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Sunday 13 May 2007

The end of the plastic bag?

Saw an amazing documentary Message In The Waves recently about Hawaii.

It documented the impact of what's called the 'vortex of trash' floating in the North Pacific on the islands and also explained the Indigenous methods for living in that environment — methods which are being returned to.

Beaches in Hawaii accumulate mountains of trash.

They went to Midway, the Second World War base which is now deserted, and found an albatross population dying through eating the trash floating on the oceans.

Their natural behaviour is to pick food from the ocean's surface. In the documentary we saw printer cartridges, golf balls - everything plastic - retrieved in enormous amounts from dead Albatross chicks.

Greenpeace has a great animation showing the vortex.

North of Hawaii, in the Pacific Ocean, there's a mass of tangled plastic trash twice size of Texas that's accumulated in a slow, swirling vortex of water and air created by the high pressure zone ("gyre"). This thirty-foot deep mass of tires, lawn furniture, tampon wrappers, milk jugs, plastic bags, bath toys, traffic cones, etc. Then all this traps marine life, which dies and rots, adding even more toxins to this island of death!

> Greenpeace: defending our oceans

Most of the waste comes from land, either blown off landfill or from storm drains.

I was thinking of this reading about the impact of a plastic bag ban in the small market town of Modbury in Devon.

They've completely banned plastic bags and - overnight - created a town-culture where being seen with a plastic bag gets you shunned. Funny thing is, everyone agrees, even the visitors.

Sandra Beard didn't stand a chance. Net curtains twitched. Shoppers tutted. The holidaymaker had advanced a mere 50 yards down Modbury high street before Helen Pickles burst out of her shop looking askance.

"Madam," the joint proprietor of R&H Pickles hardware trilled at Mrs Beard, "is that a plastic bag you're carrying?"

Two weeks after becoming the first town in Europe to ban plastic bags from its shops, an extraordinary transformation has taken place in the south Devon community. Carrying a plastic bag has become antisocial behaviour.

The ban came from one woman's campaign — funnily enough the same woman who'd filmed those Albatross on Midway.

This makes complete sense. Who wants plastic bags and the enormous amount of packaging inflicted on us?

Well geeks for one.

On gizmo you can buy a 'bananaguard', which was invented by Swedes.

Bananas are among the more delicate fruits, in need of protection inside a lunchbox or backpack. If you're a banana aficionado like we are, you'll need the Banana Guard, a hard plastic case for those phallic fruits that will keep those icky brown bruises away. Hey, BananaGuard also makes a great Halloween costume for that banana, but it's probably too late for that.

There are lots of references to this which concern the 'safety' of 'unprotected' bananas!

Are they insane?

So it is Geeks who are killing the world with this level of ridiculous consumerism. And don't give a stuff. And cannot now claim not to be aware.

All this 'stuff' just ends up in the stomachs of Albatross. Plastic takes eons to decay.

Here's a great page about Lunchbox waste.

Richard, who is 8, volunteered that he weighed 29kg. So in only 3 days this school creates Richard's weight in packed lunch rubbish. In the school year, they make about 57 Richards of waste just from their packed lunches!

This is how you get to '57 Richards of waste':

Unfortunately, yes, the Supermarkets are to blame because you often have to search out ways of buying the least packaged items. Crisps, for example, are now default offered in snack packs. But you can always find bananas as they come.

All our individual choices add up - just think of those Albatross next time you're faced with one.

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