The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Picture accredited to Wikimedia Commons.

Where is the largest landfill in the world?  It’s in the northern Pacific Ocean, amidst the largest expanse of ocean on the planet.  There are 5 gyres in the world: north and south Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and the Indian ocean.  The Great Garbage Patch is found in the northern Pacific gyre.  It is thought to be 1 million square miles, with the quantity of trash within this space weighing over 3.5 million tons!  It is massive, and filled mostly with plastics.

At its deepest point, the garbage patch is 30 meters deep.  It is estimated that 80% of the trash is from land while 20% is from sea.  Cruise ships are playing a major role in dumping trash at sea.  The trouble with plastics is that they break down into smaller bits, but never fully disintegrate, like styrofoam.  They are ingested by marine life, sea birds, and humans and can cause disruptions to the endocrine system (hormones), cause cancer, and infertility.  Bisphenol A (BPA) is the dangerous ingredient in plastic causing most of these health problems.  What is even worse is that the plastic bits act as sponges for toxic chemicals and increase the potency of these chemicals which are then leeched into the animals that eat the plastics.

This albatross is an example of a sea bird that ingests trash, mistaking it for food. Researchers are finding this to be very common among sea birds that inhabit an area far from human civilizations.  In most spots of the patch, the amount of plastic is 6 times greater than the concentration of plankton, so fish end up eating more plastic than food.

The point is: plastic is hazardous for human and animal health, and we ought to cut down on the amount we use.  We can’t continue producing waste at such a high volume because it’s making us sick.  Let’s reduce the amount of plastics we use, for the health of it.

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