Vast currents, flowing in a circular motion, in the Pacific Ocean between Japan and California, collect enormous amounts of floating waste. Known as the North Pacific Gyre this mass of debris stretches thousands of miles across. Originally thought to cover an area the size of Texas, an aerial survey conducted in 2016 found that the Pacific gyre is much larger. (photo – AFP/Getty/The Guardian)
A Soup of Microplastics
What is commonly called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was discovered in 1997 by Capt. Charles Moore, while sailing between California and Hawaii. What really got Moore’s attention, in among the floating plastic bottles and garbage bags were the tiny pieces of plastic that formed a vast murky soup. Moore returned two years later and determined that the volume of this soup of microplastics was six times greater than the plankton, the tiny marine organisms that form the base of the ocean food chain. Moore has since turned oceanographer, activist and founder of Algalita Marine Research & Education.
There are Five Major Gyres
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not the only example of this phenomenon, although it is the largest. There are five major gyres; 2 in the Pacific, two in the Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, floating plastic waste is found everywhere in the sea just more accumulated in the gyres. A recent MacArthur Foundation study estimates that by 2050 the volume of plastic waste accumulated in all the oceans will be greater than the volume of fish. Follow the Guardian “From Sea to Plate: how plastic got into our fish.’ (map – NOAA)
Taking In the Trash
Now, as reported by the Sierra Club, in an article by Eliza Strickland, “Taking in the Trash” two organizations have innovative proposals to tackle this giant floating mess. SAS Ocean Phoenix a French maritime engineering company suggests sucking up the floating garbage into a giant super tanker. Filters would allow fish and marine mammals to pass thru but contain the waste.
An Ocean Cleanup
Ocean Cleanup would use the sea’s currents to carry floating waste into an enormous, v-shape, screen suspended from two 30-mile-long, floating, booms. The debris would be funneled into a central collection platform where it could be loaded onto ships to be removed. Important questions remain for both plans, although a small prototype of the Ocean Cleanup model is now being tested in the North Sea. So lets have hope that a similar scheme will work, however, for now we must all do more to cut the use of plastics by incorporating more sustainable practices in our lives.
We’re Devoted To Following the Ocean Plastic Wake
BlueOcean.net has been a devoted follower of the latest news on plastics in our oceans and we will continue to update you with articles on technological breakthroughs, biodegradable alternatives, microplastics, microbeads and the Great Ocean Garbage Patches.
Breaking News: We might have thought we won the battle against the use of microbeads, however think again, the law that President Obama passed had a loophole big enough to drive the industry through. Now other countries that want to curb the use of microbeads are faced with the same issue. Find out more at: The Huffington Post – Obama’s Ban On Plastic Microbeads Failed In One Huge Way. Plus see our Action Agenda to Clean-Up Our Ocean, a list of actions that you can do supplied by the National wildlife Refuge System.
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Dive Deeper into Related Blue Ocean Posts:
Blue Ocean Summit Speaker Dianna Cohen and the Plastic Pollution Coalition: “Our Plastic Seas: There is No Away””
Blue Ocean Summit Speaker Stiv Wilson discusses plastic microbeads in: “Get Your Feet Wet through Global Action”
Take the “No Straw Please Pledge”