Home > Conservation, Environmental Issues, Science > The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch

So perhaps you have heard of the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, perhaps you have not.  It is something I have been more recently educated on, and in doing so felt it important to share my new found knowledge.

Plastic Ocean

Plastic Ocean

So what is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Eastern Garbage Patch or Pacific Trash Vortex?  It is a gyre of litter (trash) in the central North Pacific Ocean.  Still not following?  In layman’s terms, it is a big pile of trash floating in the middle of our ocean.  A very big pile of trash.  Big in the sense that it is twice the size of Texas.  It contains over 100 million tons in floating garbage and growing.

So how did all this trash come together? 

The Pacific Gyre / currents

The Pacific Gyre / currents

This “patch” was created by the Pacific currents carrying garbage from North America, Asia, and the islands (the whole Pacific rim), and then concentrating it into a continent swirl of garbage; a vortex.  The majority of the source of this trash comes from land – dropped into the streets, into drains, into sewers, and leading out to the ocean.  About 80% is from land, and 20% from ships at sea.  It takes about 5 years for trash to reach the gyre from the west coast of North America, and less than a year from the coast of Asia.

About 80% of this junk is plastic.  Plastic is 100% non- biodegradable.  But, in water, and with sunlight beaming down on it, plastic is broken down into bits, and solids become chips and those chips become dust eventually. 

Plastic Beach

Plastic Beach

Plastic bags shred, and also will eventually become plastic dust.  On islands of the Pacific, coming from all over the Pacific rim, plastic, swirl into a vortex that eventually brings them to these shores, creating sand dunes made of plastic.   The more the plastic breaks down, the more of a threat it becomes, because it starts to affect even the smallest organisms on a molecular level, thus invading the entire food web in the ocean.  There is 6 times as much plastic in the gyre than there is plankton.  Plankton is this area’s most abundant food source.

Dead Laysan Albatross skeleton containing plastic fragments

Dead Laysan Albatross skeleton containing plastic fragments

Animals mistake all this waste as food and die from either plastic poisoning or blockage of their digestive system.  Sea turtles may think that floating plastic bags are jellyfish, rope may become entangled in the tentacles of jellyfish.  Albatross (seagulls) mistake waste for food all the time. Often they are found dead a shore, and their skeletons show nothing but a pile of plastic within.  Chicks get fed with waste that the parents fly back to the nest too, killing the chicks as well.

All this plastic absorbs, transports, and releases hydrophobic pollutants (PCB, DDE, DDT).  This harms the ocean’s foodchain and can thus affect us as well, causing diesease, infertility, etc. 

Sea turtle stuck in net found in the Pacific Gyre

Sea turtle stuck in net found in the Pacific Gyre

So how can this problem be fixed?  Well it would require more money than any nation is probably willing to spend on the clean-up project.  The best thing we, or anybody can do, is the obvious we have been taught for years:
-Reduce your plastic waste
-Do not litter
-Participate in beach clean ups, riverbed/runoff clean ups, drainage clean ups, etc.

  1. August 24, 2009 at 4:26 am

    The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is just disgusting. I am constantly amazed at the terrible damage we do to the planet we call home.

    • November 24, 2009 at 8:15 am

      i agree

  2. September 12, 2009 at 10:21 pm
  3. Brent
    September 20, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Dumbasses! Stupid fuckers1 Wake up and clean up your shit!

  4. September 22, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    I’m glad you feel so strongly about the subject 😛
    But yes people do need to learn to not only clean up their trash, but not liter in the first place. Recycle. Reduse. Reuse.

  5. PG
    November 5, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Deja loops… Got it wrong! ITS first, reduce, Reuse, then recyle. If we can reduce rapping lunches in bags, we put it bags and then carry in bags. Reuse, reusable sustainable containers that havw been recycled. Then recyle the rest into what we need and not what. We can meet our plastic demands by recycling. As a planet we dont/ cannot fully recyle all platic, but if we continue to reduce our need for them then the recyled could very much equal our reduced quantity used, constantly demiminishing. People forget, its not the very big things in life that bring us to our knees, its all the little things together that get out of control and unmanageable… 1 plastic, 2 platics, 3 plastics… Over 50 years we sure have done us proud. More is not better, im left wondering – ignorance is bliss. Primitive man had value for life. Now, double incomes, multiple email addresses to just check? CAnt we combine all to bring about together? I wonder what effect spam and all email forwarding and 3 email addresses often containing the same mail, iff not using up our broadband usage, what effect and where is all this infomtion saved and stored? Someone has to carry the cost. WHAT IS THE LIMIT? MAN HAS NO LIMIT. MORE IS BETTER?! And in anycase, crystal meth, weapons of mass destruction, wars… We dont even value life, the life of our neighbour. We are so mindswept, but the best yet it, Obama – As America was well known to get out of recessions in the past by creating wars ( ie selling arm to both sides, fueling the war and profiteering) and all your go america… Ask yourself, Was your child offered a college education if he went to war? By all means, the poor used as porns. But just remember, it may not be your son whos not coming home for christmas! Society is sick… Id rather, sit and smoke meth in my bedroom and i guarantee id be often a better person, than those mindsets we all follow day-to-day praising but they, the visionaries (presidents/ministers/those perceived to know whats going on) that have let us down. Yet, lets jet off for lunch here, and pop on down in tin-car, just in case news reporters are following us, 7 series BMW is the most modest car we have. Can you imagine, South Africas finance minister just appologised for purchasing one, not going to sell it because of the economic times, it cost the poor taxpayers of south africa, over 1 million rand! And thats just the one car he purchased… [pull up an article, end of oct 2009 about the bmw, the minister of police and safety, quater million rand(R250 000) 14 days, another in hilton hotel durban, half a million rand (R500 000) and we have people living in tin homes, millions of them… You tell me? VIVA LA FIFA WORLD CUP 2010… Rand dollar currency R7/$1 thereabouts… In shacks, you tell me… We all didnt realise or have we been so off our faces drinking chamapagne and shnoffing lines, that we are so surcommed by all-of-a-sudden findings… GET REAL…

  6. Bonita Applebum
    November 7, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    This is highly informative primer:) I added your link to my posting on this subject, for those who have not yet heard of the problem. Your post is an excellent summary, i couldn’t have done any better. thanks!

  7. November 24, 2009 at 8:13 am

    this is crazy somone shoudl fix it

  8. November 24, 2009 at 8:14 am

    ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo shoot trashy and crazy this is bob i like to sob

  9. anonymous
    January 4, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    take a boat with a fine net in the back and drive through the patch then put what is collected in a land fill in fact take a hundred boats don’t just look at the small stuff and say oooh that’s not suppose to be here

  10. January 6, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    man i totally agree. Someone should do something about this homes.

  11. January 8, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    I’m embarrassed to be part of the human race … this is awful 😦 People will NOT change unless it directly effects them somehow usually..

  1. November 7, 2009 at 8:20 pm
  2. November 22, 2009 at 9:03 pm
  3. January 27, 2010 at 7:03 pm

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