Imagine an area about the size of Alaska teaming with life, such as sea turtles, birds and seals – creatures that spend their lives foraging for food. Only they’re not eating a diet rich in fish and plankton, but rather bite-sized morsels of indigestible plastic. Welcome to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch [GPGP] is located in the North Pacific Ocean in the waters between California and Japan. The waters in this area form the massive North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, which is a circular movement of currents that trap debris in the ocean.
A March 2018 report details the findings of a 3-year study of the GPGP – estimating the area to be 1.6 million square kilometers in size, which is roughly 16 times bigger than previous estimates.
The report states that nearly half of the GPGP’s mass was found to be discarded plastic fishing nets, known as ghost nets, which can trap and kill marine life. Additionally, despite ghost nets making up half of the GPGP, the report estimates that micro- and less-dense plastics account for 94 percent of garbage pieces floating on the surface.
Unlike organic material that decomposes with time, plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually becoming micro-plastics, which never truly go away.
In addition to the GPGP, there are four other garbage patches found in the world’s oceans, including the Indian Ocean, the South Pacific and North and South Atlantic.
What’s Being Done?
Organizations around the globe are working to remove plastic debris from the ocean, including The Ocean Cleanup – a nonprofit organization founded in 2013 that is developing new technologies in an effort of ridding the world’s oceans of plastic.
The Ocean Cleanup [TOC] developed a passive system that moves with the ocean’s currents, like trash, to collect plastic that has entered the water.
“The system consists of a 600-meter-long floater that sits at the surface of the water and a tapered 3-meter-deep skirt attached below,” states TOC. “The floater provides buoyancy to the system and prevents plastic from flowing over it, while the skirt stops debris from escaping underneath. As the system moves through the water, the plastic continues to collect within the boundaries of the U-shaped system.”
Organizations like TOC are not the only ones working to reduce ocean plastic.
In 2018, China banned the import of foreign waste as part of an effort to reduce its pollution. This comes on the heels of a 2017 Ocean Conservancy report naming China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam as the five biggest contributors of plastics in the ocean than the rest of the world combined.
While this is the next step for China to reduce the amount of garbage it puts in the ocean, the United States and other western countries are still grappling with what to do with plastic waste, including still exporting the trash to other developing countries, such as Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.
It Begins with You.
With no viable plastic trash solution currently in place for the United States, reducing the country’s overall plastic output falls on the heads of consumers.
Making simple changes to one’s daily habits could equal pounds of fewer plastic used annually.
The Green Education Foundation has 17 tips for using less plastic, including its top three tips below.
- 1. Stop using plastic straws. Instead, opt for purchasing reusable glass or stainless-steel straws for at-home and to bring along to a restaurant. It is estimated that Americans use 500 million disposable plastic straws per day.
- 2. Use a reusable produce bag at the grocery store. “A single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade,” the Foundation states. Reusable mesh produce bags are low-cost and easily found online with retailers, such as Amazon and Wal-Mart.
- 3. Stop chewing gum. “Gum is made of a synthetic rubber, aka plastic,” the Foundation added.
Find all 17 tips on the Foundation’s Website here.
At TRAC Ecological, we not only make biodegradable, marine-safe cleaning products, but we also believe in doing our part to reduce our plastic waste. We encourage boaters to reduce and reuse plastics wherever possible and to always recycle.
For more information about TRAC Ecological and our product line of marine-safe cleaners, visit our website trac-online.com and follow us on Facebook.