Il settimo continente è un’isola di rifiuti

5 dicembre 2007

pubblicato su Carta Quotidiano

Qualcuno lo considera il settimo continente della Terra: galleggia sull’Oceano Pacifico, si invortica su se stesso e soprattutto si espande. Ed è formato da rifiuti.
L’allarme è scattato dopo una foto scattata da Greenpeace Svizzera, mostra un pulcino di albatros morto di fame. Nello stomaco ha plastica, solo plastica. La foto è stata scattata in un luogo al largo delle Hawaii in cui, per il gioco delle correnti, si è formata un’enorme discarica galleggiante di plastica proveniente praticamente da tutto il mondo.


Dopo l’allarme, sono iniziati gli studi. La causa dell’accumulo di rifiuti non è da ricercare solo nelle correnti oceaniche, ma anche nei venti.
Normalmente i materiali scaricati in mare tendano normalmente a disperdersi, in questo caso il doppio effetto di aria ed acqua tende invece a favorire l’accumulo di questa gigantesca isola di rifiuti galleggianti. E stavolta non servono polemiche: è praticamente certo che la causa sia l’uomo, che immette nelle acque quantità di materiali non biodegradabili oltre ogni limite che il buon senso suggerisca.

Il luogo sotto studio è situato ad 800 miglia marittime a nord delle Hawaii, distribuito su una superficie ampia due volte lo stato del Texas.
Avvistata per la prima volta alla metà degli anni ‘90, di dimensioni molto più ridotte, è praticamente cresciuta di circa dieci volte in dieci anni. Qualche ricercatore, anche se l’isola non ha un nome ufficiale, la chiama da tempo «The Great Pacific Garbage Patch».
Sono solo rifiuti della società umana. Non c’è nulla di naturale in quella grande isola. Secondo le stime più recenti, fatte da chi la osserva e la studia, peserebbe approssimativamente 3,5 milioni di tonnellate, con una densità di 3,34 milioni di oggetti di piccole dimensioni per chilometro quadrato, di cui l’80 per cento è plastica.
Non solo.
Essendo localizzata nel Pacifico settentrionale, e studiata la direzione e l’intensità delle correnti, la sua crescita è garantita. Continuerà a crescere, perché le correnti marine ed i venti causano un vortice che spinge in quella zona ogni materia solida galleggiante e leggera. Secondo alcune stime, potrebbe, nel giro di pochi anni, raggiungere un’estensione confrontabile con quella dell’Africa. Pensare ad una bonifica appare per ora impossibile, poiché non si saprebbe dove mettere questa grande mole di rifiuti.

La causa della tardiva scoperta dell’isola di rifiuti è da ricercare certamente nel fatto che si trova in un’area del Pacifico poco attraversata da rotte navali o di pesca.
Di recente, il professor Marcus Eriksen, direttore del «Algatita Marine Research Foundation», ha dichiarato al quotidiano «San Francisco Chronicle» che: «con i venti che si abbassano di colpo, e le correnti che ruotano circolarmente, quello è l’ambiente perfetto per intrappolare i rifiuti».
Tutto accade perché la plastica resiste alla biodegradazione. Con in tempo e la luce, le plastiche sottili sono infatti soggette alla fotodegradazione, le buste e le bottiglie si frantumano in pezzi molto più piccoli, che però mantengono la loro composizione molecolare originale. Che non è biodegradabile. Che non è digeribile, ma viene ovviamente ingerito dalla fauna marina, sia dai pesci sia dagli uccelli, e che come risultato ha una vera e propria strage. Strage di cui siamo tutti responsabili. Strage che può solo crescere nel tempo, se non si affermano immediatamente le bioplastiche sul mercato, e più in generale una revisione dei materiali che usiamo nella vita quotidiana.

Oltre questo, che è già un disastro, c’è dell’altro, in vista per il nostro futuro.
Alcuni ricercatori californiani, di recente, si sono imbattuti in altro grande vortice di correnti, con scarsi venti circolari, situato dal lato opposto del Pacifico, tra le Hawaii e la California. Secondo loro, si potrebbe facilmente accumulare in questa area una seconda grande isola di rifiuti. Già da ora, le premesse ci sono tutte.

47 thoughts on “Il settimo continente è un’isola di rifiuti”

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