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Our Future in Plastics

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You remember this famous exchange from The Graduate?

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you - just one word.
Ben: Yes sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Ben: Yes I am.
Mr. McGuire: 'Plastics.'
Ben: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There's a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Ben: Yes I will.

Yes, there was certainly a future in plastics -- but it wasn’t great. Especially for the environment. In case you’ve never heard about the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, it’s a massive island of plastic floating in the middle of the once pristine Pacific Ocean, somewhere between California and Hawaii.

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It’s called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch - a heap of debris floating in the Pacific that's twice the size of Texas, according to marine biologists. The enormous stew of trash - which consists of 80 percent plastics and weighs some 3.5 million tons, say oceanographers - floats where few people ever travel, in a no-man's land between San Francisco and Hawaii.

At this point, cleaning it up isn't an option," [Chris] Parry said [a public education program manager with the California Coastal Commission in San Francisco]. "It's just going to get bigger as our reliance on plastics continues. ... The long-term solution is to stop producing as much plastic products at home and change our consumption habits.