Island of Garbage in Our Ocean
The rise in population has increased the amount of garbage that we generate. Sadly, inefficient waste management and the indifference of humanity created these toxic islands.
Where are they located?
There are several garbage islands in the ocean and the most "popular" of them is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The size cannot be pinned down since it’s constantly growing.
The island is made up of pelagic plastic, debris and chemical sludge which got trapped in the North Pacific Gyre. (1) It’s a collection of waste coming from the surrounding countries, which are brought to this location by the currents.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is composed of 2 landfill masses – the Eastern and Western Garbage Patch.
The Eastern Garbage patch can be found between Hawaii and California and scientists have estimated its size to be twice that of Texas!
The Western Garbage Patch can be found east of Japan and west of Hawaii. These 2 patches are connected by the Subtropical Convergence Zone and they are the biggest plastic landfills in the ocean today. (2)
The Atlantic Ocean also has a garbage patch in the Sargasso Sea. Aside from the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, plastic landfills are also turning up in other major tropical oceanic gyres in the world. (3)
How did it happen?
There are places in the ocean where currents meet. In this location, anything that gets caught in the gyre will not be able to get out. The garbage that we innocently throw into the ocean, fishermen paraphernalia, the sludge disposed of by factories and debris from Tsunamis – they get trapped in the gyres, in a sort of whirlpool.
Here are the facts:
These “plastic soups” are growing at a rate of 10x every decade since the 1950s. It is expected to continue growing as our population increases.
This year alone, 2 million tons of plastic were thrown in the ocean.
The garbage islands are made up of tiny bits of plastic, light bulbs, toothbrushes, bottle caps, plastic bags and discarded fish nets – to name a few. The plastic in these islands are not only composed of the plastic items, but also the byproducts of plastic manufacturing.
PET plastic takes 700 years before it starts decomposing.
Toxic chemicals such as PCBs and DDTs do not dissolve in water, but are absorbed by the plastics. The fish feeding on plankton ingest these toxic plastics and bigger predators eat these fish. The chemicals are absorbed into their tissues, the fishermen catch them – and we eat them, complete with toxins. (4)
What are we doing about it?
Since these islands are in the middle of the ocean and far away from any coastline, no country is taking responsibility for the cleanup.
Fortunately, many environmental organizations are raising awareness so the patch will stop growing. At this point, even if we had gigantic nets that can be used to catch the debris, the size of the ocean, the location and the circumstances make it difficult.
In the meantime, while the technology to clean up our mess is not yet available, you can do your share!
Recycle and Reuse. Don’t just throw away what you don’t need. Recycling is popular and a lot of people know about it, but very few practice it.
Stop using plastics. It’s just not a good and viable material for the planet and for the species. Make use of materials that can be reused and are biodegradable.
Raise awareness. Let people know about the negative effect of using plastics and throwing garbage in the ocean. You may be just a small voice, but if every voice lets itself be heard, we can surely make a difference! We can stop our water planet from turning into a plastic planet, one effort, one voice at a time.
Nara Loca Abadi is a recycled plastic specialist that concerned about the earth and environment by promoting the use of recycled PET flakes, recycled PET, recycled PP & HDPE granules to various plastic and polyester manufacturers.