My lovely husband was driving me into St George’s to the Pharmacy. It was making him a little late for work, but I had run out of deodorant. He had rescheduled to make sure I could pick some up, and the plan was to walk back. I don’t like holding him up for work, but this seemed the best solution. I get my walk, and the much needed essential cosmetic item; he gets a short detour and off to work as usual. On the way we passed the wharf and there was the Greenpeace ship Esperanza docked there. My lovely husband said ‘Nooooo’ but I was adamant because I just received an email recently about their activities in the Sargasso Sea. I thought I’d have a closer look on the way back.
Now Greenpeace have a North to South project studying the effects of non-biodegradable plastic waste on the environment. They are currently in the Sargasso Sea, which we are a part of here in Bermuda. It’s the only sea in the world that is boarded by ocean currents, four to be exact, and no land masses. That’s pretty special, because it has no boundaries, and can grow or shrink depending upon conditions. I’ve been trying to find out how big it is currently, which wasn’t easy but it’s approximately 1000 km wide and 4000 km long. The Sargasso Sea has been discussed before in my blogs, but this year has been a little different. There has been massive growth of the sargassum seaweed, so much so that we still have it coming into shore here, months after it would usually have settled down for the year. Reports of single strands growing to the length of a bus, and mats of it joining up into rafts the size of several football fields, has been common. Why is it so important to study? Sargassum is known as the floating rain forest. It’s an ecosystem for hundreds of species of marine life including fish, crabs, and shrimp to name a few that eat the algae. Turtles use the mats as nurseries, and even humpback whales migrate there annually and depend on it for food. It’s a busy place. It has been washing up on the beaches here, which is usual, but not in the quantities we’ve seen this year. Now when my lovely husband gets political, I joke that he has got his soap box out. Stop reading now, as I’m about to stand on mine!
Those lovely pink sand beaches are covered, and the hotels have been working hard with their tractors to remove as much as they can. It is better for the environment if it’s just left alone to rot down on it’s own, which in turn feeds the coral reef and helps to keep it healthy. Where we live that’s exactly what it does, and it has bugs and creatures hopping about in it. Of course it’s dead once it washes up on shore, but was a living plant in the ocean. The problem is that it easily traps items that’s not good for it, namely non-biodegradable things like plastic and flotsam that’s ended up in the water somehow. Most of this comes from the ocean currents that carry rubbish for miles, to be caught in this net like massive area. In fact it can trap up to 200,000 pieces of rubbish per square kilometre. That’s a lot. Greenpeace have a petition going to ask the United Nations to make the Sargasso Sea a protected area, something that’s already under consideration, and would be a first for a sea with no boundaries.
Walking on the ‘non hotel’ beaches can be interesting. Today I popped down to our nearest one, and discovered a lot of plastic rubbish caught in the Sargassum. Everyone here helps to clean it up, and picks up what ever they can, when ever they can. There are rubbish bins nearby that the hoard can be left at and it will be cleared away next rubbish day. I am dismayed however to find things like tampon applicators, and used syringes amongst the trash. All of it shouldn’t be there. Even the Arctic has been reported to be polluted by micro plastic particles. Plastic in the sand is very colorful, but tiny and could be mistaken for food by passing creatures. Plastic has it’s places, but this high consumable throw away plastic we use on a daily bases needs to be changed. We used to use glass, paper and cardboard. Now the cardboard cartons have a plastic coating that doesn’t break down either. There’s a product out there using hemp fibre to make biodegradable plastic, that breaks down in only a few months. We just need the price to come down for that to become a norm, and for the world to stop stressing about growing hemp. That’s a plant that can convert up to four times more carbon dioxide than other similar plants, and every part of it can be used in manufacturing, so there is no waste. Some supermarkets have introduced bringing your own container for items like food from the food court. This is a good start. I have a plastic water bottle. Yes it’s plastic, but I refill it, take it with me everywhere, and have had it for well over twelve months so far. I cracked my last one that lasted me four years, and was heart broken. But I saved buying non-biodegradable plastic bottles for five years so far – if I bought one a day that would be 1,823 plastic bottles. I took off my two permanent ones to get that total! And that’s just me. Just one person.
Plastic waste on the beach – Bermuda
So I walked back to the wharf, just in time for the Esperanza to be leaving. I was a little panicked trying to get a good photo, and a little overwhelmed at how hard they work to try and make a difference to this planet we all share. And a little guilty that my new deodorant is in non-biodegradable plastic packaging. But I didn’t have any other choice, except not to wear it!
More soon – Sally
I hope that my blog has made you think about your own use of consumable non-biodegradable plastics. Do you know what happens to the plastics you put out for recycling in your country? I’d love to hear about it in the comments once you find out.
If you would like to find out more about what Greenpeace are doing, you can read it here – oh and there’s a link to the petition if you would like to sign it: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/news/greenpeace-partners-with-marine-researchers-and-shailene-woodley-for-sargasso-sea-expedition/