You’ve heard of it on the news: a collection of mostly plastic garbage floating in the sea that is more than three times the size of France. Is it real? Can you see it on Google Earth? How harmful is it to sea life? Find out here.
What Is It?
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is indeed a collection of man-made garbage floating in the Pacific covering more than a 1.6 million square kilometers. It forms part of the North Pacific Gyre, a region where ocean currents collect plastic. It is the largest of five such subtropical gyres and garbage patches throughout the world. Two are in the Pacific, two in the Atlantic, and one in the Indian Ocean.
You won’t be able to see any of the patches from a nearby ship, plane, or Google Earth. Although they do contain such visible debris as containers, fishing nets, and bags of plastic, these large pieces comprise only a small part of the total. Researches believe that 94 percent of the objects come from microplastics and are diffused throughout the water. Unless you know exactly where to look, you’ll mostly encounter tiny particles.
How Does It Affect Life?
Needless to say, any trash in the water affects sea life. Already, the news is rife with stories of fishes and whales that have died from ingesting large quantities of garbage. The dangerous and toxic substances contained in this trash work their way up the food chain, and may eventually end up on your plate.
The micro-plastics are particularly dangerous to small fish, larvae, and other small creatures that mistake these substances for food and then die because they obtain no nutrition. Without small fish to eat, bigger fish will die, which adversely affects human consumption.
What Are We Doing About It?
Initiatives are underway to clean up some of this mess. A non-profit organization called The Ocean Cleanup, headquartered in Rotterdam, the Netherlands has made it their goal to “rid the world’s oceans of plastic” by relying on a team of over 80 scientists, researchers, and engineers.
They are currently developing a passive system that uses wind, waves, and currents to catch the plastic and concentrate it. They are also investigating how to use the gathered material once it returns to shore. They hope to recycle the plastic into usable products like chairs, phones, or car bumpers. By selling the products they create, they hope to make the entire enterprise self-sustainable.
Their research indicates that a full-scale roll-out of their system could eliminate up to half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in as little as five years.
If you want to keep your trash from increasing the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, contact Debris Box. We’ll haul your junk away and dispose of it responsibly from anywhere in San Diego County.