Plastic Islands: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch and what we can do about it
Written by: Austin Layton on November 8, 2020
What happens to all of our trash?
All of the trash ends up somewhere
In the Pacific Ocean spanning from the United States to Asia, marine debris has collected in a massive way. In what is known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, plastic waste among other things is trapped in a spinning ocean current vortex. There are two main clusters that have been tracked, the Western Garbage Patch near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch near Hawaii. These are linked by a convergence zone of warm and cool water meeting where plastic is moved from patch to patch. While some is easily visible floating on the ocean surface, a vast majority of the debris is broken down plastic called microplastics that are so small it can be eaten by marine life. Scientists also estimate about 70 percent of this marine debris ends up on the ocean floor too.
Where does it come from?
Being in the Pacific Ocean, a lot of this plastic comes from the US, Japan and Canada. Land based sources are estimated to contribute about 80% of the waste, with the other 20% coming from ships at sea. This makes it not only important to be mindful of how much waste you contribute from your day to day life, but also how you dispose of the waste that you have. Littering and dumping waste can have your plastics end up in waterways. But even plastic that you throw away in the garbage can end up being dumped on purpose or accidentally into nature.
What can we do about it?
Recycling plastic becomes very important when trying to at least get some form of second use from plastic if we have to use it in our lives. Be sure to confirm with your municipality on what they will accept too, because not everything will be recycled, even if it seems like it should be.
But if you really want to go the extra mile, look at your day to day life and figure out what plastic can be replaced by something else and build sustainable habits. Reducing your single use plastic consumption is something we can all work towards to eliminate unnecessary waste. If you need a few places to start, check out the Wiser Water marketplace. We have products ranging from reusable coffee mugs to biodegradable dog waste bags.
Sources: “What is the Plastic Island in the Pacific Ocean?” By Maryruth Belsey Priebe
at EcoLife http://www.ecolife.com/recycling/plastic/pacific-plastic-island-garbage-patch.html
Great Pacific Garbage Patch National Geographic Society https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch