The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a big problem for the plastics industry, but as we've established before it's also a concept that's frequently unnecessarily hyped beyond believability.
(See "Hey, somebody call the hyperbole police," from earlier this year).
Here's another example, courtesy of Stephen Joseph and the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition.
Joseph sent Plastics News an email with this headline in all caps: "We have prevented millions of California high school students from being misled by a false map in their textbooks."
The story, according to Joseph: The State of California has been drafting a chapter for its 11th grade textbooks that addresses plastic bags and the environment.
Joseph said he contact California's Environmental Protection Agency "and proved to them that the red blob map was false and that there is no such thing as a 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch.'"
As we've pointed out, the patch does exist. But when it's commonly described in terms like "an island of plastic trash," that's at least oversimplification, bordering on exaggeration.
It's more like a soup with a high concentration of accumulated plastic particles -- not an island of discarded plastic grocery bags.
While newspaper articles and websites regularly exaggerate the size and density of the patch, and data comparing the volume of plastic to plankton is frequently misused and misquoted, we have higher expectations of textbooks that are used to instruct high school students.
So did Joseph.
And his efforts made a difference.
According to Joseph, California EPA "replaced the red blob map with the green and blue map produced by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration."
Both of the maps are reproduced in the blog today. There is an obvious difference.
Joseph adds: "We commend Cal EPA for refusing to falsely indoctrinate students. We do not yet know who was responsible for providing the false map to Cal EPA."
To be clear, though, I think correcting the record is absolutely the right thing to do -- but pretending the problem doesn't exist is just as wrong.
As I wrote more than a year ago: "Let's not forget ... that this is not a trivial problem. The plastics industry isn't going to win a debate about marine debris by pointing out that many reports have been exaggerated. The problem clearly exists, and the industry has an important role in preventing more plastic from fouling the oceans."|