Great Pacific Garbage Patch(es)

Something extremely horrifying has come to my attention recently. I do not know how I had not know this before, but there is a giant swirling pile of trash in the Pacific. Two, to be exact, east and west.

Size and Scope

The state of our oceans is no secret. They are in obvious peril from so many factors like dredging, overfishing, coral bleaching, acidification, you name it and it is probably affect our oceans and coasts.  Farther down below you will see a snippet of the edge of a garbage patch. Scientists believe the patch itself is 2x the size of Texas.  The contents of the patch is mainly pelagic plastics, such as water bottles, plastic bags, styrofoam and bottle caps with another 700,000+ tons of fishing net thrown in.  It is not entirely correct to call this garbage patch, well, a garbage patch. Using this term implies an island of trash floating in the ocean but really its like a giant plastic soup just spinning around in the pacific. All of these plastics and other pieces of trash not only cover a huge surface area, also reach down 10 meters below the surface as well. The fact so much of the debris is below the surface, it is impossible for scientists to calculate the area of the patch. The patch itself is located in the Pacific, where the North Pacific Gyre, keeps the trash swirling around in the middle of the ocean until eventually some sinks to the ocean floor and more trash is added to replace the sunken trash. Due to such a large amount of trash eventually sinking ~70%, scientists predict there is a huge garbage heap at the bottom of the Pacific as well.

Environmental Effects

So what kind of chaos is all of this debris creating? A lot.  The patch wreaks havoc on the ocean environment, already such a delicate system. The debris can be mistaken for jellyfish by sea turtles, and fish eggs by Albatrosses due to much of the plastics being tiny broken up pieces. The Albatrosses end up feeding the plastics to their chicks, which results in starvation and ruptured organs. There is also a problem of “ghost fishing” in the Patch. This is where nets are still continuing to “fish” even after they have been discarded. Sea turtles and marine mammals get tangled in these nets and often drown.

The debris even disturbs the food web. Broken down pieces of plastics, microplastics, prevents sunlight from reaching algae and plankton below. Algae and plankton are the base of the ocean food chain. Without their existence life in the oceans would eventually cease to exist because the health and amount of algae and planktons affect each and every level.

As if it wasn’t already bad enough, the plastics swimming around out there leach out and absorb harmful chemicals through photodegradation. They leach out BPA’s which create environment and health problems and absorb pollutants like PCB’s. These chemicals are then eaten and consumed by marine life, and then later humans. This fact alone makes it in our best interest to try and clean the mess. But cleaning the Patch is as monstrous a task as the Patch is large.

Cleaning

No country wishes to take credit for the Patch. Who would? It is a horrible thing and nobody wishes to claim it. The fact it is so far from any one countries shore prevents countries from taking responsibility to clean it, like siblings and a spilled carton of milk saying whoever is closer is the one who needs to clean it. Cleaning it would be a monumental task in terms of manpower and finances leaving one big dent in the wallet book.

The area is constantly shifting and moving. It is never in the same spot, making locating and cleaning even more difficult. To top it off, cleaning up the debris is not as simple as just skimming the surface as I myself had thought before doing the research. Many of the debris are small, as are many marine organisms. Scooping up garbage would scoop them up too which would be doubly harmful for the ocean.

What to do?

The best that we can do is reduce our use of plastics, and clean any litter we see until a plan of action can be determined to tackle the Patch. I believe if the worlds nations work together, each donating time, money, and resources, the Patch can be removed. It may not take a short time, it may take several years, but it would be progress nonetheless. It is absurd for countries to not contribute to clean this problem. After all, cleaning the Patch would benefit everyone not just one country. We all need and depend on the oceans for food, commerce, and pure ecological benefits such as the oceans huge part in the carbon cycle. We all should contribute to the idea of a once again clean and healthy ocean.

the ocean idea

Something extremely horrifying has come to my attention recently. I do not know how I had not know this before, but there is a giant swirling pile of trash in the Pacific. Two, to be exact, east and west.

Size and Scope

The state of our oceans is no secret. They are in obvious peril from so many factors like dredging, overfishing, coral bleaching, acidification, you name it and it is probably affect our oceans and coasts.  Farther down below you will see a snippet of the edge of a garbage patch. Scientists believe the patch itself is 2x the size of Texas.  The contents of the patch is mainly pelagic plastics, such as water bottles, plastic bags, styrofoam and bottle caps with another 700,000+ tons of fishing net thrown in.  It is not entirely correct to call this garbage patch, well, a garbage patch. Using this term implies an…

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