Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Non-Mystery of Plastic in the Ocean

In the news today, an interesting study of the amount of plastic in the Atlantic Ocean:

The concentration of plastic bits floating on the surface of the Atlantic has held steady for more than 20 years, found a new study, even as people use and discard ever-increasing amounts of plastic.

With growing concerns about plastic in the environment, the surprising new finding raises questions about where all that stuff is ending up.

“We know that the global production of plastic has increased at a very high rate, and we know that plastics in the waste stream have also increased over time,” said Kara Lavender, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Mass.

“We infer that plastic in the ocean is most likely increasing,” she added. “So how come we’re not seeing increasing amounts of plastic in areas where the plastic is accumulating? That’s the mystery.”

Except that it isn't a mystery at all. The explanation was already discovered by other scientists several years ago: plastic dissolves in seawater. I know this; presumably many of my readers know this, since I blogged about it. Why don't these oceanographers know this? I have done a little internet searching to see if that original study has been questioned or proved false, but I can't find any such information. So, mysteries upon mysteries.

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