Welcome to Plastic Island: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The other day I talked about my frustration over seeing an excessive amount of ‘plastic bag trash’ littering one of our favorite Cleveland lakeside parks.

I feel I would be remiss without mentioning the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  I was honestly surprised by how many of my friends had not heard of it before, but it’s something I cannot stop thinking about.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is essentially seven million tons of floating plastic waste, 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.

Take a look, and see if you can keep from feeling just a little bit unsettled.

And if you want to know more detail…

The problem is this… the plastics break down into small pieces of debris, pollute the ocean and beaches, disturb the eco-system and literally become food for marine life, because they can’t distinguish between what is “real” food and what is our trash.  In fact, the amount of plastic trash in this area is six times greater than the amount of plankton (this area’s most abundant food source).  This “mistake” costs them their life.  And think about what happens if you consume a fish whose diet consisted primarily of plastics… it makes me shudder.

The next time you think of tossing away some plastics… stop… and really think”.

(Additional post:  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: words from its “founder”)

(Additional post:  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch… worse than expected?)

This post was also re-published, with permission, at The Reef Tank.

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17 thoughts on “Welcome to Plastic Island: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

  1. I have seen so many videos and footage takes on this. This is horrible, yet where ever I look we are using more plastic than ever before without worrying at all about the consequences.
    I think this video should be part of our educational system and the effects that plastic is having on our world today!

  2. I have heard and read about “Plastic Island” before and it makes me sick every time. A couple years ago they drained one of our local lakes here in AZ to repair the dam and re-sculpture the beach area for boaters. The amount of trash on the lake bottom was just amazing and very disturbing to me. There was everything from plastic bags, plastic bottles, glass, cans, metal, etc. My goal these days (no matter where I go) is to pack OUT more than I pack IN.

    Thanks for the great post!

  3. marina – I absolutely agree! Everyone should see this… kids would be especially effected by the poor turtle!

    Shari – Isn’t it sad what people toss away… and into a lake no less! We’re doing a garage clean-out today and I plan to recycle and donate everything I can!

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  5. Just heard about this today, while I can understand the anger and frusteration, what do you think your local governments should do? how can we best manage the problem, perhaps we should go back to incineration, maybe that would help, but then you have people like myself who are asmattics and have other respitory diseases, what do you think would be the best course of action…we have a unique oportunity now with obama in the white house to make a stand, bring this to him sometime next year, bc right now he is working on the health care issue, one that is paramount to our future, and our kids future, perhaps the reason why diseases such as cancer are so prevelent now is because of things like this “Plastic Island”

  6. anthony – that’s a difficult question…maybe we should first we should start with those oil rigs and ships that are dropping their trash overboard. Why? That’s one-fifth of the problem. We have to give them a better solution. Local governments also have to work harder to give the public an option, or a solution. Beachs and waterfronts with trash and recycling receptacles that actually get EMPTIED! Can’t tell you how many times I have seen them overflowing or none at all. Where does that trash go? You guessed it, straight into the ocean. I have really high hopes for the Obama administration too. We have nowhere to go but up!

  7. I heard this island will be around 10000 years after humans are gone. It will “outlive” all our monuments.

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  9. Very disturbing and it doesn’t get the attention it deserves because most of the pieces very small and float below the surface. I think the only way we can clean up the pollution is to make it profitable to do so. I don’t know what the means to do so would be. Maybe finding a way to recycle it into building material or government regulation making it more expensive to throw things away rather than keep them.

  10. 10000 yrs after humans are gone? When are humans leaving the earth? The problem with this garbage is not that it is in the ocean, its that it is at the surface. As all anyone needs to do is sink it really deep.

    Or perhaps we can get a really big net and collect all of it. After which we can put it into a rocket and shoot it into space.

    And I would give animals more credit for distinguishing between food and non-food sources. I mean if the posts above are true, it is a great wonder why more marine animals don’t die from eating rocks and and other natural, non-food objects, that are in the ocean. I have never heard of a dolphin dying from eating to much coral reef.

    As a final thought, how do you know that kids would be affected by the poor turtle? What happen to Darwin’s Theory relating to the survival of the fittest?
    I challenge any one of you to give me the true story as how that turtle got that plastic around his body?
    If no one knows than I will have to assume that this was an especially stupid turtle that if it died, it is better for all the turtle’s of the world that it’s DNA has been removed from the gene pool.

    Who wants stupid turtles that get stuck in plastic? How many turtles have been entangled in kelp and died a slow painful death? Show me some pictures and I may advocate removing all the kelp from the ocean.

  11. Fred – (if that is your real name) I normally don’t bother permitting comments like yours that make outlandish remarks, but I’ll give you the respect of replying to some of your comments.

    1. The problem is NOT that the plastic is on the surface. That is why we can’t visually see an “island”, as it’s called. It swirls below the surface where it does come in contact with marine life.
    2. Yes, marine life DOES ingest it. They don’t eat a rock-sized piece of plastic. They eat it after the salt water breaks it down into small plankton size pieces. This eventually blocks their intestines because plastic does not get digested. Animals will spit out rocks. Weak argument. Coral reef is actually a natural inhabitant of the some bodies of water. Most animals don’t eat it because they know it’s not their food source. Do you eat trees outside your back door just because they are part of your environment?
    3. How did the turtle get the plastic ring around it’s body?… seriously? If you need it explained, it got caught around its body when it was small enough to have it fit around its shell. As it grew, the shell was constricted by the plastic ring. Ever seen how trees, as they grow, will grow around or into something that inhibits its growth. Same theory. And yes, I believe children would understand the damage that is being done if they see the consequence on that poor turtle.
    4. Turtles entangled in kelp? Are you serious about that one too. Last time I checked kelp was a naturally occurring vegetation, not plastic trash that we can PREVENT!!!
    I answered your questions. Case closed.

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  14. This is just horrible. Simply put, we need to educate our children. My wife & I just recently started recycling plastic & within 1 week I was SO convinced that the use of plastics should be outlawed. The amount of plactic that we placed in our recycling bin was astonishing to say the least! Nearly everything we consume (either in the way of food or everyday uses) uses plastic one way or another. I remember back in the day when I was about 10-12 yrs old the overwhelming campaign to stop depleting our natural resources & to start using plastics “to keep from hurting our natural environment”. Well, today we are facing the consequences of that great cause. Simply put…we need to start using renewable resources such as trees, bamboo, grasses, etc. I am sure the technology is out there. If we would just spend the money on depleting this atrocity, the world would be a better place. Unfortunately I am not wealthy or I would donate millions for this cause, however….I am contributing my part in the way of education to my children, grandchildren, family, friends, strangers & recycling my use of plastics. We need to go back to using paper products. Everyday when I go to place plactic in one of those bins I feel guilty for just using plastic & wish there was some way to stop the use of it. The only 100% way is in the form of educating our next generation. Amen!

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