Marine Currents & Debris

For our discussion this week, we will focus on petroleum and the petroleum-based products that started their life cycle as marine sediments. Oil is used to make a number of everyday products from plastics to blacktop for roads. Plastics are invaluable substances that have improved the quality of our lives in many different ways. However, one of their more valuable features, their ability to not break down over time, also makes them one of the most damaging substances that we find in the oceans.

Unfortunately, minute plastics pieces now cover an area roughly the size of Texas in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This has numerous ecological effects on surrounding marine organisms and is relatively unknown to the general public. For a recent description of the problem of plastics in the Pacific, see:

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While this is a large-scale, international issue that will take the agreements and action between many different countries, there are things that California is starting to consider to locally address the problem we are having with marine debris (especially plastics).

For example, the California legislature has recently been debating the best ways to reduce plastic litter in the ocean. Among the most controversial component is the complete ban of single use plastic grocery bags and Polystyrene containers. In the last couple years, legislative bills which would ban all single use plastic grocery bags in the state of California passed the California State Assembly with the support of the governor. The ban was supposed to take effect on July 1, 2015, but a referendum forced the issues onto the ballot for November 2016. Proposition 67 passed with 52 percent of the vote, meaning the plastic bag ban approved by the Legislature two years ago will remain. Although there are many exemptions planned as well as relatively low maximum charges, some people are vocally against the strategy of banning or charging for plastic bags and containers. Others however, are in favor of it because of numerous successful programs that have been implemented all over the world (please see links below). These programs have reduced plastic waste from grocery bags by up to 90% while generating revenue to help with cleaning up environmental problems which are rarely adequately funded.

After reading through the following recommended material as well as anything you can find on the web, post your thoughts on the issue of banning single use plastic straws, bags and polystyrene containers or requiring grocery stores to charge for bags. (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)

To get full credit, you must cite some of what you learned in the background material to show that you have an adequate understanding of the issues. You should consider: how it will affect all interested parties, if you think that the goals are achievable, what variations you feel would be most effective and why, and if you feel that proposals like this are politically and economically viable.

If you prefer, you can also focus your post on your general feelings about all of the plastic waste in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, what effect it has on marine organisms, and what you think should be done about it.

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