Plastic Island Pacific Ocean

Our Legacy of Trash

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TheWorldCounts, 02 July, 2014

Our Legacy of Trash

If you’re up to date with the news, you’ve probably heard about the floating islands of plastic in our Oceans. The Great Pacific Patch, the Eastern Garbage Patch and the Pacific Trash Vortex are located between Hawaii and California. It’s in a high pressure area in the middle of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.

More:  Garbage Islands in the Ocean

These exotic sounding names are nothing but a collection of marine debris, mostly composed of plastic. It’s not actually an island that you can see from the sky, not yet. It’s debris that is spread out for thousands of miles.  It covers an area between 70,000 to 15,000,000 square kilometers, almost 0.41% the total size of the Pacific Ocean! It’s huge and it’s our legacy.

Trash in the Middle of Nowhere

How did human trash get into this area? 80% of ocean trash comes from land and 20% comes from the ships sailing the seas. The swirling ocean currents carry the debris to the Gyre, which is an area of water that circulates slowly just like a clock. When the debris gets there, it cannot escape.  The Gyre slowly rotates human rubbish in a never ending circle.

More: Pollution from Plastic

The Islands of Garbage are composed of 80% to 90% plastic – the rest is chemical sludge and other debris.  All kinds of debris can get into the ocean, from water bottles to plastic bags to medical waste. This is a fact that the whole world should realize.

It is estimated that there are 6 kilos of plastic in the ocean for every kilo of plankton – and it will be there for a long long time. Never degrading, but only breaking into little pieces of itself – ever present and toxic.

More: Why Are Coral Reefs in Danger?

Scientists are now studying this area and assessing the threat the plastic islands of garbage pose to our marine life. They have collected as much as 750,000 bits of plastic in one single square kilometer.  These plastics are mistaken for food by the birds and the marine animals that live there.

The discovery of the garbage patch in the Pacific was made by Captain Charles Moore while he was participating in a yachting race. Since then he has raised awareness on how much garbage is present in places we cannot see. Since it’s in a pretty remote area, the responsibility of cleaning up the Gyre cannot be assigned to a nation. However, a lot of international organizations are dedicated to ensuring that the patch doesn’t get any bigger. It’s a humongous task and they need all the help they can get.

The Midway Atoll

To give you an example of how global our plastic waste problem really is, and how it affects even living things who are far away from humans - just look at the Midway Atoll also known as Pihemanu. Surrounded by water on all sides for thousands of miles, between Asia and North America, this group of islands is as remote as you can get. It is home to millions of seabirds and Albatross. A very peaceful island.

The Worlds was made aware of the far reaching effects of plastic waste when a documentary was released showing thousands of dead baby albatross… their stomachs filled with all kinds of colorful plastic. Beautiful and deadly to these beings who don’t know any better. Even as their bodies decomposed, the plastics remained untouched.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is composed of 90% plastic and the currents carry the waste to the beaches of the atoll. The albatross feed their young through regurgitation and unfortunately, what they’re feeding them is plastic. They even choose the colored ones.  It is estimated that an adult albatross feeds their babies 5 tons of plastic a year.

Watch VIDEO: Midway: A Message From the Gyre

Cleaning up our Mess

How did it come to this point that we, the most intelligent species, are having such a negative impact on our environment and to the other living things who share this planet with us? Surely we did not intend it to be this way.

There are many ways to correct our mistake… and it can be as simple as to stop throwing trash in the ocean. We are aware of the many environmental problems but most of us don’t actually do what is needed to help solve these problems.

Let’s start acting now. Waste management is very crucial with our ever increasing population. As our numbers on this planet grow, so will our trash. We need to act now.

Recycle your plastics or better yet, use reusable instead of disposable. Every time you see plastic, remember that they are forever. The plastic you use today will still be in existence, polluting the world long after you’re gone.

Read The World Counts: Stories and find out what you can do to help save our environment. You will be surprised that all it takes to help are little changes... Consistent positive changes that will eventually become a universal habit.

References

  1. Pacific Voyagers: The Plastic Plight of the Albatross
  2. Island Business: Great Pacific Garbage Patch puts fish on Plastic Diet
  3. National Geographic: Great Pacific Garbage Patch
  4. Greenpeace: The Trash Vortex
  5. Wikipedia: Plastic Pollution
  6. Plastic Pollution: When the Mermaids Cry: The Great Pacific Tide

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