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Earth Science

Ninety-Nine Percent of the Ocean's Plastic Is Missing 304

Posted by samzenpus
from the In-his-plastic-house-at-R'lyeh-dead-Cthulhu-waits-dreaming dept.
sciencehabit writes Millions of tons. That's how much plastic should be floating in the world's oceans, given our ubiquitous use of the stuff. But a new study (abstract) finds that 99% of this plastic is missing. One disturbing possibility: Fish are eating it. If that's the case, "there is potential for this plastic to enter the global ocean food web," says Carlos Duarte, an oceanographer at the University of Western Australia, Crawley. "And we are part of this food web."
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Ninety-Nine Percent of the Ocean's Plastic Is Missing

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  • by Ynot_82 (1023749) on Monday June 30, 2014 @05:42PM (#47354181)

    fish ate it

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @05:45PM (#47354217)

    The tiny plastic beads and broken down bits end up in fish flesh, this has been established.

    http://www.fastcoexist.com/3020951/these-big-eyed-fish-are-vacuuming-up-our-plastic-pollution-at-night
    Plenty of information on this out there. 19% of all fish caught in a single survey in Hawaii had plastic in the bellies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @05:45PM (#47354223)

    http://news.sciencemag.org/environment/2014/06/ninety-nine-percent-oceans-plastic-missing

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @05:48PM (#47354257)

    According to some of the stuff you can see here based on observations of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch [wikipedia.org], plastic only degrades into tinier plastic pieces, right down to molecules. It's already in the food chain and has been for decades.

  • meh (Score:4, Informative)

    by waddgodd (34934) on Monday June 30, 2014 @05:50PM (#47354287) Homepage Journal

    Whoever thinks that plastic isn't already part of the global food web hasn't eaten at a McDonalds recently

  • assume it's dark (Score:2, Informative)

    by slew (2918) on Monday June 30, 2014 @05:58PM (#47354381)

    When you don't have an answer for the whereabouts of 90+% of the stuff your scientific theory calls for, call it dark and get some grant money to find it...

  • by queazocotal (915608) on Monday June 30, 2014 @06:01PM (#47354399)

    It getting into guts is a different problem.
    Plastic microbeads are _excellent_ at absorbing many pollutants onto their surfaces.
    When this is eaten in quantity, this can be a really efficient way for those pollutants to get into the fish - and hence into the food-chain.

  • Article Link Here. (Score:5, Informative)

    by sehlat (180760) on Monday June 30, 2014 @06:06PM (#47354439)

    Here's the "Science" magazine page:

    http://news.sciencemag.org/env... [sciencemag.org]

    and here's the referenced paper:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/ea... [pnas.org]

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday June 30, 2014 @06:19PM (#47354549) Homepage

    Water is typically considered to be theuniversal solvent [about.com] rather than the 'ultimate' solvent. But the chemical reactions might take millennia. It's more likely that degradation is due to a combination of bacteria and perhaps UV light or other reactive chemical processes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @06:39PM (#47354669)

    Do you know why those water bottles have expiration dates?

    It is because the plastic slowly leaks into the water, and that date is when current health regulations state that there would be too much plastic in the water for humans to safely consume it.

  • You know (Score:4, Informative)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland.yahoo@com> on Monday June 30, 2014 @07:28PM (#47354987) Homepage Journal

    the amount of plastic in the ocean numbers have always been riddle by flaws. I don't me out of bounds from error bars, I mean flaws. Everything from the 'garbage Island, to report of large amount of underwater plastic no one can seem to find.

  • by k6mfw (1182893) on Monday June 30, 2014 @07:46PM (#47355111)
    thanks for posting link, I actually RTFA. An interesting mention was,
    "What’s more, both Davison and Law say there are a number of other potential places the plastic could be ending up. It could be washing ashore, and a lot of it could be degrading into pieces too small to be detected. Another possibility is that organisms sticking to and growing on the plastic are dragging the junk beneath the ocean’s surface, either suspending it in the water column or sinking it all the way to the sea floor. Microbes may even be eating the stuff."
  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Monday June 30, 2014 @09:15PM (#47355845) Journal

    To most of you guys "plastic is plastic", that's all to it

    But the truth is plastic is _more_ than mere plastic --- it is a combination of many types of chemicals, all mixed together to achieve the characteristics of the plastic that it needs to have

    To see it another way, a plastic is like a steak. It is definitely _not_ only a piece of beef, but also the sauce (which itself is made of the starchy gravy - which can be broken up to other more basic components, - the flavoring [salt, sugar, spices, and so on]), plus the added chemicals, such as the aromatics (which is largely benzene group) that were formed when that beef was put over the fire

    Same thing with plastics - it is not only the acrylic resins, but we also need to account for additives such as the plasticizers, color, elastomers, and so on, plus other chemicals that were produced as a by-product of the mixing of all those chemicals over a "heated process"

    When we can eat steaks, the different bacteria inside our guts dissolve different ingredients from the steak that we have eaten

    Bacteria are not like human beings - they do not have other bacteria in their guts !

    Most often a type of bacterium may be able to digest a type of ingredient within a type of plastic, and that is all to it, which means, the other chemicals inside the plastic are still left intact, not dissolved, not digested, not broken down

  • by MightyYar (622222) on Monday June 30, 2014 @09:19PM (#47355885)

    I can't speak to fresh water, but I grew up on the water in a marine environment. Nothing lasts very long, even plastic. I obviously can't say what happens to the little bits and I don't know what effect they have on the environment - but if you want to talk about the lifetime of the plastic bottles, I don't think it is very long. Even the heavily treated, thick, expensive decking material breaks down.

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