Have you travelled to France?
If not or even if yes, let me take you to an even bigger place than France.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is three times the size of France.
By the way, do you know how to swim?
Yeah because if you haven’t understood its name then let me tell you that this place is in the Pacific ocean. Okay, to cut the confusion short, lemme know show you a picture of it.
Scary? Dirty? That’s the reality.
I am in no mood to joke anymore so let’s get to the business.
What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
The patches created from marine debris in the oceans are called Garbage Patches and one such huge patch exists in the Pacific Ocean called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Pacific trash vortex. Marine debris ranges from plastic and fishing nets to cloth and other man-made litter. Growing land-based activities, offshore-oil rigs, cargo ships, and electronic waste also contribute towards marine debris.
Accumulating in one location, it stays in the oceans there for many years. Due to the sun’s heat, they keep degrading into microplastics and forming a heap of trash. Oceanographers and ecologists recently discovered that about 70% of marine debris actually sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
It’s huge and spread over from the West Coast of North America to Japan. The patch is in Western Garbage Patch, located near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch, located between the U.S. states of Hawaii and California.
Let me now share with you how it is created in the “words of National Geographic”:
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines a gyre as a large system of swirling ocean currents. Increasingly, however, it also refers to the garbage patch as a vortex of plastic waste and debris broken down into small particles in the ocean. The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is formed by four currents rotating clockwise around an area of 20 million square kilometers (7.7 million square miles): the California current, the North Equatorial current, the Kuroshio current, and the North Pacific current.
The area in the center of a gyre tends to be very calm and stable. The circular motion of the gyre draws debris into this stable center, where it becomes trapped. A plastic water bottle discarded off the coast of California, for instance, takes the California Current south toward Mexico. There, it may catch the North Equatorial Current, which crosses the vast Pacific. Near the coast of Japan, the bottle may travel north on the powerful Kuroshiro Current. Finally, the bottle travels westward on the North Pacific Current. The gently rolling vortexes of the Eastern and Western Garbage Patches gradually draw in the bottle.
Data Source: NatGeo
So what if it’s in the ocean. How is it even a problem?
The UN Ocean Conference reports that “1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are affected every year, as well as many other species. For example, turtles often mistake plastic bags for prey such as jellyfish. Abandoned fishing lines, fishing nets, and equipment can ensnare and drown dolphins, porpoises, and whales.”
What goes around, comes around…That’s Karma!
We are eating our own trash. Grossed out? Find out how.
Plastics break down into microplastic after being exposed to the sun’s heat. Upon breaking down, they’re easily consumed by fish and other marine animals. They break into nano plastics inside the fish’s stomach and from there, microplastic smoothly makes its way up the food chain to the human body.
Congratulations, if you eat fish you have plastic inside you.
As the First Post reported “Scientists say that plastic particles can reach our stomach, and depending on their size, these plastics are either excreted, get entrapped in the stomach and intestinal lining or move freely in body fluids such as blood, thereby reaching various organs and tissues of the body. Studies have shown the negative effects of plastics on the nervous system, hormones, immune system together with the cancer-inducing property of plastics.
In addition, researchers also tested the interaction of both nano-plastics alone and aggregated plastic-protein complexes with white blood cells and red blood cells. It was found that the aggregated plastic-protein complex is more toxic and potent in causing the death of white and red blood cells than the nano-plastic alone.”
What lies ahead?
Marine debris is human-made. And whatever is human-made can be controlled. In my last few articles, I’ve pointed out how much plastic humans are generating and how we can control our actions as well.
Due to the ineffective management of waste and litter, around 1.15 million to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers. The size of this and other garbage patches in the world will keep increasing if we don’t change our habits. As these trash heaps become bigger, its impact on climate change will worsen. Let’s learn to Reduce. Reuse. Recycle and Upcycle. Do you know that the name ‘Pacific Ocean’ comes from the Latin name Tepre Pacificum, which actually means a ‘peaceful sea’? How hurtful it is to know that we’re doing exactly the opposite of what the name stands for.
This is Aakash Ranison. Signing Off.
Keep your plastic footprints low and see how you flourish!