Feb 20, 2007 - 12:03:05 PM
A vast swath of the Pacific, twice the size of Texas, is full of a plastic stew that is entering the food chain. Scientists say these toxins are causing obesity, infertility...and worse.Fate can take strange forms, and so perhaps it does not seem unusual that Captain Charles Moore found his life’s purpose in a nightmare. Unfortunately, he was awake at the time, and 800 miles north of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.
It happened on August 3, 1997, a lovely day, at least in the beginning: Sunny. Little wind. Water the color of sapphires. Moore and the crew of Alguita, his 50-foot aluminum-hulled catamaran, sliced through the sea.
Returning to Southern California from Hawaii after a sailing race, Moore had altered Alguita’s course, veering slightly north. He had the time and the curiosity to try a new route, one that would lead the vessel through the eastern corner of a 10-million-square-mile oval known as the North Pacific subtropical gyre. This was an odd stretch of ocean, a place most boats purposely avoided. For one thing, it was becalmed. “The doldrums,” sailors called it, and they steered clear. So did the ocean’s top predators: the tuna, sharks, and other large fish that required livelier waters, flush with prey. The gyre was more like a desert—a slow, deep, clockwise-swirling vortex of air and water caused by a mountain of high-pressure air that lingered above it.
The area’s reputation didn’t deter Moore. He had grown up in Long Beach, 40 miles south of L.A., with the Pacific literally in his front yard, and he possessed an impressive aquatic résumé: deckhand, able seaman, sailor, scuba diver, surfer, and finally captain. Moore had spent countless hours in the ocean, fascinated by its vast trove of secrets and terrors. He’d seen a lot of things out there, things that were glorious and grand; things that were ferocious and humbling. But he had never seen anything nearly as chilling as what lay ahead of him in the gyre.
It began with a line of plastic bags ghosting the surface, followed by an ugly tangle of junk: nets and ropes and bottles, motor-oil jugs and cracked bath toys, a mangled tarp. Tires. A traffic cone. Moore could not believe his eyes. Out here in this desolate place, the water was a stew of plastic crap. It was as though someone had taken the pristine seascape of his youth and swapped it for a landfill...
Article Continues at Best Life Magazine...
- 17:44 26 June 2007
- NewScientist.com news service
- Catherine Brahic
A US company is taking plastics recycling to another level – turning them back into the oil they were made from, and gas.
All that is needed, claims Global Resource Corporation (GRC), is a finely tuned microwave and – hey presto! – a mix of materials that were made from oil can be reduced back to oil and combustible gas (and a few leftovers).
Key to GRC’s process is a machine that uses 1200 different frequencies within the microwave range, which act on specific hydrocarbon materials. As the material is zapped at the appropriate wavelength, part of the hydrocarbons that make up the plastic and rubber in the material are broken down into diesel oil and combustible gas.
GRC's machine is called the Hawk-10. Its smaller incarnations look just like an industrial microwave with bits of machinery attached to it. Larger versions resemble a concrete mixer.
"Anything that has a hydrocarbon base will be affected by our process," says Jerry Meddick, director of business development at GRC, based in New Jersey. "We release those hydrocarbon molecules from the material and it then becomes gas and oil."
Whatever does not have a hydrocarbon base is left behind, minus any water it contained as this gets evaporated in the microwave.
"Take a piece of copper wiring," says Meddick. "It is encased in plastic – a kind of hydrocarbon material. We release all the hydrocarbons, which strips the casing off the wire." Not only does the process produce fuel in the form of oil and gas, it also makes it easier to extract the copper wire for recycling.Similarly, running 9.1 kilograms of ground-up tyres through the Hawk-10 produces 4.54 litres of diesel oil, 1.42 cubic metres of combustible gas, 1 kg of steel and 3.40 kg of carbon black, Meddick says.
Randolph's Note: Microwaves are also good for sterilising smelly sponges that have succumbed to mold and microbes. Microwaves are also good for killing and distorting the essential nutrients in your food - BAD!