Plastic Soup

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Hawknc » Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:30 pm UTC

Azrael001 wrote:
dubsola wrote:I'd love it if supermarkets charged £10 per plastic bag - I bet people would remember to bring their own bags then.
What the argument above is really saying is "Let's make plastics recycling non profitable so that it has to be run at a loss by the government. That way we can have slightly less of one of the least harmful plastics."

...No, what the argument above is really saying is "Let's make disposability prohibitively expensive so that people re-use bags instead of just throwing them away, or recycling them if we're really lucky". Dubs made no mention of what peoples' "own bags" would be made of, it could be hemp for all you know. A plastic bag levy does work to reduce the number of disposable plastic bags used.

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby bigglesworth » Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:43 pm UTC

Azrael001 wrote:As for the plastic blob in the ocean, the solution is bioengineering. A kid in Waterloo Ont. about two years ago discovered naturally occurring bacteria that feed off of LDPE. I don't know the composition of the garbage island, but I'm sure that a few tonnes of bacteria would make short work of the edible components.
In... damn, one article I read (honest) it said about how the organisms and shrimp and shrimp-eating fish that usually exist on decomposing organic matter in the seas are thriving on the plastic masses. Essentially, a new ecosystem was created. Life adapts, just in ways that don't always help humans.
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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Dream » Mon Jul 26, 2010 10:13 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:Life adapts, just in ways that don't always help humans.

Sometimes life adapts, and almost all times it is replaced by other life if it can't. But sometimes, like coral reefs and fisheries, life just dies and doesn't come back. We'll be very luck if the pacific trash gyre doesn't profoundly affect ecosystems throughout the oceans, but even if we are that lucky, that won't mean it's OK to leave the stuff there and keep our fingers crossed.
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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Tue Jul 27, 2010 3:41 am UTC

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

That makes sense, but you forgot to include all the nastiness that humans give models & simulations. I know that plastic bags are great for cleaning up after dogs and for disposing of used kitty litter. People aren't going to properly dispose of dog poop if it costs $10/bag
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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Kyrn » Tue Jul 27, 2010 5:07 am UTC

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

That makes sense, but you forgot to include all the nastiness that humans give models & simulations. I know that plastic bags are great for cleaning up after dogs and for disposing of used kitty litter. People aren't going to properly dispose of dog poop if it costs $10/bag

There needs to be an alternative to plastic for cleaning dog poop up then.
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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Oregonaut » Tue Jul 27, 2010 2:31 pm UTC

Cloth is economically unfeasible for poop cleaning.
Wood is not maleable enough to deal with the texture.
Rubber is just as bad as plastic, and worse financially than cloth.
Metal is right out.
People are not going to use their bare hands.
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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Technical Ben » Tue Jul 27, 2010 2:46 pm UTC

#Don't get a dog!?
Helps the environment in many ways then. ;)
I'm not a dog hater, but I realise it's not feasible to keep a Elephant in my back yard. Likewise it's getting more inconvenient to keep dogs. I never like cleaning up after them anyway, so avoid that problem by not having one to clean up after. :|
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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Hawknc » Tue Jul 27, 2010 3:09 pm UTC

We've had this conversation before. The fact that you haven't heard of biodegradable plastics shocks and saddens me.

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Azrael001 » Tue Jul 27, 2010 3:17 pm UTC

Sartorius wrote:Right, but unless these bacteria are anaerobes, they'll be consuming massive amounts of oxygen, removing it from use for the other organisms in the ecosystem and effectively suffocating them. Such a problem occurred with using oil-eating bacteria in the Gulf.
Apparently both potential bacteria are strictly aerobic, how sad.

Hawknc wrote:...No, what the argument above is really saying is "Let's make disposability prohibitively expensive so that people re-use bags instead of just throwing them away, or recycling them if we're really lucky". Dubs made no mention of what peoples' "own bags" would be made of, it could be hemp for all you know. A plastic bag levy does work to reduce the number of disposable plastic bags used.
They could be made out of something sensible, but the ones that actually are being used, here where there is now a mandatory $0.05 levy on the disposable bags, are horrible. Worse still, they make people think that they are helping, so they can go about their day feeling good about themselves while actually hurting the problem that they are trying to fix.

The plastic bag problem is a drop in the bucket, it's just a visible one. Invisibly it's actually one of the better alternatives. Also, anecdotally, I don't know anyone that doesn't reuse the bags rather than instantly dispose of them. They're hella handy, and they are worth money. Almost a dollar a pound, (you'll have to scroll down a bit look for LLDPE and LDPE film). Where there is money there are people looking for ways to gather things efficiently. Post consumer goods are harder to deal with, but not impossible. We need to innovate, not regulate. (Within reason.)

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Biodegradable plastics are a good step, but have got their own slew of problems.
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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Felstaff » Wed Sep 11, 2013 12:01 pm UTC

Dude calling himself Boyan Slat, which I think is more of a private detective's name, claims he can clean up the ocean in five years. Warning: Daily Mail link.

His Ted Talk from last year. What an optimistic chap!
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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:24 pm UTC

Seems very optimistic. I have no doubt that cleaning using such a system is possible....but the ocean is BIG. I also worry about broken booms, jammed openings, etc. The ocean is kind of brutal on hardware. I do not think it would actually be profitable, for certain, though it may be effective enough to work on a maint scale.

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby BattleMoose » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:42 am UTC

One aspect of this problem that is worth mentioning, is that the reasons why these gyre's form and the trash piles, combination of ekman transport, coriolis effect are the same reasons why these gyre's are the ocean equivalent of deserts. Nutrient and life poor water accumulates in the centre of these gyres and descends back down into the ocean but the trash cannot follow so it lingers there. And these waters are nutrient poor, because they upwelled near the coastlines full of nutrients and by the time they have journeyed to the centre of the gyres those nutrients have been consumed.

Not saying that this isn't a problem. But there just about isn't a better spot for these trash piles to be.

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Izawwlgood » Thu Sep 12, 2013 1:38 am UTC

Felstaff wrote:Dude calling himself Boyan Slat, which I think is more of a private detective's name, claims he can clean up the ocean in five years. Warning: Daily Mail link.

His Ted Talk from last year. What an optimistic chap!

I think this kid also saw how the media got wind of his claims, and released a statement about how expectations need to be reigned in and they're in the 'about to start testing concepts' phase.
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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Felstaff » Mon Dec 15, 2014 11:14 am UTC

According to the most comprehensive study done yet, there's 5,250,000,000,000 pieces of plastic in our oceans, weighing in at some 268,940 tons. Although the aforementioned Dutch teen's plan of netting tons of plastic with V-shaped surface scoops might fall flat, as the scientists remain unsure of where degraded 'microplastics' go, as there wasn't as much on the surface as they had expected, suggesting it sinks down/gets ingested/hides from scientists.
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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby PAstrychef » Mon Dec 15, 2014 1:52 pm UTC

Much of it breaks up into tiny particles, which are then eaten by plankton. I doubt plankton can digest plastics (at least not yet) or there would huge blooms and a shrinking amount of junk. Give it a while, though and evolution could help us out.
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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby DrJekyll » Sat Jan 10, 2015 1:45 pm UTC

If plastic is around forever then why don't the roofing people know about it?? The best they can sell you is 30 year shingles.
Why not invent plastic roofing shingles that are guaranteed to last forever?

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby sardia » Sat Jan 10, 2015 9:48 pm UTC

Because your roof would break apart into small pieces. A copper roof does not.

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby DrJekyll » Sun Jan 11, 2015 3:47 am UTC

The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we’re gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, ’cause that’s what it does. It’s a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed. And if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice toward plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, “Why are we here?”

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby jestingrabbit » Sun Jan 11, 2015 8:28 pm UTC

DrJekyll wrote:The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we’re gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, ’cause that’s what it does. It’s a self-correcting system.


There's no evidence to support that. Several times the planet has killed most of its inhabitants. The Gaia hypothesis has a competing version, the Medea hypothesis, and there's no good reasons to believe one over the other.

Regarding plastic more particularly, sunlight, and in particular UV, breaks some of bonds, and will facilitate its break down from molecules with billions of atoms to those with a few thousand, but from there, it takes longer and longer to break down, and all that time its poisoning the ocean. Acting like we should just let the planet deal with it is folly.
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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby DrJekyll » Sun Jan 11, 2015 11:59 pm UTC

The planet is still here after all that you mentioned (i am sure you missed a few disasters) so that is proof that the planet survives - by default -
Humans measure importance as it relates to THEIR own well being and YOU are no exception -
you are simply worried that it will somehow inconvenience you in the future - relax don't you worry about the ol' gal - she will be around LONG after YOU are gone!!
You certainly cannot be concerned with saving the planet - THAT seems a bit ambitious to say the least. Have you saved your block yet? Your city?

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby sardia » Mon Jan 12, 2015 12:17 am UTC

DrJekyll wrote:The planet is still here after all that you mentioned (i am sure you missed a few disasters) so that is proof that the planet survives - by default -
Humans measure importance as it relates to THEIR own well being and YOU are no exception -
you are simply worried that it will somehow inconvenience you in the future - relax don't you worry about the ol' gal - she will be around LONG after YOU are gone!!
You certainly cannot be concerned with saving the planet - THAT seems a bit ambitious to say the least. Have you saved your block yet? Your city?

Your philosophical navel gazing is made all the more ironic by your ignorance. We are saving our block/city/etc etc. Pollution has a global reach, and under all that fancy talk of yours, you can't seem to get over your insignificance in the greater scheme of things. Yes you are a worthless grain of star dust in the empty void of space. Get over it. A worthless grain of star dust still needs to eat, and clean up after itself.

Back on topic. Are we still dumping our plastics by handing them off to 3rd party transporters of increasing disrepute? Or are the waste streams coming more directly from a reputable company we could protest?

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby BattleMoose » Mon Jan 12, 2015 2:45 am UTC

I actually take a very different perspective on the plastic bag debate. I personally feel that climate change is the bigger issue. I also believe that we will burn every drop of fossil fuel that we can get our hands on.

I am therefore happy to use plastic bags, throw them in the rubbish, whence I hope (and have good reason to expect) that they will be landfilled. Where it will hopefully stay put for, as long as possible. It is a carbon sink and some fossil fuel went into its construction and now its in a hole and won't be burned. I don't want it to be burned.

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby jestingrabbit » Mon Jan 12, 2015 2:57 am UTC

DrJekyll wrote:The planet is still here after all that you mentioned (i am sure you missed a few disasters) so that is proof that the planet survives - by default -
Humans measure importance as it relates to THEIR own well being and YOU are no exception -
you are simply worried that it will somehow inconvenience you in the future - relax don't you worry about the ol' gal - she will be around LONG after YOU are gone!!
You certainly cannot be concerned with saving the planet - THAT seems a bit ambitious to say the least. Have you saved your block yet? Your city?


Its certainly the case that the planet will survive, but the notion that it will heal and cleanse itself is ludicrous. I mean, we live in the little gap of water and air between the magma and the vacuum.

Here's a picture to help you visualise the miniscule fraction of the planet that is even conceivably habitable.

10689706_10153012639772518_2955812471492132482_n.jpg


That's all we've got. So, we better take care of it, because the earth isn't some self cleaning fantasy.

BattleMoose wrote:I actually take a very different perspective on the plastic bag debate. I personally feel that climate change is the bigger issue. I also believe that we will burn every drop of fossil fuel that we can get our hands on.

I am therefore happy to use plastic bags, throw them in the rubbish, whence I hope (and have good reason to expect) that they will be landfilled. Where it will hopefully stay put for, as long as possible. It is a carbon sink and some fossil fuel went into its construction and now its in a hole and won't be burned. I don't want it to be burned.


The plastic that you find in the pacific gyre isn't just made out of plastic bags. I really hope you're wrong about us burning everything we can. I really hope that the renewable become more cost effective than coal soon, because then we've got a shot.
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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby BattleMoose » Mon Jan 12, 2015 3:11 am UTC

I really hope you're wrong about us burning everything we can. I really hope that the renewable become more cost effective than coal soon, because then we've got a shot.


I really hope I am wrong on this too. Despite the twenty odd years of concern for climate change, and renewable technologies and efforts to use less and everything we have done for the environmental movement, usage of fossil fuels has steadily been increasing (GFC excepting).

http://www.carbonbrief.org/media/106046 ... .34.23.png
http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2012/08 ... -globally/

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby DrJekyll » Mon Jan 12, 2015 4:35 pm UTC

"Save the planet!!" even the Earth is laughing at you!!!!

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby sardia » Mon Jan 12, 2015 5:45 pm UTC

Only 4 posts, all of it navel gazing. He's trolling us.

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 12, 2015 6:47 pm UTC

Azrael001 wrote:
Sartorius wrote:Right, but unless these bacteria are anaerobes, they'll be consuming massive amounts of oxygen, removing it from use for the other organisms in the ecosystem and effectively suffocating them. Such a problem occurred with using oil-eating bacteria in the Gulf.
Apparently both potential bacteria are strictly aerobic, how sad.

Hawknc wrote:...No, what the argument above is really saying is "Let's make disposability prohibitively expensive so that people re-use bags instead of just throwing them away, or recycling them if we're really lucky". Dubs made no mention of what peoples' "own bags" would be made of, it could be hemp for all you know. A plastic bag levy does work to reduce the number of disposable plastic bags used.
They could be made out of something sensible, but the ones that actually are being used, here where there is now a mandatory $0.05 levy on the disposable bags, are horrible. Worse still, they make people think that they are helping, so they can go about their day feeling good about themselves while actually hurting the problem that they are trying to fix.

The plastic bag problem is a drop in the bucket, it's just a visible one. Invisibly it's actually one of the better alternatives. Also, anecdotally, I don't know anyone that doesn't reuse the bags rather than instantly dispose of them. They're hella handy, and they are worth money. Almost a dollar a pound, (you'll have to scroll down a bit look for LLDPE and LDPE film). Where there is money there are people looking for ways to gather things efficiently. Post consumer goods are harder to deal with, but not impossible. We need to innovate, not regulate. (Within reason.)


Agreed. I see very few people who actually bring re-usable bags to the supermarket. Those that ARE used are obviously much more material-intensive than plastic bags, and thus, would need to be used a great many times to even equal the impact.

And of those who use disposable bags, we tend to re-use them at least once. Basically everyone I know has a bag full of other disposable bags. They're handy. So, that further skews the necessary usage of non-disposable bag to equal out. And, if we're being honest, some of those non-disposable bags are pretty much rubbish. The ones Books a Million gave out were good for maybe a dozen trips or so(it doesn't help that books are heavy) before they blew out. In terms of materials used vs expected uses, disposable bags are actually pretty good.

I do suspect we will likely burn every scrap of fuel we can find. It certainly isn't contradicted by our behavior thus far.

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Zamfir » Mon Jan 12, 2015 8:05 pm UTC


Dr Jekyll, your next posts should be serious contributions to this forum.

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby sardia » Mon Jan 12, 2015 8:42 pm UTC

That's not completely true. There are increasing extraction costs to consider. Shale oil isn't new, it was, until recently, hard to get. As for bag substitutes, has anyone considered cardboard boxes? Aldi encourages people to use their leftover boxes as grocery containers.

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby mousewiz » Mon Jan 12, 2015 9:38 pm UTC

sardia wrote:That's not completely true. There are increasing extraction costs to consider. Shale oil isn't new, it was, until recently, hard to get. As for bag substitutes, has anyone considered cardboard boxes? Aldi encourages people to use their leftover boxes as grocery containers.


There's a supermarket where I used to live that offered their leftover boxes to customers to carry groceries with. They kept them right at the front by the tills. Most people I observed using them used them in place of shopping carts as a means to transport many plastic bags to their car.

That said, here are the two big issues I'd have with boxes: first, they're significantly more difficult to carry than bags, so they don't really work well for people who don't drive to the grocery store; second, unless the store itself is supplying the boxes at the front, or you happen to have one that fits in your cart/basket perfectly, I envision them as being quite annoying to carry around the store due to their bulk.

Also, aside from having to remember to bring the things, reusable bags are a superior to plastic bags. I say this because they are sturdier (and therefore less prone to spilling your groceries everywhere), they have wider handles (which prevents them from digging in to your skin), and they have longer handles (which makes them easier to grip/regrip/hold near your elbow while you answer the phone). This makes them a fairly easy sell. I think if you want a different alternative, you need something that is at least as convenient as reusable bags.

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Jan 12, 2015 9:57 pm UTC

sardia wrote:That's not completely true. There are increasing extraction costs to consider. Shale oil isn't new, it was, until recently, hard to get. As for bag substitutes, has anyone considered cardboard boxes? Aldi encourages people to use their leftover boxes as grocery containers.


I've purchased both of these in industrial quantities. Mostly, this is an expense issue. Plastic bags are purchased by the thousand, and at your local sams club, will run you around $20 for the box, which you can hold under one arm. A cardboard box of similar carrying capacity will run you 50-65 cents each, and a similar quantity will require freight shipping because they come on pallets, and require folding before use.

Even if you entirely discount the significant additional expense, the added transportation costs are significant, and will consume fossil fuels. However, I assure you that nobody buying these actually discounts the expense. Thus, cardboard boxes are only used where a bag will not do, and they would make a really terrible replacement for bags.

One might argue that leftover boxes can simply be used. Well, this entirely depends on type of business. If you sell alcohol, sizes for many things are pretty much close enough, and boxes often come in sizes that match individual purchases. This is not true for a great many places. For instance, a typical week for me will have a coupla of shipments, each of which has many boxes pushing UPS/fedex's maximum dimensions. A small person could fit into each of them. Customers, however, do not buy games in such bulk, typically buying a few small items that fit neatly into a plastic bag, but for which such a box would be ludicrously unnecessary and more hassle.

Not wanting to pay for a second dumpster, and my local HOA having ridiculous anti-dumping laws that severely limits the amount I can recycle, most of my boxes are thrown away in the trash, despite making them publicly available to anyone who wants them. The quantity, even for a small store, makes re-use utterly impractical.

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Re: Plastic Soup

Postby Whizbang » Tue Jan 13, 2015 1:30 pm UTC

Does anyone have a list of the top offenders for plastic waste, by product? I imagine all the bottled water/drinks we consume is a bigger contributor than plastic bags, which usually are largely made of recycled products. Are the largest plastic waste products those purchased and used by everyday consumers, or are they more commercial/industrial (I imagine the shrink wrap used for pallets and other shipping containers is significant)? What are the biggest contributors to the plastic soup? What are the biggest contributors that everyday people might be able to help out with?


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