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Science

Plastic Bag Found at the Bottom of World's Deepest Ocean Trench (nationalgeographic.com) 166

The Mariana Trench -- the deepest point in the ocean -- extends nearly 36,000 feet down in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. But if you thought the trench could escape the global onslaught of plastics pollution, you would be wrong. From a report: A recent study revealed that a plastic bag, like the kind given away at grocery stores, is now the deepest known piece of plastic trash, found at a depth of 36,000 feet inside the Mariana Trench. Scientists found it by looking through the Deep-Sea Debris Database, a collection of photos and videos taken from 5,010 dives over the past 30 years that was recently made public.

Plastic Bag Found at the Bottom of World's Deepest Ocean Trench

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  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @12:46PM (#56609128)

    But if you thought the trench could escape the global onslaught of plastics pollution, you would be wrong.

    Why would I, or anyone, think that?

    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      "Why would I, or anyone, think that?"

      Remember that floating island of plastic garbage? Things that float are on surface. How on earth a bag got from the surface all the way down to the bottom of the ocean I can't even imagine... Cthulhu aliens must have pulled it down.

      • That's what I was thinking. What stops a bag from falling? There is debris on the bottom of oceans, the depths should be irrelevant.

        • Re: Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by olsmeister ( 1488789 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @01:13PM (#56609320)
          I would expect things to COLLECT in the deepest portions. As current moves things around, they will eventually tend to settle in the deepest portions as it's much much likely that currents will sweep debris up and out of these places.
        • Re: Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by petermgreen ( 876956 ) <.plugwash. .at. .p10link.net.> on Monday May 14, 2018 @01:15PM (#56609328) Homepage

          Polyethelene is less dense than water so if it's clean and empty then it will float. However an item in the bag or even a bit of sand washed inside could easilly push it over the edge into sinking.

          • Re: Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @01:46PM (#56609594)

            That's why if we required that plastic be denser than seawater, that would get rid of most of the problem - not because it would sink in the ocean, but because it would sink at the first place where it was dumped into water, in telltale accumulations. Currently, no one knows where all this plastic is being dumped.

            • Yes we do, dirty filty people who don't know what a litter bin is, let alone what recycling is. The amount of plastic that I am personally responsible for not being disposed of properly in my entire life is probably about 100g if that.

              • Interesting thought. I would have said me too, but since I've been told that washing a fleece causes a lot of microplastics to end up in the environment and so does scouring powder I started to think what else I was overlooking. At least I don't have artificial grass.

                • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

                  Microplastics shedding from clothing during washing is an interesting issue. However this is not a plastic bag at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, or the floating plastic garbage island in the middle of the Pacific. This are directly caused by dirty filthy people disposing of rubbish by just randomly throwing it away when they no longer need it.

                  As regards microplastic shedding from clothes, the bulk of my clothing is natural fibres to start with. I also expect to find washing machines come with appropriate

          • Once Waterlogged it becomes heavier then water. Because it is more the air bubbles in the plastic in it that makes it float, the plastic itself is heavier then water.

          • by mjwx ( 966435 )

            Polyethelene is less dense than water so if it's clean and empty then it will float. However an item in the bag or even a bit of sand washed inside could easilly push it over the edge into sinking.

            Look, that sea cucumber paid 5p for that carrier bag from Tesco, he'll be dammed if he has to spend another 5p for a new one when he goes back.

        • This particular plastic bag is not a problem, because sitting on the bottom of the ocean means that it will eventually become petroleum once again.

          What we need to find is a way of making the rest of the floating plastic sink to abyssal depths.

          • Re: Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @01:46PM (#56609592)

            This particular plastic bag is not a problem, because sitting on the bottom of the ocean means that it will eventually become petroleum once again.

            What we need to find is a way of making the rest of the floating plastic sink to abyssal depths.

            Submarines compact their trash (along with weights) and deliberately send it to the ocean depths.

            • Re: Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

              by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @02:05PM (#56609754) Homepage

              Hawaii is has a gift of sorts, an active volcano. Why are we not throwing are non-recyclables and e-waste into the volcano? Next eruption, the lava will consume and break it down to it's basic elements anyways. Since it's going to be throwing tons of pollution into the atmosphere anyways, might as well take advantage of natures incinerator.

              And yes, I'm being very serious. Perhaps it's more of a safety issue even in periods of relative inactivity?

              • Not a terrible idea. Safety issues could be taken care of with an unmanned delivery system. There are already geothermal plants near volcanoes.

                • by Anonymous Coward

                  Not a terrible idea. Safety issues could be taken care of with an unmanned delivery system. There are already geothermal plants near volcanoes.

                  A whole new market! The volcano waste disposal trebuchet.

              • Re: Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @03:28PM (#56610358) Homepage

                While the volcano is busy breaking down the plastic to elements, it'll still release a lot of those half-broken molecules as debris and ash, many of which will float on the air over to populated areas. In Hawaii, those areas are also the places that bring in that lovely tourist revenue.

                You're essentially suggesting we use a volcano as an incinerator, without bothering to put any filtration or scrubbers on the exhaust. Granted, the heavy stuff will be completely destroyed... but the lighter stuff will be just as bad as any other incineration. It might be possible to capture the released gas and try to filter it, but I suspect the higher heat of the volcano will make building such a structure rather difficult.

                • Volcanoes aren't good at this stuff. They're not sucking stuff in down deep where they can be incinerated with high efficiency. Lava is essentially rock. Well rock with lots of gas actually, but it's still rock. So it's dense. If you drop a bunch of trash into lava it will be on the surface of the lava, because most of it is less dense than the lava. Gollum, as it turns out, isn't going to sink into the lava.

                  As it burns, it creates a crust of partially burnt garbage on top of a crust of now cooler lava.

              • I think it would be better; although much more expensive to implement, to drop waste into an active subduction zone. Doing so would pull the waste down into the mantle, not only effectively breaking it down, but also trapping everything at the same time. This would be ideal for certain types of nuclear waste as well. Not the partially used rods and pellets of nuclear fuel mind you. If we ever smarten up and finally start building thorium reactors, the rods and pellets from uranium fission plants can easily
                • by Agripa ( 139780 )

                  This would be ideal for certain types of nuclear waste as well. Not the partially used rods and pellets of nuclear fuel mind you. If we ever smarten up and finally start building thorium reactors, the rods and pellets from uranium fission plants can easily be fully consumed in a thorium molten salts reactor. I read somewhere that used fuel rods or pellets are barely used up in terms of reactivity when they are removed from use. (which is why they get sequestered in cooling ponds for so long)

                  The residual radioactivity is mostly from fission products and not the original fuel so presumably the fuel would be reprocessed chemically to separate the majority of the remaining fuel from the minority of the fission products and the dangerous fission products would be impaled into the crust entering the seduction zone with something like a steel and concrete dart.

                • by doccus ( 2020662 )

                  I think it would be better; although much more expensive to implement, to drop waste into an active subduction zone. Doing so would pull the waste down into the mantle, not only effectively breaking it down, but also trapping everything at the same time. This would be ideal for certain types of nuclear waste as well. Not the partially used rods and pellets of nuclear fuel mind you. If we ever smarten up and finally start building thorium reactors, the rods and pellets from uranium fission plants can easily be fully consumed in a thorium molten salts reactor. I read somewhere that used fuel rods or pellets are barely used up in terms of reactivity when they are removed from use. (which is why they get sequestered in cooling ponds for so long)

                  Along the same lines other, things we can't recycle today might well be recyclable in the near future. For the numerous rare earths used in electronics particularly, I can easily believe that a process can be developed that is more cost efficient as a source of rare earths than mining for new supplies. Viewed as ore, most electronics are actually richer sources of rare earths than the native ores they came from. In that light, any disposal method that leaves the elements inside basically irretrievable would short sighted,

                  Boy I wish I had points right now. This one deserves lots. Best comment I have read in a while!

              • Nope, you need to go down to the southern hemisphere where hurricanes go backwards and the volcanoes suck molten lava back into the Earth. That's where you send all the trash.

                Or there is this really deep trench I've been hearing about...

      • Remember that floating island of plastic garbage?

        You can't remember what doesn't exist.

        • by vux984 ( 928602 )

          "You can't remember what doesn't exist."

          You are going to call me out on the garbage island (which yes, is just a higher concentration of plastic particulates that can't be seen by the naked eye...) but you are going to let the Cthulhu aliens go unchallenged.

          It can mean only one thing ... yaji'u ash-shudhdhadh

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Funny)

      by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @01:14PM (#56609324)

      But if you thought the trench could escape the global onslaught of plastics pollution, you would be wrong.

      Why would I, or anyone, think that?

      You wouldn't. But the story sounds more sensational if it's implied somebody would.

      • But if you thought the trench could escape the global onslaught of plastics pollution, you would be wrong.

        Why would I, or anyone, think that?

        You wouldn't. But the story sounds more sensational if it's implied somebody would.

        Ah ... it all makes sense now.

    • by sirber ( 891722 )
      remember that some still think the Earth is flat so...
    • by Subm ( 79417 )

      People will tell themselves whatever they can to help them sleep at night, knowing that they bought their comfort and convenience by polluting everyone else's world, to keep themselves from accepting responsibility and changing.

      You can consume less plastic. You can start now.

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@NoSpam.gmail.com> on Monday May 14, 2018 @02:20PM (#56609852) Journal

      Humans are very prone to magical thinking about even the most practical matters. For example, a small but meaningful fraction of the world population thinks that their fossil CO2 emissions magically don't contribute to climate change.

      • Humans are very prone to magical thinking about even the most practical matters. For example, a small but meaningful fraction of the world population thinks that their fossil CO2 emissions magically don't contribute to climate change.

        Excepting the 46.4% of the American electorate who thinks it's a Chinese hoax because their dear leader said so.

    • by Armonk ( 5413686 )
      so THAT's were I left it...
    • life has a tendency to go to places it could not before so much for carbon based
  • Gravity works! (Score:3, Informative)

    by dlleigh ( 313922 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @12:46PM (#56609130)

    That's the important takeaway here. Even at crushing depths and pressures, gravity will still pull a plastic bag all the way to the bottom.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Probably like most people they commented about it but left it there for someone else to deal with.

    • Probably like most people they commented about it but left it there for someone else to deal with.

      Nope, no more than the actress who played Gloria gave the starving kid her sandwich.

      (I kid ... maybe she gave the kid her sandwich. I really don't know ...)

  • by mandark1967 ( 630856 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @12:49PM (#56609150) Homepage Journal

    taking samples much easier since paper bags would get waterlogged and tear.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Will it take to fill the trench?

  • My personal edification proceeded in the following increments:

    1. There is a data base of undersea debris.

    2. We have submersibles that can operate and take photos at 36,000' down. And for 30 years?

    What I didn't learn is that there are artifacts down there. And regardless of the buoyancy/density of plastic material and how it changes under descent it would make sense it could be dragged down by something it was containing. I am sure you can find human made items down there from hundreds of year ago.

    • We can find a plastic bag but not a crashed airplane?

      • We weren't looking for a particular bag.

        • I know. I just thinking this can replace the old "We can send a man to space..." line.

      • Maybe the bag was from a crashed airplane! Conspiracy theorists: GO!

        • by Armonk ( 5413686 )

          Maybe the bag was from a crashed airplane! Conspiracy theorists: GO!

          Ok.... Let's see.... The airplane was removed by the aliens allied with the illuminati so that we would not guess that the bag was from a secret illuminati aircraft. All this is just a cover up to hide the fact that the aircraft was a disguised weather ballon similar to the one from roswell. And that is a cover up to hide the fact that the illuminati is trying to make everybody think that the price of plastic bags should go up in order for them to secretly earn extra cash by selling more expensive plastic

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @01:01PM (#56609236) Journal

    I've been looking all over for my Zune receipt. Is it in that bag?

    • I've been looking all over for my Zune receipt. Is it in that bag?

      No, but we found your Zune next to it on the sea floor and it worked fine when we tried it.

  • Age of Plastic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by foxalopex ( 522681 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @01:18PM (#56609352)

    I wonder how long some of this plastic will survive? It's going to be weird when millions of years from now, our layer in the geologic records is marked by plastics, chemicals and a mass extinction.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      won't be any different than the age when grocery stores handed out bags made of iridium.

  • Whose life hinges on this exactly?

    At what point does this not matter? If it were a hypothetical trench at the bottom of the world's deepest ocean? Or if it were on an exoplanet ?

    You can find trash everywhere, but in some places you can't even find traces of significance.
    • Re:Relevance (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Wulf2k ( 4703573 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @03:08PM (#56610194)

      Finding plastic bags in the underwater trenches of an exoplanet would actually be fairly remarkable on a number of fronts.

      • Ha ... well, I think what you're saying here is that scientists would be interested in this and they could probably milk some steep grant money out of it.

        But on your death bed are you going to look back and say, "Ah ! I know whether exoplanets have trash in their underwater trenches! It was all worth it!"

        If not, then ... well, there's a good chance objectivity is categorically devoid of meaning. And even if it wasn't (which is incoherent), I don't think this discovery would make a life changing differ
  • by magusxxx ( 751600 ) <magusxxx_2000@@@yahoo...com> on Monday May 14, 2018 @01:39PM (#56609524)

    Because their delivery service is AWESOME!

  • Which story's logo was on that bag?
  • The Earth + Plastic is now scientifically proven. When does George Carlin get his posthumous Nobel Prize?

  • the poor, hard working octopus dad is going to get supper home to the kids without a plastic bag? You use them so why should these critters not do as well? :-)

  • by LordHighExecutioner ( 4245243 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @02:48PM (#56610064)
    There are a few of them, here [xkcd.com] and there [xkcd.com] in the what-if section, and two also in the main [xkcd.com] section, and also there [xkcd.com], if you hover with the mouse. I wouldn't be surpised if others appear, however: it is such a deep argument, after all.
  • Accidentally dropped it overboard. Had a 6 pack of diet Coke (plastic bottles) and a styrofoam pod of humpback whale sushi.
  • Now if we could just convince all the lawyers and politicians to get down there we'd be on our way to a better world.
  • The video in the linked article, on the National Geographic web site, does NOT show a plastic bag. It shows a diver collecting 2L plastic soda bottles, but no plastic bag. (Except for the very large sample collection bag that he brought.)

    The diver appears to be using conventional SCUBA gear. Can you even dive in the Mariana Trench that way? He's in a regular wet suit, bare handed, etc. I thought that going deeper than about 200 feet required more sophisticated gear. And I thought you could only go abou

  • I do not like using plastic bags but not because of environmental concerns with their disposal; I prefer paper bags because I hate trees.

  • When I was young lad, as a part of Tikkun Olam, when we would stop alongside the road or after leaving a camping site, our parents required us to police the area in order to remove (1) all evidence of our having been there; and (2) a majority of evidence by the occupation of others. Even today I police my yard, street, local parks, etc. -- even as an old man. Given that ecology minded folks seem to think that the problem is with a government, corporation, or anyone else; I should not be surprised if we fi

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court

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