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An Ocean of Rubbish

trash

Out in middle of the Northern Pacific Ocean where one would expect to see little more than the endless pristine expanse of ocean and sky and its complementing hues of blue and perhaps the occasional poetic albatross floats an environmental disaster so disgraceful that all humanity should turn red from shame – the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

trash

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch consists of a mind-numbing amount of flotsam and jetsam that equals an area often cited as being around the size of Texas. Also known as the Eastern Garbage Patch, said trash vortex is located between 135° to 155°W and 35° to 42°N. Or, between Hawai'I and California for those of you who don't have any compasses or GPS systems handy.

trash

An estimated 20% is attributed to large shipping vessels simply dumping their rubbish overboard. The other 80% is land based and the result of decades of plastic manufacturing, consumption and discarding. To quote an expert on the subject, “The ocean is downstream from everywhere. And once that piece of trash reaches the ocean, a set of four currents in the northern Pacific creates a clockwise vortex known as the North Pacific Gyre, which encompasses 10 million square miles, or basically the entire northern part of the ocean. The eye of that hurricane of manmade garbage is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, calmly floating along in the middle.

trash

Not appalled enough? There's more. In addition to the obviously negative impact that this new Atlantis has on the Pacific Ocean and its wildlife, doomsday-ish scenarios exist that believe that us opposable-thumb-having, land-based bipeds might be completing the horrific circle by ingesting the photodegraded byproducts of our own garbage as it works its way back to us through the food chain.

trash

Discarded plastic water bottle photodegrades after a few years into a polymers that nueston – floating organisms at the top of the water — ingest. Little fish eats neuston. Small fish eats little fish. Big fish eats small fish. Human orders big fish for dinner at neighborhood restaurant. Human develops (select your health problem here). The end. Poetic justice is a bitch.

trash

While scientific analysis of this garbage cycle is ongoing, it doesn't always take a press release from the FDA to make us understand that something is seriously wrong, and action must be taken. The North Pacific Gyre is one of five global gyres, the Sargasso Sea of Bermuda Triangle fame being the most commonly known. The scenario might be occurring in all five. Meanwhile, the research continues. AER

Images courtesy of Greenpeace, Vice Magazine, LA Times, and The New York Times Magazine

 

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  • ryan

    July 15, 2010

    Can’t they gather this stuff together and make a big landfill island somewhere? fill a dead coral reef/lagoon? Just an idea, I’m sure the environmentalists would shit bricks but it can’t be worse than letting this stuff biodegrade all over the Pacific and get into our food and every other animal’s food chain…I’m sure the biggest culprits of this trash are countries like China, Mexico, Central America where they have little regulations…Hell Mexico still dumps human waste into the oceans and that regularly washes up in San Diego or LA…

  • Roshan

    September 27, 2009

    Here’s a great blog by someone who’s on her way to the garbage patch: lindseyhoshaw.wordpress.com/
    Plus, if you have kids, read them a book called The Wartville Wizard, where a disgruntled old man gets the power to send garbage back to stick to the people who dropped it. Great idea!

  • Patti

    February 8, 2009

    I vacationed on the big island of Hawaii once, and on a hike to the southern most tip of the island, a good 2 miles away from the main road, the coastline was littered with garbage. I couldn’t figure out where all of it had come from. There were no houses, no civilization for miles and miles around. And there bags, broken toys, bottles of all sorts, rope, fishing line, broken plastic bottles, a broken up laundry basket, just all manner of trash. I think now I know why it was all there!

  • Mitch

    January 11, 2009

    Joe, thanks for posting that article. It really put the whole thing into perspective. The fact that the author had DDT in her blood speaks volumes about the lasting effects some of these chemicals have on the environment. The damage we’ve caused to the earth is a hard thing to look in the eye, but I guess it’s better to see the truth than to live happily blind.

  • BraceletSeeds

    January 6, 2009

    My God that’s horrid. Do you think one day space will have a sucking vortex of our junk?

    It might already be happening, but at least there aren’t any creatures that we know of out there swallowing our rubbish. Then again………..my brain hurts.

  • Escoofield

    January 2, 2009

    That’s not very good.. this world is full of trash.. we must help each other to clean the earth.. before the aliens save the earth from us 🙂

    Escoofield –
    alotofit.com

  • batboat

    December 25, 2008

    Atlantic ocean suffers the same. I went to the nearly uninhabited (due to hurricanes) east shore of Cat Island Bahamas. Unlimited plastic scrap is driven ashore by the trade winds. I picked up a bottle with print that I could not decipher and a tail plane from a US marked target drone. Locals walk the beach each morning claiming cast-off waste from ocean vessels and other trash.

  • alex

    December 24, 2008

    I wonder how much money could be made for recycling the entirety of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? millions?

  • KJ

    December 20, 2008

    I wish you folks could spell better. If you are going to try to make a point, it would come across much better if you would take a few minutes and make it look like you have an ounce of intelligence.

  • neosopheus

    December 19, 2008

    I read through these comments and am appalled by the ignorance within. How about doing some research before you open your unenlightened mouths and say that this is not real? My god people, wake the hell up!

  • Joe

    December 16, 2008

    You ‘doubt’ the article? But can’t do any personal research? ‘In the 70s people said…’ so therefore anything similar forever after is fake? Pathetic.

    You want video? Here, watch some video:

    http://www.vbs.tv/video.php?id=1498976287

    Also, read the chapter here ‘Polymers are Forever’. All the plastic made in the past 50 years is still in existence. All of it:

    books.google.com/books?id=bOBB-veGda8C&pg=PA126&lpg=PA126&dq=plastic+manufactured+history+world+total&source=web&ots=AemcOrpfdI&sig=PgWUMk_gCH6n3pLF6mkpTRXxPdA&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=5&ct=result#PPA112,M1

  • Joe

    December 16, 2008

    Mitch, you’re ignorant. Its not your fault, but really– this isn’t an issue of ‘chance’. This is inevitability and is already happening, perhaps even to you:
    http://www.nbcactionnews.com/content/livinggreen/story/Blood-Test-Shows-Pollutants-In-Our-Blood/X6_EWb4ETk2AM-_zHwbYrg.cspx

    Dozens of industrial chemicals are already accumulating in your body. Surely you’ve heard of DDT and its effects on ecosystems. All those eagles that were losing eggs lost them due to the DDT in their bodies that was originally consumed by tiny bottom feeders and the persistent chemical worked its way up the chain. They DO NOT go away with cooking. That’s bacteria and small organisms. Read up!

  • Mitch

    December 12, 2008

    I agree that this garbage definitely needs to be cleaned up but the domino effect you say will occur, i.e. neuston eat garbage, little fish eat neuston, large fish eat small fish, humans eat large fish, human develops disease, is a little ridiculous. First of all, think about how many fish are in the sea. What are the chances that the swordfish on my plate has eaten anything that has consumed this garbage. Second, most contaminants disappear during the cooking process. Maybe it wouldn’t be a great idea to eat sushi that came from the trash vortex, but is this really dooms-dayish? No.

  • Joel Lowery

    December 12, 2008

    I am 21 years old. As an adolescent I littered fairly regularly out of car windows. After seeing a television program relating to this tragedy mankind has created any littering began to rest on my conscience. I now realize just how thoughtless/selfish/appaling littering is and how easy it can be prevented, trash cans. I wish people would take two seconds to throw garbage out. This earth is far too beautiful of a place to ‘trash up.’

  • Get-a-glass!

    December 6, 2008

    It’s such a bitch when you realize that there is no hope because people don’t want to do any dirty work till it’s too damn late! Geez…..drink from a glass! …..sadly, that’s too hard for millions and I just don’t get it. Makes me want to drink from my lawn hose! What’s really sad is that so many of these bloggers don’t believe what’s happening, yet, the proof falls out of their hands and into a trash bin time and time again. What? Do you people really believe in trash fairies?….really?

  • Justen Tye Dye

    December 3, 2008

    Im no saint but i try to do my part in my little spot of the world. Their are so many comparable events to this wether you want to admit if this one is true or not. But what scares me the most is that most people are waiting on some one else to tell them their is a problem and for some one else to take action to fix it. This and so many other horrific attacks on our ecosystem are only being confronted by a slim margin of people. If our sociaty as a hole can’t pull our heads out of the sand and find some pride and resposibility about our individual existance with our surroundings. I don’t see a high standard of living for our sustained existance. It will be worse for less advaced creatures

  • Francesca

    December 1, 2008

    This story is true:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch

    Many organizations have been trying to fix this issue. The island of plastic trash is about the size of texas and thousands of feet deep. but since it’s in international waters, nobody wants to deal with it

  • junkevil

    November 28, 2008

    TRACEY said: ‘You are the reason I loose all hope for our furture’

    i really hope this is your second language.

  • Randall

    November 26, 2008

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3508263.ece

    Should you want the truth not this lie by the environmental tards.

  • CrypticStench

    November 24, 2008

    MOMMYOH http://www.vbs.tv/shows.php?show=1154 thats the video. now make your mind up…

  • AER

    November 18, 2008

    To T,

    Care to offer any constructive criticism that may help the writer to be a less shitty, in your eyes?

    To the Doubters,

    Some of the problems in researching images to accompany the article is that the middle of the Pacific is not easily reachable — at least for this Brooklyn dwelling writer of modest means — and there is not a whole lot to actually, well, see. The plastic and garbage in question is somewhat transparent after floating in the ocean for so long, and floats just beneath the surface. While, understandably for many, seeing is believing, in this case it just isn’t that easy to see it.

  • heatherflea

    November 18, 2008

    For the commenters above who ‘aren’t buying it’–the Pacific gyre is a long studied problem, and there are tons of videos, photographs, articles, and statistical data documenting it. So instead of dismissing the problem based on 2 photographs, you might, um…oh, I dunno, google the subject?

  • Tracey

    November 16, 2008

    Using a different oil base for plastics is not going to solve the problem. From the website provided:

    ‘Does NatureWorks PLA disappear when it is put into the soil or seawater?
    No, soil and seawater are relatively cold environments that severely retard the molecular weight loss, thus not allowing PLA to become biodegradable.

    Does NatureWorks PLA biodegrade in landfills?
    No, due to the low oxygen concentration and drop in temperature, the natural environment will retard molecular weight loss thus not allowing PLA to become biodegradable.’

    *And, I am appalled by the bloggers who do not believe this is a real problem. You are the reason I loose all hope for our furture

  • f

    November 14, 2008

    loved the nature of the article, but you’re a shitty writer

  • Stefan

    November 14, 2008

    Unfortunately for many, ‘out of site, out of mind’. A shame really. Why must you be visually inconvenienced before one take any action (if at all).

  • Ryan

    November 13, 2008

    Yeah, us humans are so pathetic. How could we do such a thing…blah blah blah. Get off your ass and clean it up. Everyone on this blog has used or does use plastic bottles, bags, etc. on a daily basis.
    Hopefully that fish you ordered with the (insert health problem here) has been cooked before you eat it, or I’d find another restaurant to spend your horrible human money at.

  • Greg Udell

    November 3, 2008

    If you are really sick of this, then start spreading the word that plastics can be made of vegetable oil instead of crude oil. Check out http://www.natureworksllc.com/, they make plastic products from vegetable oil and they take only months to degrade where as normal plastic takes decades.

  • ex-sailor

    October 25, 2008

    When I was in the Navy on deployment all of our trash went overboard. They had mulchers to destroy paper products and crushers to compact cans and other materials. Then it all goes in burlap sacs and over the side…not to mention all the jet fuel and human excrement

  • Tim Robinson

    October 22, 2008

    Wow! It’s any wonder we are getting sicker and sicker, the animals we eat are ingesting our own crap and feeding it back to us…

  • Chicken Little

    October 15, 2008

    The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

  • MommyOh

    October 15, 2008

    I’m curious as to why the one photo shows so many of the same type of plastic bottles in the exact same spot. Something about this story just doesn’t ring true. Why hasn’t anyone every posted an overhead photo, instead of an illustration? I’m not buying it…

  • jeff

    October 10, 2008

    I used to work for NOAA as an observer on long liners. They recently started giving us

  • Debo Hobo

    October 5, 2008

    OMG! That is disgusting and absolutely unacceptable. I’m not sure however why we need to study it-more waste of taxpayer dollars. We need to just clean it up.

  • John

    October 4, 2008

    The only problem with this story…. is all that empty ocean in the background.

    Can you find garbage floating in the ocean? Absolutely! Is it a floating island as some claim… yeah, right. Oh, back in the 70’s there were all of the claims of oil globs floating everywhere too.

  • tommy

    October 3, 2008

    Is that a young Woody Allen in the second photo? Where is Mia?

  • Sounds

    October 2, 2008

    Dear Jack,

    How can you fix this problem? Blast it into space?!

  • Jack

    September 27, 2008

    This is interesting but franky it doesn’t affect me at all. I won’t be around if/when this becomes a problem. If it really becomes serious, someone will fix it.

  • Robert

    September 26, 2008

    I wonder how true this is. No areal photo. I think if this is true some one should get together with me on a recycling project. We should see if it is practical to go out with big ships and compress the waste. I think they sort some waste with water (what floats, what sinks etc.).

    Now for the commentary…
    Do not say

  • One UK

    September 25, 2008

    I am horrified, and sad.

  • JORGE

    September 17, 2008

    HUMAN ACTIVITY ON THIS PLANET HAD DIMINISHED OUR FUTURE IRREVERSIBLE FOR EVER IF NOT URGENT ACTION IS TAKEN PLACE SOON BY EVERY SINGLE HUMAN ON OUR ONLY EARTH PROVABLY WE HAVE TO FACE DRASTICS CHANGES IN OUR INVIRONMENT WERE WE DEPEND ON……

  • bella pali

    September 5, 2008

    if this is a sign of how far we’ve come as a modern society then it is very sad indeed

  • Joseph Smith

    August 24, 2008

    We’re fucked

  • Shane

    August 19, 2008

    So pathetic that the MSM does not make public issues of importance.

Any comments?