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Science

ROVs Discover Deep Sea Trash 82

Posted by samzenpus
from the washing-it-away dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Deep beneath the ocean's waves, strange creatures such as rockfish and gorgonian coral thrive in the icy depths. Yet there's something else you'll find if you go searching beneath the sea: trash, and lots of it. Researchers have discovered that our trash is accumulating in the deep sea, particularly in Monterey Canyon off of the coast of California. Scientists knew that trash was affecting shallower depths--about 1,000 feet beneath the water. Yet they were unsure whether the effects extended to the truly deep parts of the ocean that reached up to 13,000 feet. They decided that there was only one way to find out: look for themselves."
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ROVs Discover Deep Sea Trash

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  • by Trepidity (597) <<gro.hsikcah> <ta> <todhsals-muiriled>> on Friday June 07, 2013 @04:17AM (#43933791)

    The great thing about deep-sea trash is that it decomposes extremely slowly [acs.org] compared to stuff at shallower temperatures, so it'll be around for a while...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If we can find it we can probably pick some of it up. Stuff like that cargo container probably fell off a ship on accident though and probably weighs a ton. I bet hurricanes, weather, floods, tsunamis, and other events contribute to the problem as well. I know if a tsunami hit my city (can't) but it it did it would dump a lot of trash into the ocean. And we do get hurricanes and tropical storms. I wouldn't be surprised to find a refrigerator out there somewhere that wasn't from a wreck.

      It would be interesti

      • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday June 07, 2013 @05:44AM (#43934109)
        Perhaps you might want to delay spending money on utopian projects with no obvious short term (less then a century?) benefits before you can, for example, provide healthcare to your fellow compatriots? If it indeed doesn't decompose, it's going to be stable for a while. Not dumping more stuff seems like a good proposition, but what you're suggesting would be very costly, time-consuming, and the net result would be...you know...a big pile of trash you would have to put somewhere?
        • by jamesh (87723)

          Perhaps you might want to delay spending money on utopian projects with no obvious short term (less then a century?) benefits before you can, for example, provide healthcare to your fellow compatriots? If it indeed doesn't decompose, it's going to be stable for a while. Not dumping more stuff seems like a good proposition, but what you're suggesting would be very costly, time-consuming, and the net result would be...you know...a big pile of trash you would have to put somewhere?

          Well actually if you found a place in the ocean where aluminium cans tended to collect you might be on to something... i have heard it said that the mines of the future will be the rubbish dumps of today. If someone came up with a cheap way of reducing plastic bags back to more useful hydrocarbons then suddenly a mass of plastic bags could be really useful... not that there is any shortage of them on land though.

          OTOH leaving all that carbon at the bottom of the ocean might be a better option

          • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday June 07, 2013 @06:30AM (#43934253)

            I have no objections agains that. I even contemplated whether it wouldn't be useful to sweep the Great Pacific garbage patch with some kind of automated vessels. You know, all the floating plastic that is actually photodecomposing into toxic chemicals as we speak. Plastic actually *can* be decomposed into light hydrocarbons with thermal depolymeration.

            Aluminum cans are obviously low-hanging fruit, but it's much cheaper to collect them as early after being emptied as possible rather then to scour them from the depths of the ocean.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Aluminum cans disolve rather quickly in salt water. Perhaps they would last longer in very deep, cold water but near shore a can will vanish in ten years or less. Ask anyone who uses under water metal detectors as rotting can fragments are super common in shallow water.

              • Ah, very interesting. So the oxide layer that forms naturally on the surface of aluminium objects isn't resilient enough? In any case, the cans have a surface-to-weight ratio that is unfavourable for surviving in even slightly aggressive environment - the thin walls will disappear quickly even if the corrosion process is comparatively slow, thickness-wise.
      • by Synerg1y (2169962)

        Now instead of dumpster diving, people can go trash fishing.

      • by tragedy (27079)

        Stuff like that cargo container probably fell off a ship on accident though and probably weighs a ton

        Cargo ships are sent out intentionally overloaded and it's very common for cargo containers to fall off. Basically, beancounters have done the math and determined that it's more economical that way. Standard cargo containers weigh from 2 to 5 tons empty.

    • So we need steeper temperatures?

    • by MagusSlurpy (592575) on Friday June 07, 2013 @04:50AM (#43933905) Homepage

      Great news for 22nd century anthropologists!

    • by Spudley (171066) on Friday June 07, 2013 @06:12AM (#43934183) Homepage Journal

      The great thing about deep-sea trash is that it decomposes extremely slowly [acs.org] compared to stuff at shallower temperatures, so it'll be around for a while...

      Awesome! Maybe in a few thousand years, someone will mine it for old copies of the Atari ET game catridge.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dintech (998802)
      Look on the bright side; if you leave garbage around long enough, it becomes archeology!
      With a little patience, you too can make something worthless into something priceless!
    • by spetey (164477)

      The pressure also must make for the ultimate trash compactor [superpunch.net].

      • I wonder if you could use this in a manufacturing process. Make the material at sea level. Put it in a basket. Drop it down and let the energy of the ocean do all the work of compressing the material...

        If this works out please remember me and be sure to mention how awesome a random dood on the internet was when you are a billionaire.

  • by spamchang (302052)

    It would have been interesting if the researchers could have figured out how old the trash was--i.e. what make/model of shoe, any identifying marks on the tires, etc. But the major thesis is clear enough: disposable consumerism has victims and unintended (or ignored) consequences.

  • First, the trash doesn't seem to "accumulate" on the sea floor, but appears to get buried over time, removing it from the ecosystem. Furthermore, they haven't actually shown significant negative effects.

    Of course, it's good to recycle more and people shouldn't discard trash in the ocean, but people should also be truthful and unbiased in the presentation of their research.

    • by Camael (1048726) on Friday June 07, 2013 @05:45AM (#43934111)

      ...because they did address the points you made in the source article.

      First, the trash doesn't seem to "accumulate" on the sea floor, but appears to get buried over time, removing it from the ecosystem.

      They specifically admitted this in the article. The specific quote reads : "A lot of it gets buried by underwater landslides and sediment movement. Some of it may also be carried into deeper water, farther down the canyon."

      Furthermore, they haven't actually shown significant negative effects.

      Which the study also admitted. They even pointed out that the rubbish was sometimes benefited the marine life. The specific quote reads : "Other effects on marine life were more subtle. For example, debris in muddy-bottom areas was often used as shelter by seafloor animals, or as a hard surface on which animals anchored themselves. Although such associations seem to benefit the individual animals involved, they also reflect the fact that marine debris is creating changes in the existing natural biological communities."

      I think that it is unfair for you to accuse these researchers of telling lies and being biased.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Charliemopps (1157495)

        He was talking about SLASHDOT and all of us posters being untruthful in the presentation of the researchers work, not the researchers. The Original poster intentionally left out the details he's highlighting and then the rest of us didn't bother reading the article and just spouted off uninformed opinions.

      • by kwbauer (1677400)

        So... When a natural process produces a result that causes changes in a different part of nature, that is somehow not natural and needs to be prevented?

        Or, things change because things change and letting nature run its course is bad.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I remember a similar article stating that plastic breaks into little pieces that get eaten by various sea creatures and the chemicals that it contains climb up the food chain eventually making it to us.

    • That Gorgonian Coral did not look too thrilled to have a plastic bag wrapped around it.
      People should be truthful and unbiased in their analysis of facts.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The same coral isn't going to be happy being knocked over by a shark, or having rocks tumble on top of it. All of those happen regularly.

        You can't make arguments for environmental protection without actually quantifying impact. Showing a few pictures of creatures in distress and then arguing for action is manipulative and dishonest.

  • If the government sinks a whole ship, it's "creating an artificial reef" ---- but if I throw an old shoe into the water, I am "polluting the environment"?
    • One major difference (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Viol8 (599362) on Friday June 07, 2013 @07:08AM (#43934401)

      When a ship is deliberately sunk to create a reef ALL the volatiles and potentially toxic substances are removed. Basically all you are left with is iron and a few other metals which are enviromentally benign and are oxidised back to the minerals they came from in a few hundred years.. A shoe however is full of glues, polymers and other man made substances which could take literally millenia to decompose and poison the enviroment in the meantime.

      • by Slugster (635830)
        But...... the fish LIKES the shoe! And my feet don't smell that bad!
      • by valadaar (1667093)
        Well, the _plan_ is to remove all that stuff. I'm not so sure in practice this is done. Lowest bidder and all. If they remove everything down to the steel, and then sandblast every inch, then I'd agree, but I sincerely doubt they are that meticulous in practice. When I see people use the words ALL, always, never, etc, my bullshit meter goes off the chart. I have rarely seen absolute statements be accurate, especially when there is no financial gain as an end result.
  • News at 11 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ledow (319597) on Friday June 07, 2013 @06:41AM (#43934277) Homepage

    Stuff that sinks, sinks.

    Quite what were they expecting? Rubbish like tyres and ropes (i.e. stuff that sinks), which are disposed of in/around water will end up at the bottom of the water. Is this shocking?

    Sea animals might become trapped in it. Not news. Sea animals might use it. Not news.

    Quite what is the point? To make those of us who DON'T realise what millions of tons of junk does when you throw it in an ocean think bad of themselves?

    And, to be honest, on the sea-floor it's more likely to be buried than it is to decay. That's probably a good thing for the life down there. In a few million years it'll be rock again.

    Are these "scientists" genuinely astonished that they discovered this rather than the alternative (which is presumably that there's no rubbish down there at all?). I was taught that dense stuff sinks back in primary school.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Take a deep breath, get a cup of coffee. And try to forget about all those awful things daddy did to you.

  • One man's deep sea trash is another man's deep sea treasure.
  • down there should be loads of fun for researchers.

    Yeah, we did that

  • What?

    They couldn't find a single golf ball (out of hundreds of thousands) that were probably pitched off of a cruise ship or yacht?

  • by AndyKron (937105)
    Why is this news? People have been throwing thrash into the oceans since people existed. FTA
  • I RTFA'd looking for photos and videos and was going to skip the comments, but I had to let you know that about a minute into the video Pandora started playing "Message In a Bottle".

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