The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of 5 major ocean regions devastated by enormous amounts of trash and is believed to be the world’s largest landfill estimated at 2 times the size of Texas. It consists of two vortexes of garbage collected by ocean currents. This gigantic accumulation of plastic was discovered by Charles Moore 13 years ago in 1997 when he was returning from a yacht race and decided to sale through the North Pacific Gyre.
“As I gazed from the deck at the surface of what ought to have been a pristine ocean. I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic. It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments.”
- Charles Moore
The North Pacific Gyre is the largest ecosystem on earth and has been immensely effected by this garbage patch.
What's it made out of?
Disposable plastic is the culprit.
Single use, toss away, one-time plastic is fulfilling 5 minutes of purpose before becoming useless and incredibly harmful garbage for hundreds of years. Disposable plastic makes up 90% of the garbage in the oceans. This includes plastic bags, bottle caps, disposable water bottles, and styrofoam. Plastic never biodegrades into another substance. Plastic will always, always be plastic. Instead it photodegrades, it breaks down to smaller fragments in the presence of sunlight. It takes about 500-1000 years for plastic to photodegrade.
The Great Pacific garbage patch isn't visible from satellites because it consists of tiny pieces of plastic that have photo degenerated. Most of this plastic has become so small that it is invisible to the human eye. A great deal of it has become a similar size as to phytoplankton, which is the foundation of the marine food chain. Filter feeders from small fish to whales are mistaking the plastic for plankton and eating it. Larger fish who eat many of the smaller fish are getting all of the plastic from the smaller fish because their bodies cannot process plastic out. This leads to bioaccumulation of plastic and increasingly toxic animals as you move up the food chain (this is called biomagnification). As a result of biomagnification some whales and dolphins are even labeled as toxic waste.
80% off all garbage in the ocean has come from land.
Because sea level is lower then land elevation; wind, rain and other types of weather can easily take lightweight plastic into bodies of water that’ll carry them into the ocean.
Plastic is being consumed by animals who mistaken it for food
“A turtle found dead in Hawaii had over a thousand pieces of plastic in its stomach and intestines. It has been estimated that over a million sea birds and one hundred thousand marine mammals and sea turtles are killed each year by ingestion of plastics or entanglement."
Effect on Us
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is just one of many examples of how we are abusing our resources and destroying our planet. Since plastic and toxic chemicals from plastic are finding their way into the ocean’s food chain, we’re finding them on our dinner plates and in our bodies. Our body processes these plastics the same way it processes fat. Plastic is stored on the body as energy and when we loose fat the concentration of plastic increases because the concentration of fat decreased. Scientist are constantly discovering how toxins from plastics are disrupting the natural functioning of our bodies and the heath risks that are a product of it. Mothers producing milk, which is essentially fat, are transferring the toxins from her body to her child’s through her milk.
Plastic toxicity is also said to be linked with obesity, birth defects, cancers, immune system suppression and developmental problems in the young.
The ocean also has a huge effect on our weather, temperature and overall climate and these effects could turn violently negative if we continue to consume and discarded at the rate we are now. Cleaning up the ocean manually is out of financial reach and could cause unpredictable damage to wildlife.
Together the 5 garbage patches cover 40% of our oceans
If you don’t think our lifestyle is having an impact on our planet, your denial won’t save you from the consequences. Think of all the inorganic waste you produce, every day, every week, every month, every year, All of that waste is still right here on earth. We need to stop the build up and start the clean up by changing our unsustainable practises in our everyday life. Small changes in our day-to-day routine build up, just as bioaccumulation and bio-magnification build up and make a massive difference.