A few months ago, I wrote a post about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch… the sickening, swirling area of approximately seven million tons of plastic debris and waste floating in the Pacific that is roughly twice the size of Texas (and some say, twice the size of the entire US).
It swirls through the ocean between the continental US and Japan, and contains everything from plastic bags to Legos to footballs. One fifth is believed to come from trash dumped from ships and oil rigs, and the rest comes from land and all of the plastics we discard on a daily basis.
I certainly got my fair share of comments and emails. Some readers were appalled (just like I am), while others were skeptical. One particularly fine gent emailed me and wanted to know why there weren’t pictures of this “plastic island” that everyone keeps raging about and why I’m making false statements.
Well, I first think he’s taking terms a bit too literal! It’s not an actual island where you can dock your yacht, Mr. Crabby Pants! This garbage patch is an AREA, where the vortex of ocean currents collects all of our discarded trash. It’s that simple. The ocean eventually breaks down the plastics into little bits and tiny pieces of plastic that marine life mistakes for plankton (their primary food source). It floats on both the surface to 100 feet below the surface… so NO! No “island”, but we shouldn’t falsely believe that this is not an issue.
Now, a new expedition to study the Garbage Patch, led by a group of University of California scientists, states that they found much more debris than they expected and are concerned that the “patch” may be much larger than originally thought.
It’s hard to imagine what we can do to prevent this… even experts don’t have the answers. The only hope is to decrease our dependency on so many plastics, improve our recycling practices and simply change our overall behavior… and clean the mess that already exists. We must find ways to decrease the plastic trash that reaches the oceans and waterways… period.
The most disturbing part? There is said to be another patch in the southern hemisphere… and it’s four times larger.