Plastic vortex in Pacific must be seen as world's wake-up call

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2009, 12:00am

Many of your correspondents are now writing about the potential to levy fees on disposable utensils and other plastic items.

Whether a levy, or a rebate, we need to find a way to greatly slow the use of these products in our daily lives.

Both options can provide ways to support an innovative recycling industry, as levies can help with initial funding and rebates encourage collection, meaning more efficient production.

I have just returned from a research expedition organised by Project Kaisei to the North Pacific Gyre, also known as the 'plastic vortex', an area of thousands of square miles in the Northeast Pacific where ocean currents have trapped floating debris.

We have found that human impact has reached one of the largest and most remote ecosystems on our planet.

The problem is pervasive, and was created within the last 50 years with plastic proliferating in our daily lives - 1,000 miles offshore, in more then 1,200 miles of ocean travelled within the gyre, with regular sampling along the way, we found plastic consistently in 100 surface samples taken. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Estimates show that 50 per cent of the plastic created in the world is for disposable, single-use products.

It is time that we understood the true price of convenience.

That price is a growing environmental deficit that will continue to swell without a broad and fresh look at the way we do things.

The changes we need to make do not need to be painful to our daily lives and convenience, just logical, real and significant.

Green Sense has the right idea to bring the issue of levies on disposable products to the table. We should support these efforts.

Maybe the young employees of the companies who use these products in the most prolific way can also stand up to their employers.

They can send the message that their futures in a healthy, natural world are worth more than some quick convenience today.

Douglas Woodring, co-founder, Project Kaisei