Plastics don’t decompose well. The way it decomposes makes it hard to properly dispose of. The problem comes when plastic is left out in the environment. The trash doesn’t decompose so it just stays there. And collects.
In 1997 an island of trash was discovered. This garbage island is now called The Great Pacific Patch, and is located halfway between Hawaii and California. Since then the patch has has grown over 600,000 square miles. That’s twice the size of Texas!
The patch contains 1.8 trillion pieces of trash that weigh at least 79,000 tons. About 94 percent of the 1.8 trillion pieces are micro plastics, while most of the other six percent is made up of fishing nets. The fishing nets, however, make up about 46 percent of the patch’s total mass.
Plastics absorb dangerous pollutants like PCBs, DDT and PAH as they floats through the water. These pollutants can cause harmful side effects such as cancerous mutations in cells. PCB levels have been found to be 100,000 to 1 million times higher in the plastics than in the water surrounding water, these PCBs can then enter the food chain if the are mistakenly eaten. In the Northwest Pacific 12 to 24 thousand fish ingest plastic each year, with fish markets in California reporting roughly a quarter of fish at markets contain plastics, mostly micro plastics, in their stomachs.
The mass of the Great Pacific Patch is increasing exponentially, and is 16 times higher than expected. Plastics have been found in the patch as old 1970. If no major changes are made by 2050 the amount of plastic floating in the ocean is projected to triple.