Monday, May 20, 2013

Stay Classy, Not Trashy

Trash found over three stations.
Trash (mostly plastics) found during one shift.
Most people know about the huge amount of trash floating around the oceans. But it doesn't really sink in until you sort a plankton sample and find a dish full of plastic, fishing line, and other trash. Plastics make up 90% of the trash in the oceans. You might think that once plastic products break down into tiny pieces they won't be as harmful and will degrade quickly -- but these chips remain floating at the surface for up to 400 years, and don't degrade as quickly as they do on land. They can be mistaken for fish eggs by other creatures (even birds!), and when ingested can trick animals into thinking they aren't hungry by filling up their stomachs. Sea turtles are a poster child for this, as they often confuse floating plastic bags for the jellyfish they eat. In addition to causing animals to starve, plastics and other debris can block digestive systems, cut up internal organs, release toxins, and cause abnormal behaviors. Fishing line, nets, and other larger trash items act as traps for organisms of all sizes. Add cigarette butts, paper, styrofoam, metal cans, and glass to the equation, and you have a really large trash problem.

We've found a lot of trash in floating sargassum. Sargassum is a seaweed that forms clumps and creates a home for a ton of different species. But these clumps also trap debris, making these valuable habitats unhealthy for the range of fish, turtles, birds, mammals, and invertebrates that depend on them.

What can you do?
  • Avoid buying plastic products, or buy goods that use less packaging.
  • Recycle not only plastics but also glass, cardboard, paper, your clothes, anything!
  • Buy things in bulk.
  • Bring your own cloth bag to the grocery store.
  • Avoid putting any trash down the drain, as there's a good chance it'll end up in the oceans.
  • Use environmentally friendly cleaners.
  • Dispose of fishing line correctly.
  • When you go to the beach, pick up the trash that you see lying around.
  • Volunteer your time!

For more info, see:

Also speaking of styrofoam ... we tied up our markered cups and sent them down on the CTD to 2,723 meters (8,933 ft)!
S. Privoznik ties the cups to a mesh bag.
S. Privoznik zip-tying the cups to the inside of J. Lamkin's
laundry bag.

The shrunken cups
Our shrunken cups (they're upside down). Compare to the photo
seen in Scientists Are Fun 

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