Trash Islands Around the World
Written by: Aiyanna Halwick on December 13, 2020
Photo Source: The Ocean Cleanup
How Does it begin?
We see it all the time; the crushed stray cup on the sidewalk, the napkin blowing through the wind, the crumpled mask in the parking lot. Sometimes they get picked up and disposed of properly or they might spend their lives disenagrading in the spot where they landed. More often than not, all of those stray pieces of trash end up in our waterways, washed there by the rain. Other trash ends up directly in the water from the shores of the beach or the streams, rivers, and lakes in the woods. All of that floating trash has to end somewhere. This is how it begins.
How Does it Happen?
The ocean, like the atmosphere, has currents that flow in patterns.These currents along with gravitational pull, location of the earth's land masses, and whirlpools allow trash from all over the world to collect in concentrated areas. According to Iberdrola, one of the world's largest sustainable energy producers, the five biggest plastic islands in the world coincide with the main ocean vortices: the two in the Pacific, the two in the Atlantic, and the one in the Indian Ocean.
The largest patch is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located in the North Pacific ocean. It is made up of Western Garbage Patch, located near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California. Currently, it is roughly the size of Iran. While many of us think of these islands to be composed of large plastics like water bottles, they are actually most made of microplastics coming from fishing nets, plastic bottles or caps and plastic bags. Much of the ocean floor below these islands are also covered in trash that has sunken to the bottom. According to National Geographic, 80 percent of plastic in the ocean is estimated to come from land-based sources, with the remaining 20 percent coming from boats and other marine sources.
What Can We Do?
We have to clean up the ocean, but that all starts on land. We as consumers need to be more committed to living life sustainably. Dispose of trash properly, but start by making less trash in the first place. Choose items without plastic when possible. Learn to reuse, properly recycle, and upcycle when possible. Buy less and shop more knowledgeably by learning about the companies you’re buying from. Support companies like the Ocean Cleanup who are helping to clean up the ocean in various ways. When you see trash, carefully pick it up and dispose of it properly. Educate those around you to do better.