It never breaks down and goes away, say scientists struggling to understand the impact of widespread pollution
While heading down the Brisbane river, Jim Hinds once pulled aboard a drunken half-naked man only seconds from” going down for the last period “.
But on this day, like most other days for Hinds, it’s back to the horribly predictable as he launches his barge into the Nerang river on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
Instantly you see it.
Decaying plastic bags hanging from the branches of mangroves like dripping flesh; slicks of plastic water bottles and food containers waiting ashore for the liberation of the next rising tide; the misnamed “disposable” plastic and styrofoam drinking beakers; and other plastic paraphernalia in the different stages of disintegration.
” Everyone knows littering’s wrong- that’s not a secret. But it’s just nonsensical ,” tells Jim. His son Patrick, 21, has jumped ashore to pick up a vinyl football ball and about a dozen soft drinks bottles.
Hinds works for Queensland environmental conservation group Healthy Land and Water. His chore is to travel the coastal waterways and pick up rubbish- he’ll often have one of his two sons with him. His father also used to do the job.
In recent years, he has been grabbing about 10,000 items a month.” Consistently we’re getting plastic bottles- there are so many of them ,” Jim says.
A Risso’s dolphin entagled in a fishing line and plastic bags in Sri Lanka. Brussels’ scheme includes investing EUR3 50 m in research to modernise plastics production and collecting. Photograph: Andrew Sutton/ eco2. com/ Central Studio
Now 41, MacArthur dreamed of being a sailor aged four when living in landlocked Derbyshire, and saved up her school lunch fund to buy her first rowboat.
The same single-minded drive to attain her aims is clear in the way she tackles the dream that has consumed her since her early 30 s: to assistance stop humanity using up the world’s finite resources. Indeed, it is unlikely her new passion would have emerged without the experience of her first.
” There were lots of subconscious things that happened that I was quite unaware of when I was racing; there were things I would write in the log ,” says MacArthur.” I was racing round the world to try and beat the record, I was completely and utterly fully immersed in the record, I was thinking of nothing outside that … but every now and then I would write something down.
” I remember quite poignantly writing in the log in the barge;’ What I have got on the boat is everything .’ It genuinely struck me that you save everything, everything you have, because you know it’s finite, you know there isn’t any more. What you have on that barge is it, your whole world .”
Back on dry land, away from the intensity of racing, MacArthur began to process the supposes she had on the water. Her newfound fame suddenly became an opportunity.
In the winter after the round-the-world race, MacArthur spent two weeks on an island in the Southern Ocean to movie a programme about the albatross.
” It gave me time to reflect and it induced me think even more deeply about resources ,” she said.” You watch the empty whaling stations down there and you realise that was just a resource- they pulled out 175,000 of them … and then there weren’t any to pull out .”
” The basis of my reasoning was entirely around resources. It was around the pure fact- stemming from what I had learned on the barge- that resources are finite. The more I learned, I just saw this as the greatest challenge I had ever come across. If we are using these resources in a very linear manner we are going to use them up at some stage, and no one knows exactly when .”