Two stories crossed each other this week that contrast the opposing sides in the war on plastic pollution. Our first story demonstrates that there is no location that is so remote as to be shielded from plastic pollution. The second story is about the profit made from plastics that turn into ocean pollution. Plastic debris floats and ocean currents carry that debris to some very faraway locations, but now we have also discovered that plastic pollution has sunk to new depths not only in the deepest of ocean trenches, but also in corporate boardrooms.
Plastic bag found 36,000 feet deep!
In our article Thousands of Miles Away Is Not Far Enough To Escape Plastic Pollution we described the debris found on the pristine beaches of Henderson Island, an uninhabited atoll in the South Pacific, 5000km away from the nearest human population. Now researchers examining information in the Deep-sea Debris Database have collected images of underwater trash taken on over 5000 dives into the Mariana Trench. At least 3,000 pieces of trash were documented in the world’s deepest trench, including a plastic bag found at the astounding depth of 36,000 feet, that’s nearly 11 kilometers deep.
“The data show that, in addition to resource exploitation and industrial development, the influence of land-based human activities has reached the deepest parts of the ocean in areas more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the mainland,” the authors of the recent study declared. (map – USGS)
World’s Largest Plastics Plant in Texas
Simultaneous to the release of the data from the Deep-sea Debris Database came word that residents in Corpus Christi, Texas are attempting to block the construction of what will be the world’s largest plastic manufacturing plant.
The campaign is being led by the Center for Biological Diversity and over fourteen hundred Texas residents, that are demanding that state regulators reconsider the wastewater permit that has been granted for the project. It is estimated that over 13 million galleons of wastewater will be discharged into Corpus Christi Bay daily, exceeding legal pollution standards.
“This facility will dump millions of gallons of toxic wastewater a day into beautiful Corpus Christi Bay. That’s right in the middle of critical habitat for endangered whooping cranes,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Texas and its wildlife will pay a heavy price just to produce more cheap plastic that will litter our oceans and landscapes. Texans don’t want toxins in their bays and rivers, and they don’t want plastics polluting our oceans and seafood.” (photo – Simiprof, Wikimedia Commons)
Plastic Pollution has Sunk to New Depths in Fossil Fuel Boardrooms!
The plant is funded by Exxon Mobil and Saudi Arabia and is part of a global, multibillion-dollar plan to increase the production of plastics by 40% over the next ten years. Much of that increase in production will undoubtedly end up in the ocean, do we really need more shrink wrap on our cucumbers? Or is it time finally for a change in lifestyle that curbs the use of single-use plastics? An online petition by the Center for Biological Diversity was filed before the deadline last Wednesday requesting a reconsideration of the state’s earlier decision. We’ll let you know what happens.
When does Reasonable become Excessive
This collision of ideas on what constitutes reasonable plastic use is typical of the forces at play in the war to curb the excessive use of plastic.
In light, of the immense publicity that was created by David Attenborough’s documentary series Blue Planet II and the global conservation efforts to curb the impact of plastic pollution in the ocean, one would think that building bigger and bigger plants to churn out more and more plastic would be an idea destined to go the way of the dinosaur. However, it seems that where there is a buck to be made the buck will not stop there. (photo – Bo Eide)
The fossil fuel industry, of course, wants to continue to sell their product and the production of plastic is one large customer, regardless of the well documented harm that plastic pollution is inflicting on the environment worldwide. Here’s an idea, maybe Exxon Mobil and the Saudis should receive in addition to profits, a bill for the incalculable expense of cleaning up after the use of their plastic products. With the understanding that plastics like diamonds are forever.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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