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99%的海洋塑料垃圾“失踪”之谜

Why 99% of ocean plastic pollution is "missing"

Between Hawaii and California,
在夏威夷与加利福尼亚州之间
in an area about twice the size of Texas–
有一个面积约为德克萨斯州2倍的水域—
is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
它的名字叫大太平洋垃圾带
For decades, tons of our plastic debris has accumulated there
数十年来 在旋转洋流的作用下
because of swirling ocean currents.
成千上万吨的塑料残骸不断在那里堆积
It looks like a cloudy soup,
垃圾带看上去就像浑浊的汤水一样
and that’s because the plastic objects are spaced far apart,
是因为塑料物件之间的间隔较大
and they range in size from large debris to microscopic.
塑料的尺寸从大型残骸到微塑料都有
There are at least 4 other garbage patches like this in the world,
全世界像这样的垃圾带至少还有4个
And after scientists discovered them,
自上世纪90年代
starting in the 90s,
科学家们发现垃圾带后
They thought that this might be where a lot of the plastic ended up,
认为很多塑料最终都是来到该垃圾带
out there floating on the surface.
漂浮在那里的海面上
But recently, scientists brought large nets to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,
但最近 科学家们带着巨网来到了大太平垃圾带
and took a closer look at the objects they pulled out.
并仔细观察了他们捞到的物件
They found water bottles
发现了水壶
and hard hats
以及安全帽
and bottle caps
以及瓶盖
and toothbrushes
以及牙刷
and toilet seats
以及马桶盖
and laundry baskets
还有洗衣篮
And using what they found, they were able to calculate
利用捞到的物件 他们就能计算出
how much debris was in all of the garbage patches.
整个大太平洋垃圾带一共有多少残骸
海面上漂浮着几十万吨的塑料
这可不是一个小数字
It is a big number.
确实不是一个小数字
But a few hundred thousand metric tons of plastic
但这几十万公吨的塑料
is only about 1% of the estimated 8 million tonnes of plastic
在科学家们所认为每年排放入海
scientists believe is emitted into the ocean every year.
约800吨的塑料中 仅占1%左右
So scientists have been left investigating a mystery:
于是 科学家们只能不断调查一个谜团:
Where does the rest of the ocean’s plastic go?
海洋中其它的塑料都去哪了?
This is clue number 1 in the case of the missing plastic:
这是塑料消失案的一号线索
a sea floor sediment sample
一个海底沉积物样品
It was taken from the bottom of the Santa Barbara Basin, off the coast of California.
该样品取自加州沿岸的圣巴巴拉海盆底部
It represents a measure of time,
样品代表着一段时间尺度
from 1870 at its deepest layer of sediment, up until 2009.
从沉积物最深层的1870年到顶层的2009年
But this period, from 1945 to 2009,
但从1945年到2009年的这段时间
is where the study authors were focused on.
成了研究人员的关注焦点
It’s the era of plastic production.
这段时间正是塑料量产的时代
In these layers, the scientists found plastic fibers and fragments
在这些沉积层中 科学家们发现了 不超过1毫米的
that were 1 millimeter or smaller in size.
塑料制的纤维和碎片
They found more and more plastic particles as the years went on,
随着沉积层年份的递增 他们发现的塑料微粒越来越多
doubling every 15 years.
且每15年翻一番
That rate is nearly identical to the rate of global plastic production.
其增速与全球塑料产量的增速几乎一致
只要你看到的沉积层存在微塑料
就能确定其时间晚于20世纪50年代
这样的沉积层是我们这个时代的历史产物
This is Laurent Lebreton—
这是Laurent Lebreton—
he works at the Ocean Cleanup,
他在海洋清理项目组工作
and led the study of the objects in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
并且是大太平洋垃圾带物件研究的负责人
而且微塑料会永远待在沉积层里 我们清楚这一点
The sea sediment study looked at microplastics—
海底沉积物的研究着眼于微塑料—
particles smaller than 5 millimeters.
即直径小于5毫米的塑料颗粒
These either come from synthetic clothing fibers,
这些颗粒或来自合成服装的纤维
or they are the result of larger plastics breaking down.
或由更大的塑料分解而来
We’ve found these tiny particles floating throughout the ocean,
我们发现这些极小的颗粒漂浮在海洋各处
and even in the guts of the ocean’s tiniest creatures, like plankton.
甚至存在于如浮游生物等海洋中最小生物的胃里
But the sediment study shows that some of our plastic is likely hiding,
但沉积物研究显示 我们排放的塑料也有可能
buried in the sea floor, too.
正被埋藏于海底
But here’s another clue:
但这里有另一份线索
This is a plastic bag,
这是一个塑料袋
captured 2,500 meters below the surface of the Arctic deep sea.
被拍摄于北冰洋水下2,500米的深海
It’s one of over 2,100 photographs taken with this deep sea camera.
这张照片是用这台深海相机拍摄的2,100多张之一
我们正在进行的工作中有一部分
就是观察气候变化在北极地区造成的影响
我们利用拖曳式摄像机勘测来观察
大型动物所受到的影响 如海星 蜗牛和海绵动物
而且我在勘测的时候
不断发现有塑料残骸正躺在海底
Melanie Bergmann’s research shows that
Melanie Bergmann的研究显示
large plastic objects don’t just float on the surface
大型塑料物件 不仅仅漂在海上
or degrade into microplastic —
或者被分解成微塑料—
some of them sink without breaking down.
有些塑料也会没分解就沉入了海底
One study found that about 50% of plastic in landfills
一项研究发现 垃圾填埋场里约50%的塑料
is more dense than seawater,
密度都大于海水
which means these objects could sink on their own.
也就是说这些物件会自己下沉
But even those other 50 percent
但事实上 连另外50%的塑料
may actually travel to the sea floor with time.
都会随着时间沉入海底
漂浮在海面上的残骸会被各种有机体占领
如甲壳动物和贻贝
然后 塑料就会越来越重
在达到一定重量后开始下沉
Bergmann’s research is difficult to replicate throughout the ocean,
由于勘测深海环境存在一定的挑战
because of the challenge of surveying the deep sea environments.
Bergmann的研究很难复刻推广至整个海洋
But it suggests that some of that missing plastic
但研究也表明 部分消失的塑料
might be sitting on the seafloor, intact.
可能正完好无损的躺在海底
Another clue complicates the mystery, though:
然而 另一个线索让谜团更加复杂了:
this plastic crate, from Taiwan.
就是这个来自台湾的塑料箱
It’s one of the objects excavated during that harvest
该塑料箱是那次在大太平洋垃圾带打捞时
in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
挖到的物件之一
And what struck researchers was its production date:
震惊研究人员的是箱子的生产日期:
1971.
1971年
When they looked at the production dates of other objects,
研究人员观察其他物件的生产日期时
they saw a trend: a lot of it was old trash.
发现了一个趋势:很多垃圾的年龄都不小了
This was a new lead:
这给研究带来了新方向:
because if the majority of plastic pollution degraded into microplastic
因为如果大多数塑料垃圾都分解成了微塑料
or fell to the ocean floor,
或沉到了海底
then what you’d see in garbage patches would be new plastic.
那么你在垃圾带看到的塑料都应该是新的
这条线索改变了故事的走向
因为在海洋表面不断累积的塑料
实际上非常坚韧顽固
我们在亚热带海域发现的塑料
其实可能会在那漂浮几十年 甚至几百年
It turns out the new plastic is far closer than the open ocean
事实证明 海岸上的塑料比公海里的塑料
or the bottom of the deep sea.
或是深海海底的塑料要新很多
Lebreton’s research found that plastic objects on coastlines
Lebreton的研究表明 海岸线上的塑料物件
have more recent production dates than plastic in the open ocean.
生产日期比公海上的塑料更新
This clue led scientists to think a lot of debris
这条线索让科学家们认为
actually stays close to shorelines around the world—
其实很多残骸都在世界各地的海岸线附近—
hidden in plain sight.
藏匿于近在眼前的地方
Some of that will end up in the middle of the ocean and garbage patch,
有些塑料最终会到海洋和垃圾带中去
but actually a lot of it stays fairly near shore
但其实很多塑料都在离海岸相当近的地方
and hop from beach to beach to beach.
并且会在不同海滩之间迅速位移
Erik Van Sebille is an oceanographer,
Erik Van Sebille是一位海洋学家
and is building an ocean model
他正致力于建造一个海洋模型
that predicts where our missing plastic ends up.
该模型能够预测消失塑料的最终去向
The completed model will be finished in 2022,
完整模型将于2022年完工
but in the meantime
但在建造期间
he and his team publish initial results to a Twitter feed.
他和他的团队会将初步结果发表到推特
We use simulations of the ocean currents.
我们模拟了洋流
And then we put in virtual plastic.
然后放进虚拟的塑料
We move that plastic with the ocean flow.
这样我们就能让塑料随着洋流位移
At the same time the plastic and fragment can degrade,
同时 塑料和碎片都能分解
organisms start growing on it
会有有机体开始在上面寄生
that weighs down the plastic
给塑料不断增负
so that it slowly starts to sink into the deeper ocean.
使其慢慢开始沉向海洋更深处
So in that way, we’re doing like this gigantic simulation
我们就这样做着一个庞大的模拟分析
of all of the ocean, of all the plastic moving around.
模拟对象包括了整个海洋和所有移动的塑料
Van Sebille thinks that a majority of plastic pollution
Van Sebille认为大多数塑料垃圾
is within 100 miles of shorelines,
都在海岸线100英里范围内
continually getting washed back up on beaches
不断的被冲回沙滩上
down coastlines, or up and down to the sea floor.
堆在海岸下面 或在浮沉中来到海底
If the plastic continuously goes back and forth between the coastline and offshore,
如果塑料一直来回地上岸又入海
that’s a lot of rubbing and fragmenting and scraping over the sand.
就会大量地和沙砾摩擦刮擦 支离破碎
This commotion helps explain the presence
塑料的暴力遭遇也更好地解释了
of microplastics in sediments and animal guts, too.
沉积物和动物胃里微塑料的存在
Laurent’s organization is working on cleaning up
Laurent带领的组织正致力于
the garbage patches in the middle of the ocean.
清理海洋中的垃圾带
But that won’t do much for the other 99% of our plastic:
但该项目对处理其它99%的塑料没什么作用:
The microplastics becoming part of our food web and geologic record.
其中的微塑料成为了我们食物链和地质记录的一部分
The larger debris sinking to the bottom of the ocean.
尺寸较大的残骸沉向海底
And, more likely than not, the stuff getting washed up on beaches.
而最有可能的是 塑料会被冲回海滩
Like this one, where I recently visited,
比如这个我最近去过的海滩
where I found a mix of micro and larger plastics.
我在这里发现了混杂的微塑料和大型塑料
But knowing where plastics end up
但是 了解塑料的最终去向
can help us keep this plastic heap from growing.
有助于我们阻碍塑料堆积的进一步发展
These photos were taken by volunteers
这些照片是由志愿者拍摄的
at an annual, international coastal clean-up event,
拍摄的活动是由海洋保护协会组织的
organized by the Ocean Conservancy,
一项年度国际海岸大清理
where people volunteer to pick up plastic on the beaches near them.
活动中人们自愿在附近的海滩捡拾塑料
The most common objects they find are food wrappers,
人们拾到的物件中 最常见的有食品包装袋
烟蒂
塑料瓶盖
以及塑料杯盘
The easiest way to get plastic like this out of the ocean,
清理海洋中这样的塑料最简单的办法
is to prevent it from entering in the first place,
就是从源头防止塑料进入海洋
with better recycling programs
办法是借助更好的回收计划
or producing and using less plastic altogether.
或者从整体上减少塑料的产量与使用量
There are nearly 400,000 miles of coastline around the world,
全球海岸线总长约40万英里
not all of it accessible for people.
人类能到达的海岸是有限的
But knowing that most of our plastic pollution hangs out along shorelines
但弄清楚了我们大部分的塑料垃圾在变成微塑料
before it becomes microplastics or floats out to the open sea,
或是漂入公海之前 都待在海岸线附近这一事实
means beach clean-ups can go a long way
意味着海滩清理活动
in preventing further damage.
对于不造成更严重的恶果来说意义深远
So if you see plastic pollution on a beach—
所以 如果在海滩上看到了塑料垃圾—
all the more reason to pick it up.
你就更有理由去把它捡起来了

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视频概述

你知道人类制造的塑料最终归宿在哪里吗?或许你听说过大太平洋垃圾带的名字,但实际上它只是所有塑料垃圾的冰山一角。

听录译者

收集自网络

翻译译者

亿珀

审核员

审核员SRY

视频来源

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsjvwQclGLo

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