Plastic Ocean

Each year International Earth Day arrives and departs bringing us a brief smattering of hard-hitting, often downright shocking truths about how we are wrecking the planet. This past 40th anniversary edition of Earth Day delivered some of the worst news I’ve heard about our collective environmental footprint. Many of us are becoming aware of  “Garbage Island”, that rolling mass of mostly plastic, human-manufactured debris – a virtual magnet for junk in the Pacific Ocean – that is approximately twice the size of the state of Texas.Now comes word of several similar waste islands gathering in size in other bodies of water, including the North Atlantic.

How on Earth has this epic ecological travesty escaped the realm of common knowledge? Nobody I speak to about this has ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Island, let alone any other garbage islands.  Last week at an offsite work meeting Garbage Island came up during a discussion about our environmental focus. I watched the horror creep over the faces of some of my coworkers, who unlike me, are not privy to the barrage of news stories us PR junkies are. They turned to their laptops and googled “Garbage Island.” The headlines:  “Garbage Island Brews a Toxic Chemical Soup” and “Gojira – Toxic Garbage Island lyrics” spawned a lengthy conversation. Lyrics? Ringtones? Yes! From in the dark to the harsh light of reality in the click of a Google search. All available to you now!

Yes, educating oneself about Garbage Island is the easy part. If you’re wondering how the island formed, essentially the litter that gets thrown in our oceans makes it’s way from separate directions, via currents, to the main vortex in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There the junk collates and grows into a mass that is currently several hundred miles wide and some 90 feet deep!

It’s a devastating environmental nightmare with lasting negative impacts for the health of the earth’s inhabitants. As the island swirls and collects more plastic waste, a corresponding cycle spins into our food chain, from the small fish that ingest the non-biodegradable plastic, to the bigger fish that eat them, to the people that dine on that fish. Those of us who consider ourselves to live a healthy life, responsibly recycling and eating a nutritious diet, are being contaminated by our own waste.

So what can we do about this? It appears countless efforts have been launched to prepare for a clean-up of Garbage Island. Many say it’s impossible and would require unimaginable resources. An online petition to get the mass cleaned up closed with only 111 takers. Too formidable a task? Well, like many crusades for change, one day at a time, one action at a time is likely the best approach.

As for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, our meeting last week ended with a commitment from each of us to create a personal email signature stating our “green and blue” pledge.

Mine is to stop using plastic bags. What’s yours?

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Tania Venn is Director, PR for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. Her other responsibilities include leading the PR team for WOW 1Day! Painting and You Move Me. In her spare time Tania enjoys the outdoors, hiking in summer and skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Tania can be found on Google+ and LinkedIn.