The scientist whose findings environmentalists used to shame us into bringing our own reusable bags to the grocery store now says that his estimate of one hundred million (100,000,000) tons of plastic floating in the ocean may have been off by a factor of perhaps 14,285. His latest estimate ranges from 7,000 to 35,000 tons, and even most of that has biodegraded into granules.
Cózar’s team didn’t find country-size islands of plastic bags strangling baby birds and sea turtles. It found “micro plastics.” What people think of as a dump doesn’t look like floating junk. Instead, ocean current “convergence zones” are swirling with flecks of plastic – like a snow globe half a minute after shaking – and with considerably less plastic trash than expected.
Also doubtful: The environmentalist claim that 1.5 million marine animals choke to death each year on plastic bags that ran away from home for a life at sea. They’ve revised their estimates downward to 6.6 percent of that, but even the new figure has no empirical support.
In California, many cities have actually banned single-use plastic bags as a result of the successful PR campaign conjuring islands of floating plastic and animals who desperately need a Heimlich maneuver.
And let me add that I’ve never believed the tales that birds frequently gag to death on plastic bags and balloons.
First of all, growing up in the woods, I saw just how fussy birds are about what they’re willing to swallow. They pick up all kinds of detritus, but they eat only the food.
Secondly, at the Wal-Mart near our home in Texas, the birds have actually tidied up the parking lot by recycling discarded plastic bags as nesting material, no doubt reducing moisture incursion and boosting the R-value of their insulation in the process.
I’m all for following President Obama’s inaugural exhortation to “restore science to its rightful place.”
In this case, that place is Fantasy Island.