“Not that long ago, in a galaxy that we actually live in, it is a dark time for our Oceans. Although the marine life has been destroyed, the Plastic Industry has driven the Environmentalists from their hidden base and pursued them across the land…
Evading the dreaded Plastic Industry, a group of freedom fighters led by [your name here] has established a new secret base on The-Last-Straw.Org…
The evil Plastic Industry, obsessed with fossil fuels and money, has dispatched thousands of microplastics into the far reaches of our oceans…”
… Plastic Island of the Pacific.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a.k.a.) Pacific Trash Vortex
Do you know that out in the great waters of the Pacific Ocean lies a garbage wasteland of about 7.7 MILLION square acres…and is gaining mass every day? The Great Garbage Patch, or also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex (I am capitalizing the names because it is bigger than most countries) has been forming for as long as plastic has been produced…1908, if you remember from the previous article.
However, this plastic island of the Pacific wasn’t discovered until 1988 when a couple of Alaskan research teams had discovered a bunch of plastic in the Sea of Korea that had landed their due to currents. They had theorized that there would be more pools of garbage around the world because of ocean currents, but never found any.
Fast forward ten years to 1998 when Charles J. Moore was sailing back home from Hawaii to California after competing in the TransPacific Yacht Race and took a different route home. Little did he know that he was sailing through the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre- one of the 5 major circulating ocean currents in the world. He and his crew were suddenly surrounded by millions of pieces of garbage, plastic specifically.
Not really an island..
Even though there are large pieces of plastic mass floating in this gyre, most of this debris is made out of microplastics and is NOT fully connected to each other. All the large pieces will eventually break down into microplastics due to a process called photodegradation. Photodegradation is the process of compounds being broken down by a combination of light and air. But plastic is not biodegradable. So it will just break down into it’s original molecular structure of bisphenol A (BPA), polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), and polystyrene (PS). These chemicals are very harmful and are being leached back into our water system and our food chain. We are poisoning ourselves!
Effects on Marine Life
What does this mean for sea life? Well other than the nylon nets and six-pack rings that are strangling seals and other sea life to death, animals of all sizes are ingesting our plastics. Loggerneck Turtles are mistaking plastic grocery bags for their most desired food- Jellyfish. The Albatross are eating the tiny pellets and mistaking them for fish eggs. They feed them to their chicks and then both the adults and babies die of starvation and lack of nutrients. But that’s not all…
- Studies show that 700 different species have encountered ocean debris
- 92% of them with plastic specifically
- 17% of them are on the Red List of Endangered Species
Effects on Human Life
What does this mean for Human life? On the microscopic level, the more photodegradation that the plastics receive they will break down into microplastics and will leach out more harmful chemicals. And then it is all about the food chain. Marine life is more likely to eat the microplastics. And the endocrine system is now mistaking these leaching chemicals as estrogen, which will disrupt hormone levels. When’s the last time you ate fish? Sushi? Maybe you think twice next time.
Be the Change.
It is estimated that by the year 2050 there will be more weight in plastics over fish in our oceans. We have been using our oceans like a garbage can. And The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t the only one! It just happens to be the largest out of FIVE. Charles J. Moore said that any country that tries to clean this single patch up will end up bankrupt. This can not be a single country effort. It has to be global. We can ALL help. We can at least help to limit the growth, and we can help with cleanup whenever possible. As we said, plastics won’t break down for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. But let’s do some research on proper recycling facilities, and using reusable, eco-friendly items WHENEVER we can. It all starts with me, you, US.