Why Do Marine Animals Eat So Much Plastic?

It doesn’t just look like food. It smells like it too. Via NatGeo:

Algae are consumed by krill, a small crustacean that is the primary food source for many sea birds. As algae breaks down naturally in the ocean, they emit a stinky sulfur odor known as dimethyl sulfide (DMS). Sea birds in the hunt for krill have learned that the sulfur odor will lead them to their feeding grounds.

It turns out that floating plastic debris provides the perfect platform on which algae thrives. As the algae breaks down, emitting the DMS odor, sea birds, following their noses in search of krill, are led into an “olfactory trap,” according to a new study published November 9 in Science Advances. Instead of feeding on krill, they feed on plastic.

So humanity’s plastic debris is the perfect poison once it is in the ocean. Recycle, recycle, recycle. or don’t buy it in the first place (the ideal solution but I have tried avoiding plastic and it is NOT easy).

This is from Chris Jordan’s powerful campaign (which also produced the picture above) to help protect albatrosses from plastic debris:

Props To Europe: Norwegian Edition

Trash piled nine yards high is converted to heat and electricity at a waste-to-energy incinerator in Oslo. (Brian Cliff Olguin for The New York Times)

Is it possible to recycle too much? Apparently so. Or at least recycling too much can cause problems for other energy saving strategies. That is a good good dilemma, and I am having a hard time imagining Americans having the same problem:

Oslo, a recycling-friendly place where roughly half the city and most of its schools are heated by burning garbage — household trash, industrial waste, even toxic and dangerous waste from hospitals and drug arrests — has a problem: it has literally run out of garbage to burn.

The problem is not unique to Oslo, a city of 1.4 million people. Across Northern Europe, where the practice of burning garbage to generate heat and electricity has exploded in recent decades, demand for trash far outstrips supply. “Northern Europe has a huge generating capacity,” said Mr. Mikkelsen, 50, a mechanical engineer who for the last year has been the managing director of Oslo’s waste-to-energy agency.

Yet the fastidious population of Northern Europe produces only about 150 million tons of waste a year, he said, far too little to supply incinerating plants that can handle more than 700 million tons. “And the Swedes continue to build” more plants, he said, a look of exasperation on his face, “as do Austria and Germany.”

But it is easy to imagine Americans helping solve this problem, since we are very good at generating garbage, to the tune of 161 million tons a year (or 3 pounds per person, per day).

 

Breaking: Ocean Trash Cleanup Solved?

Who says humans can’t come up with a workable device for cleaning plastic and garbage from the ocean? I’d say this dude, who has affixed a net to his SUP paddle, has nailed it, no?

Explanation:

The EnviroNet is about 10 inches long and six inches wide and temporarily attaches to any paddle using a bungee cord. It’s easy to use and doesn’t interfere with paddling. All paddleboarders have to do is fasten the net to the paddle, put a basket on their board to put the trash in and they are all set to clean up the coast.

Since inventing the EnviroNet, Captain Macias has made it his mission to pick up more trash and recruit others to help him. He even made a pledge not to cut his beard until he collected 2,200 pounds of ocean trash! Nine-inches of facial hair later (about a year in real time), he made his goal.

Just need a few million SUP-ers to adopt this thing and we might see a dent in the problem. And a lot of long beards.