We haven't yet reached the point when we need to start seriously considering launching our trash into space, but humanity's garbage has already found its way to places where no man has gone before.
European scientists working to map the ocean floor say they found trash everywhere they went, at points nearly 15,000 feet deep and as far away as 1,200 miles from the nearest human settlement. They turned up plastic, discarded fishing nets and lines, glass, metal, wood, paper and cardboard, clothing, pottery and other, unidentified materials from the continental shelf of Europe to the mid-Atlantic ridge (about halfway to America), as well as in the Mediterranean Sea. The entire report of their "discovery," which they wrote up for PLOS ONE, reads like a nightmare -- one that's set in a very densely packed dump.
"This survey has shown that human litter is present in all marine habitats, from beaches to the most remote and deepest parts of the oceans," said Kerry Howell, of Plymouth University's Marine Institute. "Most of the deep sea remains unexplored by humans and these are our first visits to many of these sites, but we were shocked to find that our rubbish has got there before us."
As the search for missing flight MH370 has already reminded us, there's a ton of trash floating on the ocean's surface. This new study notes that about 70 percent of our plastic is believed to sink to seafloor, and adds to the growing realization that nowhere's safe from the reaches of our non-decomposable cast-offs. So about those plastic bag bans...