The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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It is no secret that humans have a large issue when it comes to plastic waste, as we produce over 300 million tons of plastic each year, with 50% used once and thrown away. But where does all of our plastic debris go once we discard of them in the trash? The answer, oftentimes, is the ocean. According to a UC Santa Barbara study, over 8 million tons of plastic is thrown into the ocean each year, and since 10% of our trash ends up in the ocean, 90% of which being plastic waste, it is estimated that 5 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing 250,000 tons, are floating in our oceans right now. However, when you visit your local beach, it is unlikely that you see mounds of trash washing ashore. So where is all this waste? The trash we dispose of in…show more content…
However, its size can be estimated to be between 270,000 square miles to over 5,800,000 square miles, meaning it is somewhere between the size of Texas to 8% of the Pacific Ocean. However, it is not very dense with 4 debris particles per cubic meter, which allows for satellite images or researchers on boats to aid our understanding of the Patch. As the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is so large, it naturally affects many living things: for example, the plastic waste we discard annually that ends up in the Patch can kill over 1,00,000 sea creatures according to a 2015 UC Santa Barbara study. Since the Patch is at the center of the North Pacific Gyre, it affects a plethora of different marine animals, ending up in their stomachs and poisoning their children as the plastics are long-lasting and can absorb toxic pollutants such as DDT, PAHs and PCBs. The consumption of these plastics can affect the entire food chain, poisoning the jellyfish who eat them, the fish who prey upon them, their prey, and so on. For example, the Midway Atoll, an atoll in the North Pacific Ocean, receives 20 tons of the Patch’s trash annually, and because of this the majority of the Albatross sea birds that inhabit the atoll have plastic in their digestive system, which causes around ⅓ of their chicks to die,…show more content…
However, humans are not very quick to accept said responsibility, due to the location of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Since it is not particularly close to any one country’s coastline and is situated near the center of the ocean, no one country is standing up to fund clean-up efforts. Because of this, the burden is falling on individual and international organizations who are dedicated to clean up the Patch and prevent further growth, such as The Ocean Cleanup and the Algalita Marine Research and Education Foundation, among countless others. Despite said dedication, the issue is very daunting, as small marine animals can camouflage with microplastics and be scooped up with the trash, as creating a trash net that deciphers the difference between the two and is large enough for the job is very difficult and time consuming. According to the Marine Debris Program of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, over the course of one year 67 ships would only be able to clean up less than 1% of the affected North Pacific Ocean. Since cleaning up the existing Patch is extremely difficult, we as individuals can take it upon ourselves to further prevent its growth by limiting our waste, particularly our plastic waste, and engaging in a waste-free lifestyle by

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