Monday, December 9, 2013

How stuff works gets involved!

How long does it take for plastics to biodegrade?

"Drop a ketchup bottle on the floor, and you'll be thankful for polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, the nearly indestructible plastic used to make most containers and bottles. Drop the same bottle into a landfill, however, and you might have second thoughts. Why? Because petroleum-based plastics like PET don't decompose the same way organic material does. Wood, grass and food scraps undergo a process known as biodegradation when they're buried, which is a fancy way of saying they're transformed by bacteria in the soil into other useful compounds. But bacteria turn up their noses at plastic. Load their dinner plates with some plastic bags and bottles, and the one-celled gluttons will skip the meal entirely.
Based on this logic, it's safe to argue that plastic will never biodegrade. Of course, that's not the end of the story. Daniel Burd, a student at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, recently demonstrated that certain types of bacteria can break down plastic. His research earned the top prize at the Canada-wide Science Fair, earning him $10,000 cash and a $20,000 scholarship [source: Kawawada].
Until other researchers can replicate Burd's experiment and waste treatment plants can implement any new processes, the only real way to break down plastic is through photodegradation. This kind of decomposition requires sunlight, not bacteria. When UV rays strike plastic, they break the bonds holding the long molecular chain together. Over time, this can turn a big piece of plastic into lots of little pieces.
Of course, plastic buried in a landfill rarely sees the light of day. But in the ocean, which is where a lot of discarded grocery bags, soft drink bottles and six-pack rings end up, plastic is bathed in as much light as water. In 2009, researchers from Nihon University in Chiba, Japan, found that plastic in warm ocean water can degrade in as little as a year. This doesn't sound so bad until you realize those small bits of plastic are toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and PS oligomer. These end up in the guts of animals or wash up on shorelines, where humans are most likely to come into direct contact with the toxins.
One solution to this environmental disaster is biodegradable plastic. There are two types currently on the market -- plant-based hydro-biodegradable plastic and petroleum-based oxo-biodegradable plastic. In the former category, polylactic acid (PLA), a plastic made from corn, tops the list as the most talked-about alternative. PLA decomposes into water and carbon dioxide in 47 to 90 days -- four times faster than a PET-based bag floating in the ocean. But conditions have to be just right to achieve these kinds of results. PLA breaks down most efficiently in commercial composting facilities at high temperatures. When buried in a landfill, a plastic bag made from corn may remain intact just as long as a plastic bag made from oil or natural gas.
 Keep reading for more links you might like on plastics."

What is corn plastic?

For years, the corncob pipe was a fashion accessory best left to hillbillies, Frosty the Snowman and Gen. Douglas MacArthur. While the look is no less bumpkinish today than it ever was, corn is showing up in the production of more everyday items -- and without resembling a prop from "Hee Haw." What looks like normal oil-based plastic at first glance is actually polylactic acid (PLA) plastic made from specially processed crops.
That's right: corn plastic. You can drink coffee out of it, put groceries in it, wear it and even hang ten on it on a corn plastic surfboard. Most important, you can turn corn into plastic and avoid dependency on petroleum. Much like corn ethanol, corn plastic allows us to make a comparable product out of a renewable resource, as opposed to oil reserves that will one day run dry. In addition, since corn can be cultivated throughout the world, market value doesn't hinge on relationships with oil-rich nations or on peace in the Middle East. After all, have you ever seen "No blood for corn" printed on a T-shirt?
The United States uses 20.8 million barrels of oil per day, 10 percent of which goes solely to the production of conventional plastic such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) [sources: CIA World Factbook, Jewell]. Bioplastics like corn plastic, however, don't require oil and, as a bonus, their manufacture releases fewer toxins and greenhouse gases.
­Plus, while normal plastic has a nasty habit of sticking around for centuries after disposal, corn plastic boasts the ability to biodegrade in mere months. Moreover, should you choose to burn it, you don't have to worry about creating toxic fumes.
In this article, we'll look at how a corn stalk turns into a plastic garbage can and why some critics aren't convinced that bioplastics are necessarily a godsend.

Bioplastics: The Pros and Cons

Globally, bioplastics make up nearly 331,000 tons (300,000 metric tons) of the plastics market [source: European Bioplastics]. That may sound like a lot, but it only accounts for less than 1 percent of the 200 million tons (181 million metric tons) of synthetic plastics the world produces each year [source: Green Council]. Still, the bioplastics market is growing by 20 to 30 percent each year, but not everyone's pleased [source: Vidal].
­What could be wrong with a renewable resource you grow in a field and compost when you're done with it? As it turns out, several things. For one, corn plastic only composts in the hot, moist settings of a commercial composting facility. Simply throw a corn plastic product out of your car or bury it in a backyard-composting heap and the material will stand the test of time just as regular PET plastics will.
If commercial composting isn't available, PLA plastics can wind up following conventional plastics into the landfill or into plastic recycling programs. What's wrong with putting corn plastics in your recycling bin? To the uninformed eye, one may look very much like the other, but their chemical composition is very different. In fact, a relatively small amount of bioplastic can contaminate conventional plastic recycling, preventing the salvaged plastic from being reused and stopping recycling companies from profiting from one of their more lucrative recyclables.
Due to these dangers, companies like NatureWorks are treading carefully, introducing corn plastic products slowly and communicating with commercial recyclers to spot contamination early. Bioplastics manufacturers insist that the threat is overblown and that recycling remains a better option than composting for PLAs such as corn plastic, since it makes up such a small percent of the current plastics market. In addition, since PLA plastics produce the greenhouse gas methane when they decompose, composting isn't a perfect disposal method. On the other hand, if incinerated, bioplastics don't emit toxic fumes like their oil-based counterparts.
To avoid the complications of mixed plastics, commercial composters in the Northwestern United States only accept bioplastics from food service operations, not households. This approach means that bioplastics could conceivably be used to great effect at sports games and other events where foods are purchased and consumed on the premises in bulk.
As with corn ethanol, corn plastic has also drawn criticism for depending on the industrial farming of large fields of crops. These fields could otherwise be used to grow food for an ever-rising global population. Much of the corn used for bioplastics is a variety called Number 2 Yellow Dent that's used mostly for animal feed. In addition, some of this corn used has been genetically modified. Nevertheless, even if genetically modified corn was used to make your plastic water bottle, NatureWorks insists that you don't have to worry about consuming modified proteins, as these are destroyed in the transformation from plant to PLA plastic [source: Jewell].
Advocates also stress that the bioplastics industry is in its infancy, with long-term plans of being able to depend exclusively on agricultural waste (such as stems and stalks) for production. Such plans are also mentioned in defense of the higher costs associated with bioplastics research and production. PET plastics are a mature commodity, with years of production fine-tuning behind it. Bioplastics advocates argue that, in time, PLA costs will go down, all while petroleum-based plastics costs continue to fluctuate due to unstable production regions and dwindling resources.
Explore the links on the next page to learn even more about plastics, corn, biofuel and recycling.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Final Painting Project: Plastic Concept

In today's blog,

the only thing I will say is:
We had to paint a concept & only use a big brush (size 10).
(That's why it's not as detailed as it could have been)

Can you guess what mine is about?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The problem with documentary like....

The problems with documentaries like: Plastic Planet

is the negative picture they paint about plastic. I mean Congratulations Werner Boote, on living an almost plastic-free and minimal newly discovered lifestyle. I mean, I have tried to go 100% plastic-free and to be completely honest, living on a student salary isn't going to cut it.
(P.S: I tried contacting you in order to have you involved with my project, which is very similar to what you are involved with, but I guess that's something we can discuss about some other time...)

ANYWAYS, where was I...
ahh ... yes,
Plastic is an amazing creation. We should not hate nor blame plastic companies because of our misuse of the product.  It's not their fault its a cheap good; in the sense that it doesn't cost much to produce.

The reason for the harmful effects it creates, is something we can only blame ourselves for.
We are the ones who choose to use so much quantity of it.
We are the ones who do not recycle it, or deliberately pollute it.

By blaming plastic industries, we are denying our direct involvement with the merchandise. And that is just too easy. Plastic is, once again, an amazing product. And like many amazing products, problems associate themselves with it, especially in the beginning, or what I like to call the "honeymoon phase".

I mean remember the iPhone when it first came out?

The Honeymoon Phase

From toothbrushes, to medical equipments, to credit cards, plastic is something no other type of material (as of today) could do. The reason for most of its associated problems, comes from the fact that it is so cheap and easy to fabricate in such a large quantity at a very fast pace.

Just imagine for one second....
That you are in another world...
Plastic is no longer like the plastic we interact with today. 
Imagine its worth being the equivalence of gold. 
Now how different do you think this world would be?
No one would dare waste it. 
No one would pollute it. 
People would cherish its existence as an item that was worth something!
And we all know what we do with objects that are valuable, 
we protect and keep them. 

Do you see what I mean, now, by plastic being a cheap good and it being our fault?
By plastic having a low, almost worthless value to it, its importance is worth the equivalence. 

That's why people will throw their trash out the window, leave their "trash" behind, because they are not true belongings. 

The picture below is Key West early in the morning. After the "partiers" have gone home to sleep. 
Please, feel free to comment on what you see.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thank You Boyan Slat

Engineering Student Claims his invention will clean up our oceans in five years.


So today's post is about thanking 19 year old, Boyan Slat.

As the article states:

A Dutch teenager has invented a device that he claims could clean up some 20 billion tonnes of
plastic waste from the world's oceans.
Boyan Slat, 19, came up with the idea of a series of floating booms and processing platforms designed to collect floating plastic rubbish.
The 'ocean cleanup' concept is designed to capture the floating plastic but allow life like fish and plankton to pass through unharmed, while saving the waste materials to be recycled.
How does it work?
The Ocean Cleanup Array is an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms will span the radius of a gyre.
The booms act as giant funnels where the angle of the booms effectively 'suck' rubbish in.
The debris enters the platforms, where it will be filtered out of the water and eventually stored in containers until collected for recycling on land.
One of the most significant advantages of using booms instead of nets is that marine life cannot be caught in them.
Furthermore, because the transport of plastic along the booms is driven by the currents, it’s slow enough for organisms to escape...

Sounds to good to be true? Yes. Unfortunately, it does. The concept is amazing, and a great beginning, but a non-factual one.

I personally don't want to share all the problems I have come across with Slat's concepts, because I too come up with ideas, concepts, and inventions that seem amazing and the only thing people can do is critique on just the complications. So I will leave my commentaries out.

What I will say instead is that I am glad people, young ones at that, are aware of this occurrence, and are "inventing" concepts to solve it! I also hope he will also prove us, the skeptics, wrong!

Personally, I've been working with the University of South Florida on an undergraduate research project on spreading awareness and creating change through an art piece
Just last week, I met up with my Mentor, Lisa Piazza, and discussed how I conceptualized the project.
Let me just tell you, I received nothing but positive feedback!! So... you better get excited because it's going to be nothing less than Awesome.
But to finish this blog correctly, I would like to thank you Boyan Slat.
For putting yourself out there and already succeeding.

Make sure you Check out his website:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Response Paper

Research Paper 3
Natacha Palay
Plastic Continents

            Landscapes aesthetics in practice

            The reasons for choosing Landscapes aesthetics in practice, as the main article to write a response paper to, seemed appropriate. The similarities between the projects they underwent and what I wish to set in motion with Plastic Continents, are striking . The artist creates a piece of art that is not only interactive, but create a momentum among its participants. The three landscape fieldwork projects have successfully engaged people with landscape change processes in varying degrees. These projects are not complete, and would be considered on-going pieces of art and research. I believe this article could be a primary reference for how I could develop and present my art project. 

            The idea that an artist could not create a piece of art as an art product, but a project that is interactive for its audience is a concept I find appealing. In the three landscape fieldwork projects, the research approach is participatory. The co-researchers are the artist and the people in the community. Whether the  participants were asked to draw, walk, or do both, the activities were seen as performative and catalytic. By creating a piece of art that isn't set on an exact theme the artist has worked solely, put things in motion, creating the a momentum for its viewers. Each participant becomes involved and attached to the work on a personal level, letting reactions and emotions to find their expression (formulate) through the artist acting as a catalyst, who allows the social and individual experiment to produce art.
Artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude underwent their projects with a specific motto: “l'on voit mieux les choses quand on les cache.” (We see things better once we have  hidden them).
A notion very close to what I envision(ed) Plastic Continents to portray. The ability to spread awareness and generate a constructive  response through  activist art, appealing to the hihest possible level of emotions and response, or what they call resilience of each audience member. By letting those engaged with the project on a personal level to come to the realization that change is needed and must begin.

            By having the viewers take part in the projects, the results obtained in the end are less prone to abide to political correctness, or basic pretense of good-doing, and will be authentic and sincere. When reflecting on ideas about how Plastic Continents should be presented, these two terms, authenticity and sincerity, play an important role.
In Felix Gonzalez-Torres piece “Untitled”(Portrait of Ross in L.A.) was an installation of 175 pounds of individually wrapped hard-candy. This was an allegorical representation of the artist's partner, Ross Laycock, who died of AIDS in 1991. The weight is significant, because it corresponded to Ross's ideal body weight. Audience members were encouraged to take a piece of candy from the pile. As the pile gradually decreased paralleled with Ross's weight loss and tribulation prior to his loss of life. When presenting Plastic Continents, the idea that the audience would be able to participate with the work of art and by doing so understand not only the problem at hand, but the big picture of this global ecological  catastrophe, is the result I would hope for. Individuals would then realize that a global problem can only begin to resolve to the individual and local level, by changing their habits first. The three landscape projects and Gonzalez-Torres's are simple, yet, to the point and evident. One, almost, doesn't need to read or know much about the subject to understand its significance, that's what makes them extraordinary.
            What is most appealing in the three landscape projects, is the open-ended aspect. It gives it a feel of a perpetual life and lets the artwork become memorable. Personally, the idea that viewers go to an exhibition, views the pieces of art, and then forget about it the next day is quite unnerving and discouraging, if the ultimate goal was not the self promotion of the artist, but her/his will to start a momentum of emotions, reactions, creations . A television commercial like the one expedited by Brita, to promote a tap water filtration system is an interesting example of creating a huge-positive changing impact. The ad showed a string of attached plastic water bottles extending to the horizon as a spectacular illustration of  the amount of plastic water bottles we consumed on a yearly basis can really add up, claiming that 300 hundred of those could be replaced by a single brita filter. This commercial created a huge sense of awareness amongst casual water drinkers, athletes, students, young or old, etc... It created a reaction and feelings in those who had seen the commercial. I have the conviction that the ones who have seen the ad, will durably associate a water bottle they might be on the verge of consuming, to that string of discarded plastic that could go three hundred times around the earth. And most likely debate on the necessity, or the legitimacy of their purchase. And just by enlightening one mind, can a momentum be started that will transform itself into a reaction and then into a change. It's a never-ending process in itself just like the three landscape fieldwork projects.

            Creating a piece of art that stands on a strictly activist stand point, might sound repetitive and purely rhetorical. Make it participative, interactive and open-ended, where the community and public guides its growth and intentions, and you've got yourself a “fun but deep way of learning and helping” art piece. Plastic Continents is exactly that. By creating an artwork made of situations, of collections of reactions and  that will let its viewers understand and acknowledge that they should not consider themselves as passively part of  an overwhelming global problem but that they can empower themselves to be part of its solution. Solving the plastic pollution that keeps bleeding into the our oceans and our deserts can only be through local and individual initiatives and plastic continent’s artistic activism could create such a catalytic reaction.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pop Trash

"If paparazzi shots of Britney Spears picking her nose and Hillary Duffgetting a parking ticket just aren't doing it for you anymore, and thepages of In Touch magazine seem nothing more than a blur of neoncaptions, exclamation points and arrows pointing to thongs sticking outof sweat suits, fret you not. Thanks to French photo-journalists PascalRostain, 45 and Bruno Mouron, 50, there is now a new, improved, evenmore intrusive and stalker-like way to idolize and relate to yourfavorite celebrities. For the past 14 years, the Paris Matchphotographers, armed with a celebrity star map and a pair of rubbergloves, have been waiting til the sun goes down to rifle through,collect, and photograph celebrity garbage. That's right: trash, refuse,waste, Governor Schwarzenegger's empty Newman's Own Lemonade cartons.And through July 16, at the Star Trash Store in Manhattan, you can viewStar Trash, an exhibit of photographs documenting 25 Hollywoodsuperstars' waste products, including (but not limited to) Madonna'sempty Cocoa Pebbles box, Mel Gibson's discarded Etch-A-Sketch, andSteven Spielberg's tattered copy of TV Guide.
While Rostain and Mouron chose to do their hunting and gathering in thewee hours of the night, there was actually nothing illegal about goingthrough these celebrities' garbage -- the only crime, Roustain explains,would have been to photograph any sexual or medical-related objects. "Wefound empty boxes of Viagra," Rostain admits, "but I cannot tell you inwhose trash we found them." And really, even if it were legal tophotograph such scandalicious objets d'art, Roustain and Mouronprobably would not. "We really didn't do this to make a scandal,"Roustain says. Instead, he claims, "We hope that in the future, thesepictures will appear in some history book." Their goal is that thephotos will someday serve to document and illuminate thecapitalist-driven consumer culture of the 21st century. "I don't callmyself an artist -- I'm a garbage investigator," Roustain, the armchairsociologist, says. "Next, we want to photograph the garbage of normalpeople -- a Chinese family, an Indian family, an African family,families all over the world."
But lest you think these two are fuddy-duddy academic-types who takethemselves too seriously to see the humor in Ronald Reagan's empty boxof Thomas' English Muffins, Rostain claims that first and foremost, "Wedo this for fun."
So, take that paper bag off your head, there's no shame in this game. Infact, we give you the right to view these photographs entirely withoutguilt or embarrassment. After all, you're only going to the show becauseyou're interested in the sociological implications of garbage and thebroader, social trend of celebrity-worship in American popular cultureright? Right."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Taking a more Artsy Approach

So after meeting with my Project mentor,
and had a long discussion on the articles I mentioned in the previous post, we 
came to the conclusion that I was still stuck in a "scientific mindset".

I had to remind myself I was trying to create a Art project. 
One that would not only educate and spread awareness on the plastic continents phenomenons, but also create a piece that would strike a positive a positive consciousness amongst the viewers in wanting to be part of the solution and change. 

So I took a different approach in what I was researching. 
I started by looking at artists who had created a piece that made an impact on their viewers. 
Such artist and the different type of movements and style in art that came to mind were the following:

-Land Art
-Edward Kienholz


-Performance Art

-Conceptual Art

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

and the research continues...

I then referenced three more articles that had to do with:

-The challenges and opportunities of recycling

-The accumulation and fragmentation of plastic debris in global environments


-The plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends

Instead of you having to read over 30 sum pages, I will give you a summary on each of these, extremely interesting, articles. 
The links are attached in case you choose to read and found out more about it. 

In the first article: 
Plastics recycling: challenges and opportunities
Jefferson Hopewell, Robert Dvorak and Edward Kosior

This article was published in 2009. It cites 27 other articles, and deals with environmental science.

Some interesting phrases taken from the article:

"Plastics are inexpensive, lightweight and durable materials, which can readily be moulded into a variety of products that find use in a wide range of applications. As a consequence, the production of plastics has increased markedly over the last 60 years. However, current levels of their usage and disposal generate several environmental problems."

"Around 4 per cent of world oil and gas production, a non-renewable resource, is used as feedstock for plastics and a further 3–4% is expended to provide energy for their manufacture. A major portion of plastic produced each year is used to make disposable items of packaging or other short-lived products that are discarded within a year of manufacture. These two observations alone indicate that our current use of plastics is not sustain- able. In addition, because of the durability of the polymers involved, substantial quantities of discarded end-of-life plastics are accumulating as debris in landfills and in natural habitats worldwide."

"Recycling is one of the most important actions currently available to reduce these impacts and represents one of the most dynamic areas in the plastics industry today. Recycling provides opportunities to reduce oil usage, carbon dioxide emissions and the quantities of waste requiring disposal. Here, we briefly set recycling into context against other waste-reduction strategies, namely reduction in material use through downgauging or product reuse, the use of alternative biodegradable materials and energy recovery as fuel."

 "While plastics have been recycled since the 1970s, the quantities that are recycled vary geographically, according to plastic type and application. Recycling of packaging materials has seen rapid expansion over the last decades in a number of countries. Advances in technologies and systems for the collection, sorting and reprocessing of recyclable plastics are creating new opportunities for recycling, and with the combined actions of the public, industry and governments it may be possible to divert the majority of plastic waste from landfills to recycling over the next decades."

Second Article:

Accumulation and fragmentation of plastic debris in global environments
David K. A. Barnes, Francois Galgani, Richard C. Thompson and Morton Barlaz

This article was published in 2009. It cites 76 other articles, and deals with environmental science.

Some interesting phrases taken from the article:

"While plastics typically constitute approximately 10 per cent of discarded waste, they represent a much greater proportion of the debris accumulating on shorelines. "

"The longevity of plastic is estimated to be hundreds to thousands of years, but is likely to be far longer in deep sea and non-surface polar environments. Plastic debris poses considerable threat by choking and starving wildlife, distributing non-native and potentially harmful organisms, absorbing toxic chemicals and degrading to micro-plastics that may subsequently be ingested."

"Well-established annual surveys on coasts and at sea have shown that trends in mega- and macro-plastic accumulation rates are no longer uniformly increasing: rather stable, increasing and decreasing trends have all been reported. The average size of plastic particles in the environment seems to be decreasing, and the abundance and global distribution of micro-plastic fragments have increased over the last few decades."

"Less than 60 years ago, the mass production of plastics started and now most items that people use, virtually anywhere on the planet are partly or wholly made of this inexpensive, durable material. Plastics have trans- formed the surface of the planet, far beyond areas of human population density—fragments of all sizes are ubiquitous in soils to lake beds, from remote Antarctic island shores to tropical seabeds."

"Plastics turn up in bird nests, are worn by hermit crabs instead of shells and are present in turtle stomachs. Humans generate considerable amounts of waste and the quantities are increasing as standards of living and the population increase."

"Further, we have made little progress in reducing the release of plastic to the environment (see discussion in Thompson et al. 2009). Temporal trends of macro-plastics on remote islands suggest that regulations to reduce dumping at sea have been successful to some extent. However, our sustained demand for plastic means that contamination of the environment by micro-plastic pieces seems set to increase."

Third Article:

Plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends
Richard C. Thompson, Charles J. Moore, Frederick S. vom Saal and Shanna H. Swan

This article was published in 2009. It cites 52 other articles, and deals with Ecology, and health and disease an epidemiology.
 Some interesting phrases taken from the article:

"Plastics have transformed everyday life; usage is increasing and annual production is likely to exceed 300 million tonnes by 2010."

"It is evident that plastics bring many societal benefits and offer future technological and medical advances. However, concerns about usage and disposal are diverse and include accumulation of waste in landfills and in natural habitats, physical problems for wildlife resulting from ingestion or entanglement in plastic, the leaching of chemicals from plastic products and the potential for plastics to transfer chemicals to wildlife and humans."

"Plastic debris causes aes- thetic problems, and it also presents a hazard to mari- time activities including fishing and tourism (Moore 2008; Gregory 2009). Discarded fishing nets result in ghost fishing that may result in losses to commercial fisheries (Moore 2008; Brown & Macfadyen 2007). Floating plastic debris can rapidly become colonized by marine organisms and since it can persist at the sea surface for substantial periods, it may subsequently facilitate the transport of non-native or ‘alien’ species (Barnes 2002; Barnes et al. 2009; Gregory 2009)."

"Over 260 species, including invert- ebrates, turtles, fish, seabirds and mammals, have been reported to ingest or become entangled in plastic debris, resulting in impaired movement and feeding, reduced reproductive output, lacerations, ulcers and death (Laist 1997; Derraik 2002; Gregory 2009)."

"A range of chemicals that are used in the manufacture of plastics are known to be toxic."

"The greatest concerns with exposure to BPA are during develop- ment; BPA appears to affect brain development leading to loss of sex differentiation in brain struc- tures and behaviour (Talsness et al. 2009). A further important observation regarding adverse responses to developmental exposures of animals to very low doses of BPA is that many relate to disease trends in humans. Less has been published on effects of the flame retardant TBBPA, but there is evidence of effects on thyroid hormones, pituitary function and reproductive success in animals (Talsness et al. 2009)."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

So the research began

Where do you see Plastic Continents later on?

What seems like a simple question was one I have changed many times throughout this Fall semester. 

When I first came to the University of South Florida, I had a more scientific approach in developing 'Plastic Continents'. 
I wanted to discuss the following:
-The importance of recycling
-The health hazards plastic in our oceans have on us.
-The scientific facts of the breaking down process of plastic in our oceans. 

I started doing research on websites like: 

Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of Trash

Published: November 9, 2009

ABOARD THE ALGUITA, 1,000 miles northeast of Hawaii — In this remote patch of the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of miles from any national boundary, the detritus of human life is collecting in a swirling current so large that it defies precise measurement.

Light bulbs, bottle caps, toothbrushes, Popsicle sticks and tiny pieces of plastic, each the size of a grain of rice, inhabit the Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely dispersed trash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas. But one research organization estimates that the garbage now actually pervades the Pacific, though most of it is caught in what oceanographers call a gyre like this one — an area of heavy currents and slack winds that keep the trash swirling in a giant whirlpool.

Scientists say the garbage patch is just one of five that may be caught in giant gyres scattered around the world’s oceans. Abandoned fishing gear like buoys, fishing line and nets account for some of the waste, but other items come from land after washing into storm drains and out to sea.
Plastic is the most common refuse in the patch because it is lightweight, durable and an omnipresent, disposable product in both advanced and developing societies. It can float along for hundreds of miles before being caught in a gyre and then, over time, breaking down.
But once it does split into pieces, the fragments look like confetti in the water. Millions, billions, trillions and more of these particles are floating in the world’s trash-filled gyres.

PCBs, DDT and other toxic chemicals cannot dissolve in water, but the plastic absorbs them like a sponge. Fish that feed on plankton ingest the tiny plastic particles. Scientists from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation say that fish tissues contain some of the same chemicals as the plastic. The scientists speculate that toxic chemicals are leaching into fish tissue from the plastic they eat.

The researchers say that when a predator — a larger fish or a person — eats the fish that eats the plastic, that predator may be transferring toxins to its own tissues, and in greater concentrations since toxins from multiple food sources can accumulate in the body.
Charles Moore found the Pacific garbage patch by accident 12 years ago, when he came upon it on his way back from a sailing race in Hawaii. As captain, Mr. Moore ferried three researchers, his first mate and a journalist here this summer in his 10th scientific trip to the site. He is convinced that several similar garbage patches remain to be discovered.

“Anywhere you really look for it, you’re going to see it,” he said.

Many scientists believe there is a garbage patch off the coast of Japan and another in the Sargasso Sea, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Bonnie Monteleone, a University of North Carolina, Wilmington, graduate student researching a master’s thesis on plastic accumulation in the ocean, visited the Sargasso Sea in late spring and the Pacific garbage patch with Mr. Moore this summer.

“I saw much higher concentrations of trash in the Pacific garbage patch than in the Sargasso,” Ms. Monteleone said, while acknowledging that she might not have found the Atlantic gyre’s highest concentration of trash.

Ms. Monteleone, a volunteer crew member on Mr. Moore’s ship, kept hoping she would see at least one sample taken from the Pacific garbage patch without any trash in it. “Just one area — just one,” she said. “That’s all I wanted to see. But everywhere had plastic.”

The Pacific garbage patch gained prominence after three independent marine research organizations visited it this summer. One of them, Project Kaisei, based in San Francisco, is trying to devise ways to clean up the patch by turning plastic into diesel fuel.

Environmentalists and celebrities are using the patch to promote their own causes. The actor Ted Danson’s nonprofit group Oceana designated Mr. Moore a hero for his work on the patch. Another Hollywood figure, Edward Norton, narrated a public-service announcement about plastic bags, which make their way out to the patch.

Mr. Moore, however, is the first person to have pursued serious scientific research by sampling the garbage patch. In 1999, he dedicated the Algalita foundation to studying it. Now the foundation examines plastic debris and takes samples of polluted water off the California coast and across the Pacific Ocean. By dragging a fine mesh net behind his research vessel Alguita, a 50-foot aluminum catamaran, Mr. Moore is able to collect small plastic fragments.

Researchers measure the amount of plastic in each sample and calculate the weight of each fragment. They also test the tissues of any fish caught in the nets to measure for toxic chemicals. One rainbow runner from a previous voyage had 84 pieces of plastic in its stomach.
The research team has not tested the most recent catch for toxic chemicals, but the water samples show that the amount of plastic in the gyre and the larger Pacific is increasing. Water samples from February contained twice as much plastic as samples from a decade ago.

“This is not the garbage patch I knew in 1999,” Mr. Moore said. “This is a totally different animal.”
For the captain’s first mate, Jeffery Ernst, the patch was “just a reminder that there’s nowhere that isn’t affected by humanity.”

Travel expenses were paid in part by readers of Spot.Us, a nonprofit Web project that supports freelance journalists.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: November 26, 2009
An article on Nov. 10 about garbage patches in the world’s oceans referred incorrectly to the travels of a graduate student researching a master’s thesis on plastic accumulation in the oceans. The student, Bonnie Monteleone, visited the Sargasso Sea, which is part of a feature known as the Atlantic gyre. Thus, it was not the case that she “might not have found” the gyre. (Ms. Monteleone said instead that she might not have found the zone with the highest concentration of trash.)

And the second article I referenced was:

Our plastic age


Within the last few decades, plastics have revolutionized our daily lives. Globally we use in excess of 260 million tonnes of plastic per annum, accounting for approximately 8 per cent of world oil production. In this Theme Issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, we describe current and future trends in usage, together with the many benefits that plastics bring to society. At the same time, we examine the environmental consequences resulting from the accumulation of waste plastic, the effects of plastic debris on wildlife and concerns for human health that arise from the production, usage and disposal of plastics. Finally, we consider some possible solutions to these problems together with the research and policy priorities necessary for their implementation.
To read more I provided the link underneath.