I don’t know the answer to this question – and I won’t put it to the test, because although I’m sure the kangaroo skin parts would disappear quite quickly (seeing as they’re half disappeared already), there are other parts of the glove like the Velcro, made from man-made materials, that would last much longer.
This got me thinking about how long it takes other items to biodegrade. As luck would have it, I happen to have here a leaflet from NOAA’s Marine Debris programme that gives some information on this very subject.
Paper towel: 2-4 weeks
Milk carton: 3 months
Plywood: 1-3 years
Cigarette filter: 1-5 years
*Plastic bag: 10-20 years
*Plastic cup: 50 years
Aluminium can: 80-200 years
*Plastic soda bottle: 450 years
Disposable diaper: 450 years
Monofilament fishing line: 600 years
In connection with the items I’ve marked with an asterisk I’d like to clarify something. This is represented by NOAA as a Degradation Timeline. This is not the same as BIO-degradation. Plastic items do break down – but they only break down into smaller and smaller pieces, and even when microscopically small these pieces still enter the food chain. In fact, they can then enter it at a lower level, so accumulate to higher levels further up – which is even worse.
The truth is that plastic is still too new an invention for us to know just how long it takes for it to disappear entirely.
This is why I (and many others) regard plastic as Public Environmental Enemy #1, the nastiest of all nasties. We just don’t know what its ultimate environmental impact is going to be, and in the meantime we continue to churn it out at prodigious rates.
Don’t get me wrong – plastic is not an evil in itself. It has many useful purposes and enables useful items to be made at affordable prices.
But it is really, really NOT a great choice for “disposable” items.
So I’ll be putting my old gloves in with the rubbish to be brought back to dry land. Especially as, unlike any of the occasional bits of food that sometimes go overboard, I can’t imagine that any of the fishies would have a use for a worn-out pair of golf gloves. (no bad jokes about fish fingers, please!)
Position at 1900 19th July Pacific Time, 0200 20th July UTC: 24 56.085’N, 133 43.830’W.
Sometime in the next couple of days I should pass the halfway mark, at 134 30’W. At that point I will have rowed 1304 nautical miles, with 1304 still to go. And in theory the second half should be significantly faster, now that I’m in the trades. As my weatherguy says, from here on it’s downhill all the way!
Conditions very rough today – big rolling swells and winds over 20 knots. I’ve been rowing, but it hasn’t been much fun. I don’t enjoy seeing a big curling wave bearing down on me and knowing I’m about to get a drenching, but the thought of that halfway mark has helped keep me going.
Thanks for all the messages, from newbies and regulars alike! Thanks also to those who joined us for the Leo Laporte podcast this morning. As usual on Saturdays, it was our Q&A session, when you can ask me questions live on Twit TV (meaning is rather different in the US than in the UK!). So if I haven’t answered your question in my blogs, you might want to join us next Saturday at 1700 UTC, at twitlive.tv.
Special hi to Jez at the Royal Navy’s FWOC – thanks to you and the guys for the support and the words of encouragement. Too bad the RN won’t be able to drop in for a visit this time around!
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Click here to view Day 56 of the Atlantic Crossing 25 January 2005 “Zen and the Art of Ocean Rowing” with a message about hope.