Hundreds of miles off the coast of California, a new continent is growing. Already the size of Texas, this mass continues to swell in size with each passing day. It is a floating heap that can’t be stopped, and it is entirely made of garbage.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was first discovered in 1997 by Charles Moore and his crew while sailing through an isolated area of ocean west of the California coast. During his cruise, Moore was shocked to find thousands of pieces of garbage floating near the surface of the water.
He was so distraught by the amount of garbage he saw that he returned to dry land with a mission to spread the word about this ever-growing trash pile.
The North Pacific Grye
In the late 90’s, Moore began conducting research on the area better known as the North Pacific Gyre. An ocean gyre is a large scale swirling vortex of ocean current. Moore found that this current, circling the northern Pacific Ocean was attracting most of the world’s trash and collecting it in one giant heap — about 3.5 million tons of garbage.
While researching this phenomenon, I was obviously distraught by the details of this dilemma. But there was one thing that disturbed me even more than the giant puddle of garbage forming in our ocean.
The amount of apathy and skepticism about this situation was astounding. All over the internet I found blogs and posts calling the GPGP a hoax. It seems as though for every voice advocating recycling and preserving the earth, there is another negative response condemning their efforts.
Trash Continent: Myth or Legend?
Sure, the GPGP does sound a bit preposterous, and I too couldn’t understand why I couldn’t find any real photographic proof of this giant floating continent. But the truth is that GPGP does exist, but like most things, isn’t exactly what it seems.
The GPGP is a great big area of garbage but it is more like a soup than a continent. You can’t stand on the GPGP and you definitely can’t photograph it looking down from the sky. In fact, from most angles, the water looks perfectly normal. Under the surface is where you find the world’s melting pot of trash, growing by the day.
Most of the GPGP is free-floating, individual pieces of garbage both big and small and about 80% of the material is plastic. Since plastic never biodegrades, the pieces simply get smaller and smaller until they are tiny confetti specs scattered throughout the water creating the soupy consistency of the GPGP. Researchers found that the amount of plastic in the water outweighs the amount of zooplankton by 6 to 1.
Most non-believers question the GPGP because it isn’t a giant mass, large enough to walk on, while most environmentalists would probably agree that they wish the same were true. The soupy, unstable condition of the GPGP is what makes it so detrimental to our environment.
The amount of time and money it would take to collect all of the tiny plastic particles floating in the GPGP makes its clean up impossible. And many of those small specs of plastic are confusing to fish and birds looking for food. The enevitalbe ingestion of the plastic will eventually result in an onslaught of environmental and health problems for us.
Researchers found a 2 ½ inch fish caught in the GPGP with a record 84 pieces of plastic in its tiny belly. So the little fish eat the plastic particles. Then big fish in turn eat the smaller fish, until eventually those big fish end up on our plates. How do you like eating your own garbage?
So before you go brushing off the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as propaganda, why don’t you think about it for a minute. Even if the researchers are wrong and even if the story is being blown out of proportion, would it really kill you to just try and do your part by recycling your plastics?