Nearly every food product we buy ...

Take a look around you- most of what we eat, drink, or use in some way comes packaged in petroleum plastic - a material designed to last forever, yet used for products that we then throw away. This throwaway mentality is a relatively recent phenomenon. Just a generation ago, we packaged our products in reusable or recyclable materials – glass, metals, and paper, and designed products that would last. Today, our landfills and beaches are awash in plastic packaging, and expendable products that have no value at the end of their short lifecycle.

The problem is not confined to industrialised countries. In developing countries, the plague of plastic bags and other throwaway packaging has also turned into a nuisance and some countries have started to limit or even prohibit their use.

Much of the plastic we throw away carelessly finds its way into rivers and into the oceans. Did you know that it takes a plastic bottle from 7 to 10 years to travel from the US to Japan across the Pacific Ocean? Researchers have found that the ocean currents circulating in the major seas are conveyor belts for such plastic. Learn more about the problem and possible solutions. Several research organisations and NGOs have teamed up to investigate and develop remedies.

Captain Charles Moore is among those investigating the problem - click here to find out more.

Where does the rubbish come from? One source is the Citarum River in Western Java, Indonesia.

Once its waters supported agriculture, fisheries, water supplies to the approximately 5 million people living in its catchment and their industries. But what a sad state it is in now as a result of abuse and indiscrimate use as sewer and carbage dump. Where fishermen were once going about their business, poor boaters hawk the plastic garbage for any remaining useable item. In the lower reaches pollution and poverty form a depressing mix.

Efforts are now underway to rehabilitate the river to its earlier healthy state and thus also provide healthier living conditions for the riparian people. See the movie on YouTube.

Microscopic rubbish poses threats to marine life

Thomas Maes coordinates a study of marine litter in the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), a Government agency based in Lowestoft, Suffolk, UK. Maes and his colleague, Peter Kershaw, are analysing data about microscopic plastic rubbish drifting in huge quantities in the North Sea and other oceans. The particles are sometimes too small to notice with the naked eye and are ingested by marine life and also enter the human food chain.

Read more.