A few months ago, scientists found a new garbage patch in the Arctic ocean. And now, another pocket of plastics, human trash, and chemical waste has been discovered in a newly-explored region of the Pacific Ocean. Like it’s cousin the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” it’s an environmental burden that shows just how irresponsible humans have become in recent years.
The new patch is located between Hawaii and the mainland US, and it was discovered by the Algalita Research Foundation. Charles Moore led the six-month volunteer voyage. Though researchers are still determining the garbage patch’s size, it is estimated to be as big as a million square kilometers (386,100 square miles) — four times the size of the United Kingdom or 1.5 times the size of Texas!
Moore told ResearchGate: “We discovered tremendous quantities of plastic. My initial impression is that our samples compared to what we were seeing in the North Pacific in 2007, so it’s about ten years behind.”
Though the vortex of trash is gargantuan, pictures of the patch are somewhat misleading in terms of the size of debris. Initial analyses reveal that the majority of the plastics are the size of a grain of rice. Of course, there are larger pieces of garbage, such as bottles and fishing nets. So far, it looks as if most of the waste was disposed of by commercial enterprises, such as the fishing industry. This means general consumers are less to blame. “We found a few larger items, occasionally a buoy and some fishing gear, but most of it was broken into bits,” said Moore.
Small or large in size, plastic debris still poses a serious threat to marine wildlife and terrestrial ecosystems. It’s estimated that by 2050, 99 percent of birds will have plastic in their guts due to the extraordinary amount of goods disposed of by humans.
Though you may think you have nothing to do with the problem, that is unlikely – 80 percent of pollution enters the ocean from land. Over time, plastic debris breaks up into micro-particles that don’t easily biodegrade and are ingested by wildlife. If animals — such as turtles and fish — don’t die from swallowing the trash, their bodies are likely to become more toxic due to the PCBs and other chemicals found in plastics. This, in turn, makes them unsuitable for consumption by humans and other creatures.
As IFLScience reports, garbage patches in the ocean result from giant systems of circulating currents (gyres) sweeping debris up from ports, harbors, rivers, docks, and ships. The trash then becomes trapped and oftentimes accumulates for years before it is spotted.
Though this new vortex of trash is bad news, it doesn’t mean hope is lost. Humans still have time to adopt sustainable habits and prevent climate change from worsening. As innovations are developed to clean up the oceans, individuals and families can reduce their burden on the environment by eating more unpackaged whole, unprocessed foods, bringing recyclable bags to the grocery store and boycotting plastic whenever possible.
Via Research Gate