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JUNK Publicizes Plastic Debris in the Ocean

Posted Jun 06 2009 12:04am
My son, Joel Paschal, is home in West Lafayette visiting friends and family. While he is here, he is doing quite a few presentations about his and Marcus's raft trip on the Junk across the Pacific Ocean. I thought it would be a good idea to review why they decided to do this.
This researcher is walking on a remote beach in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. These islands are a protected wildlife refuge and have no humans living on them. Look at the trash! All that trash came from the North Pacific Garbage Patch.

This is a baby albatross sitting on a littered beach in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. It is waiting to be fed by its mother.
Adult albatrosses fly over open ocean and scoop up food such as floating fish eggs for their babies. They carry that food to the babies and regurgitate it into the baby's crop.





This is a plastic bottle found in the North Pacific Gyre where plastic is accumulating. You can see that it has been pecked and eated by an albatross. They have learned that fish lay their eggs on debris like this. An adult albatross that has eaten this will feed it to the baby. The baby will fill up on so much undigestible plastic debris that it starves to death.



After plastic debris has been exposed to the ocean and sunlight, it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. It photodegrades rather than biodegrades, so it is still plastic. These pieces can be as small as dust particles. They then attract toxic chemicals such as DDT or PCBs.





This is a filter feeder that strains ocean water for plankton for its food. At the same time, it consumes tiny particles of plastic. A small fish will eat the jelly fish and its plastic. A larger fish will eat the small fish. This continues up the food chain until top predators or humans eat it. The toxic chemicals that adhered to the plastic move into animals tissues. So our own food is compromised by plastic debris in the ocean.
Where does plastic debris in the ocean come from? At least 80% of it comes from human activity on land. You can live in land-locked Iowa or Indiana and have a negative effect on the ocean. If plastic is thrown out as litter, it has a chance of ending up in one of our oceans. Once it is there, it cannot go anywhere else so it just accumulates.
Joel Paschal and Marcus Erikson decided to build a raft that was kept afloat by 15,000 plastic bottles. They went to a recycling center to get the bottles. Here is Marcus swimming in bottles, but 90% of them cannot be used because they are thin-walled water bottles. They built their raft, JUNK, and sailed for 88 days across the Pacific to publicize the issue of plastic in the ocean. The voyage was a success only if we reduce our use of plasic.
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