The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Keeping the world clean is what we do best so we’re always fascinated to learn about those areas that are still being packed full of junk and garbage. How do they get like that? Why are they like that? These are just a couple of the questions that we stay up late pondering. After a little bit of reading we stumbled upon something quite incredible, its called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch…
It’s a weird thought that the world’s largest landfill site is found in the middle of the Pacific Ocean but sadly that’s the case. This makes it all the more difficult to tackle and get started on the clean up because it’s constantly on the move in a huge area.
Don’t let the name fool you, it’s not really a giant mound of rubbish floating across the ocean leaving a pile of carnage and sunken ships in its path. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is like a giant mixing bowl of junk that circulates in the Eastern and Western Pacific Oceans. The Eastern section moves between Hawaii and California, whilst the Western part travels between Japan and the Western Hawaii. This area in particular has accrued so much junk due to a 6,000 mile long current called the sub-tropical convergence zone. Once the junk makes its way into either of these two regions it gets stuck by the currents of the ocean so that it is unable to simply carry on drifting away.
The bulk of this troubling build up is made up of plastics that will never naturally degrade. Current estimates predict there are 6 times as much plastic by weight than plankton in the area. This problem takes on a whole new dimension when you learn that many species of fish actually mistake plastic for food and end up dying as a result. What a tragedy!
The damage isn’t just confined to millions and millions of unfortunate fish though. Sea Turtles and Dolphins can become trapped in discarded plastic nets unable to free themselves. Birds looking to give their wings a rest and find their next tasty treat can also end up choking.
Something crazy that we also learnt is called Bio-Accumulation. When a little fish innocently eats some plastic in its search for something to fill their stomachs for the day, a bigger fish will eventually eat the smaller fish and pass all of the toxins along the food chain. Eventually millions of these fish end up on our plates.
So how big is this behemoth? Today it is estimated to be more than 5 times the size of the UK. That gives you an idea of the incredible scale of the world’s biggest landfill site. Over 70% of the junk is actually below the surface and eventually ends up sitting for decades on the relative calm of the ocean floor where it causes all sorts of damage to the local ecosystem.
A statistic we found particularly troubling is that 80% of the junk was originally thrown away on land: a worrying figure if ever there was one. Because it moves and sinks seemingly with a mind of its own, the clean will take generations if it is ever even attempted. What we can do today however is each do our bit to ensure as little waste and junk ends up in landfill in the first place.
With fewer items being thrown away in the first place, we can do our bit as a community to limit the chances of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch continuing to grow.
Next time you take the bins out give a couple seconds thought to what you can do to help do your bit for the environment. After all it’s everyone’s planet!