The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – SJ Environmental Justice

The Great Pacific garbage patch is an extensive collection site of plastic trash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The plastic patch was discovered in 1997 by a racing boat captain, Charles Moore, on his way back from Hawai to California. It is actually a trash vortex of ocean debris trapped by the currents in one of the 5 Pacific Ocean rotating currents. There are 5 similar patches all around the world.

The Pacific Ocean garbage patch was formed gradually by the accumulation of marine trash by the currents in one particular place, called the horse latitudes. The horse latitude it’s characterized by high pressure, which suppresses precipitations and cloud formation and mixes calm winds with strong winds.

The trash is captured by currents and carried to this particular area from the coastal water of U.S and Japan All this trash was generated from improper waste management. 80% of it comes from land at the marinas, ports, rivers, dock and the rest of 20% are from fishing vessels, stable platforms, and cargo ships.

It takes 6 years for a plastic bottle to travel from the North Pacific coast of the United States to the garbage patch and under one year if it’s coming from Japan

The size of the patch is impossible to measure because it consists from fishing nets, micro-pellets and small plastic particles suspended on or bellow the ocean surface to larger pieces of plastic objects.The size of the patch was estimated as being 2 times the size of Texas and 9 feet deep.
Because the surface of the garbage patch is so large, it affects the food for the fish and other animals. The covered area lacks of sunlight that is necessary for the planktons and algae’s to grow. If the planktons and algae’s are affected then, oceans food chain may change. Animals that feed on them will have less food. The main plankton eaters are fishes and turtles. In the Pacific Ocean garbage patch are 6 times more plastics than plankton. The decrease in the fish and turtle population will result in the decline of tuna, sharks and whales and eventually to an increase of the seafood price.

Because this plastic waste is not biodegradable, it will live in the ocean for long times and will release toxic chemicals.It takes 500 years for the plastic to degree. Instead of biodegrading the plastic will break down over time in tiny little pieces wich ingested by the marine animals will end up in our food chain.
If you think it will not going to affect you, think again. Pieces of plastics are ingested by jellyfishes every day. The jellyfish is eaten by a larger fish and the guess what, the fish will end up on your plate. The toxic chemicals from the plastic bottles you just through in the trash will finally end up in somebody’s dinner.

Animals that ingest plastic will die because their stomach can’t break down the plastic and the accumulation of it in their stomach it’s inevitable. They will die from starvation. Most of the time these particles of plastics are confused with food or eaten involuntary with other food sources. The plastic bags are confused by turtles with jellyfish, and the plastic pallets are confused by birds with fish eggs. Seals can tangle in the fishing nets and die. Plastic also affects the albatross population that is nesting on islands close to the garbage patch. From 500.000 chicks born every year, only 300.000 survive. The rest of them die mostly because of the ingestion of plastic and other trash.

267 species are already affected by the plastic debris from the ocean.

But not just the wildlife is affected by the marine trash. The waste damages the boats, submarines, and beaches. Some of the beaches are covered in 10 feet trash while others are covered by millions of plastic sands or little pieces of plastic that are impossible to clean up.

Over the years were made several attempts to clean up the ocean. Some of them are: – 2008 – The Environmental Cleanup Coalition formed by Richard Sundance Quen, a building contractor and scuba dive instructor tried to identify safe trash removal methods. – 2009- two ships went out to study how practical would be a commercial scale collection and recycling of the waste.

– 2012 – Boyan Slat, a Dutch aerospace engineer student, came up with a new concept related to the considerable amount of trash by using the surface currents. He sustains that the garbage will drift to a specially designed arm and would be collected into a collection platform. By putting his method in application, he thinks that the big garbage trash could be cleaned in 5 years, and the collection platform would collect around 7.25 million of tons of waste.

Cleaning up all this trash is maybe impossible but it can be reduced by better managing our waste on land. We need to find alternatives to plastic that are reusable and environmentally safe.
Numerous artists made other steps to attract the attention of the world over the garbage patch like Marina Debris, who creates clothes from trash just to educate people about the garbage patch.

No nation wants to assume the responsibility of claiming out the garbage patch because it’s so far from any coastline. The size of the plastic garbage being so small any attempt to use nets designed to scoop up trash will also catch small animals of the same size. Cleaning up the ocean it’s a time consuming job that no nation want’s to consider. An estimation made by The National Debris program shows that it would be needed 67 ships to clean up around 1% of the marine debris in a whole year.
The world produces over 200 billion pounds of plastic every year. 10% of it ends up in the ocean. Some of it will sink to the ocean floor, and some of it will be washed up on shores.

Plastics come in many forms. From a small plastic cigarette button to a 4.000 pounds fishing net, plastic bags, Styrofoam, tires, fishing gear, you can find everything. Most of them will float and end up on one of the plastic patches, and some of them will sink.
Research shows that chemicals from plastics were already found in people living in America, Europe, and Asia, and the results are devastating. Most of the subjects studied ended up with reproductive problems.

In 2006, the US Government got involved in the cleanup process by funding several government agencies to increase their cleanup work. This is a significant step ahead in resolving a problem that was not touched from 1990’s Some countries and states have banned the use of plastic bags in their effort to stop pollution. Some introduced a tax on the plastic bags that did had the expected results. The use of the plastic bags in these places dropped with 90%.

Beach and park cleanups are frequently organized in the effort to reduce the quality of trash that will reach our waters and oceans.

In 2013, 650.000 people around the world helped to remove over 12.000.000 pounds of trash from coastlines and beaches. Every trash collected was cataloged to help scientists find out wich is the most common polluter found on beaches. Over 2.000.000 of them were cigarette butts.

We have to find a way to reuse all these plastic that ends up in our oceans.
One company found a solution related to recycling the fishing nets found on the beaches of the Philipines. Some of these nets were lost, and some of them were intentionally thrown in the ocean from shipping boats because they were old and damaged. Fishing nets are especially dangerous for the marine life after they are abandoned because they continue to catch, choke and kill the animals trapped inside. The company collects and reuse all the nylon from the fishing nets, turning them into carpets. This way they also help the local communities that collect the discarded nets by creating jobs for these people

There are some simple things that everybody can take in hope that we will stop the pollution: 1. Stop using exfoliating soaps and toothpaste that contains tiny plastic microbeads, because they can slip through most water filters and treatment systems when they wash down the drain. 2. Avoid using plastic bags whenever is possible. There are other options you can use like paper bags or cloth bags. Start carrying reusable shopping bags 3. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store so they can be properly disposed of. 4. Use reusable water bottles instead of the plastic ones. Same goes with the reusable coffee mugs. 5. Check for recycling rules in your area, because most of the plastic can be recycled: water bottles, yogurt cups, milk containers, cereal box liners, 6. When you take your leftovers home from the restaurant, ask to be packed in paper containers instead of the Styrofoam ones or just ask them to use aluminum foil packaging. 7. Refuse to use straws for your drinks 8. Use bar soaps instead of liquid soaps packed in plastic bottles 9. Try to cut back on the quantity of the trash you and your family produces 10. Join local efforts to pick up trash from parks and beaches. 11. Shop at your local farmers market/ Return the containers to the farmers so they can reuse them. 12. Buy bulk as often is possible. This will reduce the amount of packaging. 13. Chose to buy milk in returnable glass bottles. 14. Clean with vinegar and water. 15. Use cleaning cloths instead of plastic and synthetic sponges. 16. Use natural rubber gloves.

17. Use powdered dishwasher detergent packed in a cardboard box instead of the liquid detergent packed in plastic bottles.



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