16 Oct 2010, Posted by Amelia Guimarin in 6th Blog, 0 Comments
In the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, there floats a layer of garbage that stretches for thousands upon thousands of miles. This vast expanse of rubbish is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The reason for this accumulation of trash in the area is based on natural ocean currents that pull coastal waters off North America and Japan. Trash from the mainland travels in these currents and ends up in a gyre. It takes six years for trash from North America to reach the gyre and one year for trash from Asia to get there. Trash from boats also accounts for a significant portion of the waste found in the water. The majority of this trash consists of plastic, which is most worrisome.
As the plastic enters the water, it begins to degrade. Salt, water, currents, and mainly sunlight break down the rubbish into tiny particles, most of which are too small to be seen. These particles are similar in size, shape, color and texture to the phytoplankton upon which so many oceanic species rely. In some areas, the concentration of plastic is seven times that of phytoplankton. Fish and other marine animals eat these plastic particles mistaking them for phytoplankton. The plastic is then transfered on to every other animal along the food chain, including humans.
Aside from these near microscopic pieces of plastic, there are also other items in the Garbage Patch. Confetti-like pieces of plastic, more visible to the naked eye, are also eaten by fish, and larger pieces are consumed by birds. Below is a startling image of a dead Albatross chick, fed plastic by its parents who mistook the items for fish.
The items are clearly visible. Bottle caps, a marker and perhaps some bag clips. These are the items we use and throw away every day. You can help stop the pollution of our ecosystem by stopping the use of disposable plastics. For more information on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, please visit GarbagePatch.org.
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