about this. I think it will take both individual and collective action to rectify the situation.

User avatar
meatyochre
Posts: 1524
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:09 am UTC
Location: flying with the Conchords

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby meatyochre » Fri Jul 16, 2010 4:14 pm UTC

Landfill space, at least, is not an issue. (see http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2346/is-recycling-worth-it) And landfills, when set up properly, are not a danger to the local ecology. They just smell bad.

It seems to me that the issue with the plastic island in the OP is pretty much because people are throwing away trash in the wrong places (just throwing it out the car window or dropping it from the boat into the water), or trash escaping from garbage trucks. So I believe it's more logical to dispose of our trash in the right places, and minimizing the amount of our trash doesn't hurt anything.

Again, I don't believe recycling is an effective solution to this problem. That's all.
Dark567 wrote:"Hey, I created a perpetual motion device"

"yeah, but your poster sucks. F-"

Image

User avatar
Oregonaut
Posts: 6511
Joined: Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:58 pm UTC
Location: Oregon

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Oregonaut » Fri Jul 16, 2010 4:21 pm UTC

How could they skim the plastic out of the water effectively...

I know they could use nylon covered coal filters to get petroleum out of the ocean, but would something similar work for that island, if done properly?

I realize it comes down to cost, and the desire to do something about it, but what would be an effective means of removing the bulk of it from the ocean, without draining the ocean level...
- Ochigo the Earth-Stomper

The EGE wrote:
Mumpy wrote:And to this day, librarians revile Oregonaut as the Antichrist.

False! We sacrifice our card catalogues to him in the name of Job Security!

User avatar
(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
As the Arbiter of Everything, Everything Sucks
Posts: 8314
Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 6:17 pm UTC
Location: I FUCKING MOVED TO THE WOODS

Re: Plastic Soup

Postby (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ » Fri Jul 16, 2010 4:41 pm UTC

There's no way to remove the bulk of it all at once. It's like, the size of the US spread very thin. Dragging trawlers through it would be semi-effective because they'd just pick up ALL THE LIFE except maybe diatoms. Removing the plastic soup from the water would probably be just as bad an idea of leaving it there.
Of course, most of the plastics in there are from litter or improper disposal, especially where improper disposal is 'what most countries used to do, involving dumping shit out in the ocean far away'. Fixing how we dispose of things is only half the problem. Or maybe 1/4.

So, much like with recycling apparently (Not something I'd ever heard till this thread) we're boned if we do and if we don't.
I'm going to go ahead and play my 'Environmental Management Degree' card and side with Bakey here, suggesting that the anti-recycling article is kind of crap. EPA as over-cautious? Since. Fucking. When.

Someone remind me why it's considered virtuous to not do drugs? I don't want to think about these things anymore.
Heyyy baby wanna kill all humans?


Return to “News & Articles”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 28 guests