The Great Garbage Island

Have you ever heard of the Pacific Garbage Float?  Maybe called the Pacific Trash Island?  Whatever name it's dressed up, the results for our planet are disasterous, and yet there's very little being done about this mammoth collection of refuse in the ocean.  I mean, it's bigger than TEXAS and most people haven't even heard of it. Now that's one great big, dirty secret.

How did this happen then?  Well, the situation escalated quickly. In fact the size of the patch has doubled every decade since 1945.  That's a quick accumulation rate, but our rate of plastic use has also grown exponentially in that time, so it makes sense.  The reason it's not as well known as you would think is two fold; it doesn't look like a giant trash pile on the ocean, in fact it's mostly made of toxic micro plastics, and secondly it doesn't "belong" to anyone.  That is to say, no one nation owns the problem, so no one feels compelled to sort the solution. Hey, not my problem, man.

Essentially, the conversion of ocean currents has created two distinct patches of accumulation.  While there are certainly larger pieces of garbage in the float, most plastics that end up in the ocean are exposed to a high amount of sunlight that degrades the plastic and it starts in break into toxic micro plastics.  So really the water just looks cloudy and murky, but these are so poisonous to the plant and animal life in the sea when they have broken down into such tiny particles and are easily consumed.  Also, the broken down plastic ends up settling to the ocean floor, which is a separate issue, but it means that the float is constantly making waste deposits on the ocean floor below so the impact goes much further than surface level.

A great resource is National Geographic, and here's the link to a sort of lesson on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch:

The main things we can do to help is donate to causes working to clean the oceans, reduce our plastic consumption, always make sure to recycle plastics and try to buy recycled products rather than virgin plastics.  Every single water bottle saved, straw stopped, balloon burst or plastic product avoided makes a difference.

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