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The great pacific garbage patch, why it is a big deal?

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch


I have mentioned the great pacific garbage patch before in the ultimate eco-friendly lifestyle guide. It is a huge area of the northern-central Pacific Ocean. And it mainly consists of two massively big masses of garbage. The eastern garbage patch between Hawaii and California, and the western garbage patch between Japan and the Hawaiian Islands.

It is a collection of debris that consists mainly of microplastics. And to clarify more, microplastics came from plastics that were photodegraded by the Sun, which breaks them into very small pieces. And those small pieces can’t be seen easily with naked eyes from distance.

Plastic takes hundreds of years to degrade, and normal microbes that decay biodegradable stuff, can’t do this to plastics.

Nature magazine has published a study estimating that 79,000 metric tons of plastic are floating inside an area of 1.6 million square meters. (Around 618,000 square miles). And this area is the pacific garbage patch.

You can find computer monitors, rubber ducks, and LEGOs in the patch. And you can also find fishing nets and other plastic materials coming from land as well as boats sailing in the Ocean. The production date of some plastic items collected from the patch goes back to 1977!

The patch was discovered in 1997 by Charles Moore. He was sailing back home to Los Angeles in his Yacht. And found himself inside a large sea of floating plastics and debris.

Great information, but why should we care?! We should care because of the following. Keep reading, please. 

What are the great pacific garbage patch effects on marine life?

I understand that we can ignore the role of Ocean plastic waste in global warming. And we may think that a patch of Ocean debris can’t hurt us.

But in fact, it can!

The number of abandoned plastic fishing nets in the ocean keeps growing. And unfortunately, these nets create a phenomenon called ghost fishing. And this means that the nets keep fishing by itself without any intervention.

The nets capture dolphins, sea turtles, and other ocean animals. And they often drown them. These poor animals as well swallow plastic bags and microplastics believing they are food. And eventually, they die from starvation or internal organ injuries.

Adding to the above, there are chemicals used in plastics that we all try to avoid. Those chemicals find their way into the food chain. And this is starting from small fishes ingestion of small microplastics to bigger fishes like tuna, and eventually to humans as well.

Who tried to solve the issue?

It is so difficult to clean up the ocean debris in this patch. And that’s because a lot of microplastics are the same size as tiny sea fishes and other sea animals. So the tools “like nets” can risk killing those poor creatures while we are trying to fix the issue.

It is also very expensive and time-consuming. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration “NOAA” has estimated that to clean only 1% of the patch, it should require 67 ships and 1 year to complete the mission.

However, some people never lose hope!

Ben Lecomte a 52 years old long-distance swimmer, decided to swim right inside the garbage patch. He spent 80 days swimming for about 300 nautical miles. And he accomplished it by swimming 8  straight hours each time.

Although he expected to see fully formed plastic items, he was surprised to find a high concentration of microplastics. And the microplastics are not mainly visible on the surface, it goes to 5 meters deep and beyond. He wanted to tell the world about his experience from a swimmer’s perspective. And he hoped that his story will increase people’s awareness to reduce plastic consumption as much as possible.

The Ocean Cleanup Foundation

The Ocean Cleanup Foundation team is doing great efforts trying to solve the issue. They are doing researches all the time. And they used planes and boats to understand the area and find practical solutions to remove plastic waste from the ocean.

The most shocking finding is that the amount of plastic waste in the area is increasing exponentially. And this makes the issue more difficult to resolve.

If we spend a lot of money and waste a lot of time trying to remove plastic today, we will keep getting more tomorrow. And what we remove is much less than what is adding up.

Anyways, the foundation is doing its best. And they started to make sustainable products from the plastic they collect, in order to keep funding the cleanup operations.

The foundation also invented The Interceptor. And its mission is to intercept waste from the 1,000 most polluting rivers. They confirm that those rivers are responsible for 80% of ocean plastic pollution.  And their goal is to complete the mission by 2025.

As per the foundation, microplastics sink down into the deep sea. And so far, these microplastic are located in the top 5 meters in the depth of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. However, if the cleanup is not done on this depth before it goes much deeper, the problem might be impossible to resolve.

How can we help to fix the great pacific garbage patch issue?

So, now you know that it is not a distant issue that we can ignore because we can’t see it. This issue is threatening marine life as well as human life.

Countries can’t keep pouring money to solve the issue, while we keep sending plastic waste to the ocean. They will end up bankrupt, and we will end up still hurting ourselves and our future generations.

You can start today to solve this issue by stopping the use of plastic as much as you can. You need to replace plastic that doesn’t degrade, with biodegradable and sustainable products. And you need to start adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle today!

I hope you found this blog post useful, and I will be happy to read and reply to your thoughts below.

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