Choking Our Oceans With Plastic
In the North Pacific Ocean, there exists the largest marine debris vortex in the world: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This garbage patch consists of two distinct collections of marine debris, litter that ends up in large bodies of water, that are bound to the currents of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Such massive trash vortexes existed across the world, forming on common shipping routes in areas, like the North Sea, as marine debris and garbage float around the globe. These patches pose extreme risks to the health of the planet and marine life as they can cause species to choke, become injured, or starve to death due to the debris.
Spanning from the west coast of North America all the way to Japan, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’s two collections of marine debris, the Western and Eastern Garbage Patches, are connected together by the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, located several hundred kilometers north of Hawaii. Convergence zones are areas where warm southern Pacific waters connect with cooler Arctic waters, creating a current that floats debris from one path to the other. However, ocean gyres, circular systems of ocean currents created by the Earth’s rotation and wind patterns, keep the garbage patches bound within a space. In the case of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, four currents move together around an area of about 7.7 million square miles. The areas at the center of a gyre tend to be calm and stable, drawing the marine debris towards their centers where it becomes trapped and collects.
It is also believed that the ocean floor beneath the Great Pacific Garbage Patch may consist of a large mass of underwater trash, as it has been recently discovered that approximately 70% of marine debris sinks to the bottom of the sea. As the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, among the others, is far from the coastlines of any single country, no nation is willing to put forth the funds, or claim any responsibility, for the cleanup of the ocean. Racing boat captain Charles Moore, who discovered the debris vortex as he sailed from Hawaii to California, claimed that putting the effort forth to clean the wasteland would “bankrupt any country.”
Despite the large challenge the debris vortexes present, we must not have a pessimistic mindset when the future and health of our waters are at risk. If our governments and leaders will not take initiative to protect our planet, life, and waters, we the people of the world must take a stand for accountability and work together to bring positive change to the world.