The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 1:22 PM


The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”
Following up on my earlier post about landfills – it is important to note that not all of our garbage ends up in landfills. Unfortunately, it also ends up in “Earth’s Largest Dump”, the ocean.
The marine pollution, discovered in 1997, had accumulated over a long period of time and founders dubbed the phenomenon, “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”.  This waterlogged stew of trash is located in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean where several ocean currents come together marking the end of the line for garbage floating the world’s oceans.
Many debates have contemplated the true length of the Garbage Patch, but the Garbage Patch stretches hundreds of miles across the ocean.  It is hard to pinpoint the true size of the Garbage Patch because as the patch continues to drift, the ocean current carries some fragments away while about 70% of the plastic garbage sinks to the bottom of the ocean floor.
Did you know…?
The floating dump covers an area one and a half time the size of the USA.
The Garbage Patch consists of several types of trash, primarily plastics (90% plastics).  The marine debris causes environmental problems when these plastic nets, bags, or other debris entangles seals, sea turtles, and other ocean animals.  Photodegradation breaks down the plastic which then absorbs pollutants like PCB’s from the seawater and marine life can accidentally ingest the contaminated plastic before entering the food chain.
Did you know…?
Greenpeace estimates 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.
So, what can we do? The problem is that the Garbage Patch may be almost impossible to clean up. We, as consumers, need to change our behaviors so that we can prevent the Garbage Patch from growing any larger.  Look at items made from plastic that you use every day and compare the benefits like convenience against the harmful effects of garbage and pollution.  We need to change our thinking and look at our household waste as a resource and identify ways to reuse the plastic bags and bottles. Manufacturers need to produce plastic that can be re-used.
Did you know…?
Plastic is manufactured from oil, a natural resource with limited availability.
We know where the problem begins – we manufacture plastic for consumers to use.  We, as consumers, are the source of this problem and we have the power to change it.  If you do not want to contribute to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, the easiest solution is to stop using plastics, especially plastic bags and bottles, because plastic does not biodegrade naturally.  Ultimately we need to recycle more plastics and develop wider uses for biodegradable materials as we continue educating others on the harmful long-term effects of plastic pollution and proper disposal.
References  
 http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/pollution/trash-vortex/

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