Are There More Massive Garbage Patches Floating In Our Oceans?
How could something so vast (now twice the size of Texas) and so detrimental to our ocean (no water sampled within it’s spatial extent is free of trash) remain so mysterious and under the radar for so long? One would think that with satellites, planes, and boats circling our Earth 24/7 and this new push towards environmental awareness people everywhere would know about or at least have seen photos of this ever growing garbage patch floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I mean, it was only discovered 12 years ago!
The Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is located 1000 miles northeast of Hawaii in what is known as the North Pacific Gyre, a clockwise swirling current that encompasses the entire North Pacific and concentrates all of the floating debris into one area. The majority of its trash comes from land when rubbish from storm drains is washed out to sea and it consists mainly of plastic since plastic is lightweight, disposable, and is used in both developing and developed nations. Plastic can float thousands of miles before it begins to break down into nurdles, small pellets of plastic the size of rice grains. These nurdles, which may number in the trillions in this gyre, then take thousands of years to break down further and are a serious threat to any wildlife in the ocean that ingests them such as baleen whales, which feed on extremely small organisms called plankton.
What I find most baffling, not to mention alarming, is that scientists speculate that the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is only one of perhaps five floating garbage patches that may be caught in giant gyres throughout our world’s oceans… But how could we possibly not know for sure?
The Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch finally gained attention this summer when it became the destination for three independent marine research organizations. One is now working on developing ways to clean it up and has proposed the possibility of turning the garbage patch into diesel fuel. This is extraordinary news but lets also work on locating the other four massive garbage patches floating in our oceans!