North East of Hawaii, the ocean currents form a giant whirl pool of debris from around the Pacific, the scientific name is called the North Pacific Gyre.
It’s one of the largest ecosystems on Earth, comprising of millions of square kilometres.
Today it’s better known as “The Great Garbage Patch,” an area the size of Queensland, Australia where there is approximately one million tonnes of plastic spread throughout the ocean.
Drag a net in any area of this part of the ocean and you will pick up toxic, discarded plastic.
Photographer Chris Jordan has documented this phenomenon.
I had been studying for quite a while the phenomenon called the Pacific garbage patch.
I was looking for a way to visualize it, it was really surreal to land on Midway, seeing that my worst hopes of what I would find there are true.
These are all albatross chicks, hatched out of their eggs and the very first meal they got was deadly to them. What happens is, when the eggs hatch one of the parents goes out and flies looking for food.
They search over this vast area of the pacific and when they come back with is a belly full of toxic plastics, and they feed that to their babies. They die of starvation, malnutrition and chocking.
Simply allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel about this, without jumping to the way to solve it.
Because I think we really need to feel these things, even if the feelings are uncomfortable, because those are the feelings that will turn into the fuel and drive passionate action – Chris Jordan
The desire to change these things will put the human race on a journey to do so, and we are in the midst of it. Ultimately it is our choice as to whether or not we take the time to educate ourselves about our choices and begin doing things in a manner that cares for our environment and home more than our materialistic needs.
The gyre has actually given birth to two large masses of ever-accumulating trash, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches, sometimes collectively called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Eastern Garbage Patch floats between Hawaii and California; scientists estimate its size as two times bigger than Texas [source: LA Times].
The Western Garbage Patch forms east of Japan and west of Hawaii. Each swirling mass of refuse is massive and collects trash from all over the world. The patches are connected by a thin 6,000-mile long current called the Subtropical Convergence Zone. Research flights showed that significant amounts of trash also accumulate in the Convergence Zone.
- The trash in the garbage patches is primarily plastic – about 90% [source: LA Times].
- The United Nations Environment Program estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean hosts 46,000 pieces of floating plastic [source: UN Environment Program].
- Of the more than 200 billion pounds of plastic the world produces each year, about 10 percent ends up in the ocean [source: Greenpeace].
- Seventy percent of that eventually sinks, damaging life on the ocean floor [source: Greenpeace].
- The rest floats; much of it ends up in gyres and the massive garbage patches that form there, with some plastic eventually washing up on a distant shore.
So what’s the REAL danger here?
Plastic doesn’t decompose or compost. The plastic that is sitting in the ocean right now will NEVER go away. It slowly breaks down into smaller and smaller particles until it is consumed by small fish and birds. In the process of biological magnification, one organism consumes the plastic, then a larger organism consumes the smaller one, and then an even larger organism consumes that one, until you get to the top of the food chain.
That’s us – we’re at the top of the food chain. By introducing all of this plastic into the environment, we’re actually condemning not only thousands of species to the unknown health consequences of its unintended mass consumption, but we’re condemning ourselves also.
What can we do about this problem now? HOW do we fix all the trash in the ocean!?
The bad news is that it can’t be undone, its too late for that and there’s far too much trash to ever be recalled from the ocean. What we can do is stop it now at the source. This would involve a large scale boycott of non-recyclable plastic packaging.
Buy products that are packaged responsibly, and take a moment to check the number on the bottom of the packaging before you buy it.
Not all facilities recycle all types of plastics, so check with your local facilities to know which types are recyclable in your area. Want to know what is recyclable and what isn’t?
As much as possible, support eco-friendly products. Avoid being wasteful and purchasing new products each time a new version comes out simply so we can be up to date with the latest greatest.
Create awareness about this issue and pass it onto your friends and family. Awareness has been key in changing various aspects of our world and so often we give it little credit. It is much more powerful than we think.