Dear Ida B. Green,
I understand that plastic bags and bottles are a big part of the Pacific Garbage Patch. What else is in it?
The contents of the Pacific Gyre haven't been analyzed by individual material, but when looking at shore debris, plastic bags actually come in second—to cigarette butts!
The Ocean Conservancy sponsors a daylong, global, shoreline pickup each September, and cigarettes account for one of every five items collected along streams, rivers and ocean shorelines. Like plastic bags, cigarette butts may seem inconsequential, but in the U.S. alone, they add up annually to an estimated 176,000 pounds of little toxic capsules that have been flicked to the ground and into our waterways.
Although Idahoans are mostly aware of the damage done by hot cigarette butts thrown into dry summer grasses, they're equally menacing in our waterways. Smoked cigarette filters, composed of cellulose acetate (a form of plastic), trap more than 165 chemicals from the smoke sucked through them. Those chemicals (nicotine, benzenes, heavy metals, etc.) leach into water where they've been found to be toxic to both freshwater and saltwater animal life.
Although quitting smoking may be daunting, reducing the number of cigarettes smoked and disposing of smoked filters correctly will help to keep these toxins out of our dry grasses as well as our storm sewers, rivers, lakes and oceans.
Keep it Green,