Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Bag it!

I realize that both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans have a mass

of trash caught in a wind pattern called a gyre.

Image result for large mass of plastic in the pacific

The Great Pacific garbage patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, is a gyre of marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean discovered between 1985 and 1988.

How big is the garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean?

The North Atlantic garbage patch is an area of man-made marine debris found floating within the North Atlantic Gyre, originally documented in 1972. The patch is estimated to be hundreds of kilometres across in size, with a density of over 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometer.

I know that many plastics are made from petroleum products and will evidently last thousands of years.  I expect that the problem of manufacture and of disposal will be solved in the near future.

Still, I am grateful for the existence of plastic bags.  I am surprised at how lettuce, cauliflower and other vegetable do well in the refrigerator when air is kept away from them. I was surprised to read "The Invention of Air" by Johnson and to find how helpful it was to understand the ocean of air that surrounds our planet.  The book is called the Invention of air because for a long time, thousands of years, there was no atmosphere and then, for another long time, oxygen was not part of Earth's atmosphere.

I am pretty ignorant of chemistry but I think oxygen is one of the more active components of our air and tends to mix with other things.  The process leads to dissolution of many of our foods.  But with some foods, an airproof plastic (or other airproof substance like wax paper or aluminium foil), useful life can be extended quite a bit by protecting the food from contact with air.  Ground coffee does better when sheltered from contact with air but I think light, including sunlight, can also age coffee.

A good plastic bag is often convenient for simply inserting into a freezer and then thawing later. We refuse to microwave plastic bags and I avoid the 'steamer' bags that many frozen foods now come in.  I much prefer emptying the frozen item into a large ceramic bowl and microwaving that with a dish for a cover.

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