The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is nothing short of a man-made natural disaster, negatively influencing marine animals, their fragile ecosystems and ultimately, our society. Its immense size and density continues to offer poor economic, environmental and societal effects and unless we take action, we will be the ones
suffering with the consequences. For those unsure of what the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is, here is an overview-
What Is The Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
A common misconception among the public is that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is just one large sum of trash floating in the ocean, easily visible to anyone flying over or sailing by. In fact, a variety of higher concentrated trash areas can be found throughout the Pacific Ocean and much of the debris is actually not easily noticeable by the naked eye. This makes research conduction of the area much more difficult.
Located in multiple spots of the North Pacific Ocean, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a concentrated, extensive collection of plastic and other man-made debris. The largest of the garbage patches is located between Hawaii and California, and although the size is difficult to calculate, it's estimated to be twice the
size of Texas (1.6 million square miles). Through wind and wave motions, the garbage patch is constantly changing shape and has become widely spread across the ocean's surface area. There are an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic extended across this area, wreaking havoc on the surrounding ecosystems.
What's Causing The Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been gradually caused due to a care-free disposal of trash, especially plastic. Every year, upwards of 1.15 tonnes of plastic is entering the oceans through rivers. As items such as plastic bags aren't as dense as water, they will float into the ocean until they break down into smaller micro plastics, due to the effects of the sun and water. These micro plastics are very hard to remove when broken down and can be easily mistaken for food by marine animals. On the other hand, durable plastics that make their way into the garbage patch can last a lot longer at sea. Once these plastics enter the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, they are unlikely to leave unless they are slowly broken down into micro plastics or manually removed.
What’s The Damage?
Directly facing the consequences of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the various marine creatures and their habitats. The debris found in the ocean is commonly ingested by marine species, particularly due to the shape and color of the rubbish which leads to choking, malnutrition and an array of other health conditions. Over a
period of time, this can affect other ecosystems and food chains, until ultimately influencing humans. For example, chemicals in the plastic, causing health complications within animals consuming it, can work its way up the food chain until it reaches us. We could potentially face the same complications the marine life
face due to the indirect ingestion of the same chemicals.
Our economy is also facing the effects of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, with a large financial loss occurring due to the efforts of trying to rectify our initial mistakes. Through beach clean-ups and the financial loss of fisheries, this value is estimated to be around $13 billion.
What Can You Do To Help?
With more and more plastic unmindfully being discarding into the environment, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch grows. So what can we do to help solve this environmental catastrophe? A major difference could be achieved if people began to reduce their plastic consumption. Simple habits can be adopted such as
utilizing reusable bags, avoiding to buy products with plastic packaging or even carrying your own thermal mug as opposed to using a disposable cup. These are a few simple habits that carry the potential to create a positive change if successfully adopted by a collective. Our plastic doesn't belong in the ocean.
Check out this video here for further detail on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.