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Island Of Plastic: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Also known as the eighth continent, it is three times the size of France and contains 1.8 billion pieces of plastic. This giant mound of floating trash lies between California and Hawaii and is the world's biggest ocean waste repository. This is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

What Caused It?

The garbage patch had gradually formed as a result of the ocean and marine debris and pollution gathered by ocean currents. Due to the currents that surround the North Pacific Ocean, it occupies a relatively stationary region. It draws in plastic and trash off the coasts of North America and Japan, and all that material is then captured in the currents, gradually moving it and trapping it.

Research has also shown that the patch is rapidly accumulating over the decade. It is said to be ten times bigger than it was back in 1945. It is currently estimated to be the size of Texas, containing more than 3 million tons of plastic.

What Can Be Found?

This plastic island is home to multiple types of plastic, but the majority of what is retrieved is made of hard plastics. The way the plastics are organized is based on 4 size classes: microplastics, mesoplastics, macroplastics and megaplastics, but 92% of its total mass is made of microplastics. The plastics are then organized into 4 other categories based on their durability and material.

  • Type H: hard plastics, plastic sheets or film

  • Type N: Plastic lines, ropes and fishing nets

  • Type P: Pre-production plastics

  • Type F: Fragments made from foamed materials

Type N, consisting of fishing nets, accounts for 46% of the total mass of the Garbage Patch.

What Are Its Consequences?

It is a given that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch poses enormous risks to the safety and health and marine life, but it also affects our health, along with economic impacts. But what exactly does this floating island of plastic do?

Effects on Marine Life

Over 700 species have been impacted by marine debris, and 92% of these encounters are with plastic. Of these species, 17% of them are already on the Red List of Threatened Species. The most life-threatening plastic is fishing nets, more than 100,000 marine mammals die from entanglement.

Effects on the Human Food Chain:

Bioaccumulation is the process of plastic chemicals entering the body of the animal and feeding on the plastic. As that feeder becomes the prey, those chemicals then get passed onto the predator and so on. Soon enough, those chemicals end up entering our food systems!

Effects on the Economy:

A study conducted that the yearly economic costs of marine plastic are estimated to be between $6-19 billion. These costs come from tourism, fisheries and aquaculture along with government-run cleanups. If this wasn’t expensive enough, these costs don’t even include those incurred by the impacts on human or marine life health.

Who Is Doing Something About It?

  1. Plastic Free Waters is an initiative with the intention to bring together public and private organizations and NGOs to eradicate plastic from water bodies in the region.

  2. 4Ocean created an initiative to collect ocean plastic and turn them into apparel and jewelry. To this day, they have collected 1,930 tonnes of ocean plastic from the coasts of 27 countries.

  3. Seabin Project has designed a bin that moves up and down with the range of the tide collecting all floating rubbish. It filters out plastics, oils, detergents and fuels floating in ports, docks and marinas around the world.

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