The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

8 Nov

Last night at Mount Holyoke College there was an interesting lecture that I wish I could have attended, but it was at the same time as my sociology class. The topic was Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captains Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans. Unfortunately I couldn’t go hear Captain Charles Moore speak but hearing about the event tempted me to do some research on my own.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a swirling ocean current containing approximately 3.5 million tons of trash. Most of the trash is plastic which doesn’t biodegrade, it never goes away. All the plastic that has ever been created still exists. Disposable plastics are the biggest source of plastic pollution. (I wonder if the number of disposable razors saved by no-shave November could be a Did You Know fact.) Trash washes out to sea through rivers and is taken by currents. A lot of it ends up in the Great Pacific Gyre. The garbage is not neatly packed together and it is not going to be easy to clean up.

Plastic can’t biodegrade, but it is able to photodegrade when sunlight breaks it down into smaller and smaller pieces eventually becoming microscopic. The plastic still never goes away and it becomes even harder to clean up. It sometimes gets eaten by animals accidentally and continues being toxic wherever it goes.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an invisible environmental disaster. Out in the open ocean the trash isn’t bothering anyone right now but, everyone still knows it probably shouldn’t be out there. Plastic needs to be disposed of in a sustainable way, or used more carefully. A giant patch of garbage in the Pacific isn’t a great sign.



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