Friday, 28 November 2014

Pacific Trash Vortex

It is truly a shame that I must write the following article. This article shows the massive lack of respect that humans have for Earth. It highlights their careless behavior and disregard for mother nature, and the beautiful animals we share this planet with. This post ties alongside my previous article 'Anthropogenically Influenced Extinction', which if you have not yet read, then I would fully recommend. I sincerely hope that this article will open your eyes, alter your mindset and act as a catalyst for change.   

The great Pacific garbage patch, aka the Pacific trash vortex is a towering accumulation of debris, waste and garbage that sits trapped within a gigantic gyre within the northern Pacific ocean. The patch is characterised via its abundance of waste plastic and chemical sludge, which are kept circulating in place due to the strong rotating ocean currents. It is shameful that in 1988 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted the emergence of this trash vortex, yet nothing was done to counter its creation. This is a situation that many can relate to, as it is echoed throughout climate change today.  

The Pacific trash vortex formed gradually throughout the 1980's until it was discovered by Charles J. Moore in 1999, upon returning from an open ocean sailing race. This trash vortex occupies a remote area within the northern Pacific ocean known as the 'horse latitudes'; where the waters that skim the coasts of North America and coastal Japan are pulled inwards due to the ocean currents. It is this movement of the ocean which has effectively collected the waste from the countries shores, and compiled it all in one single location. It has been estimated that 80% of all the trash contained within the vortex originated from land, whereas the other 20% has been generated via ocean going vessels. Within the patch you will find fishing nets, plastic bottles and manufacturer packaging, to name a few.  The trash that originates from North America - of which most is believed to have done so - takes roughly six-years to travel from the coastline to the vortex. This means that whatever we see today, will continue to grow, and grow, and grow until change is adopted. 

Due to the constant movement of the ocean and the relentless addition of more waste, the exact size of the trash vortex is unknown. However, the estimated size is calculated to be somewhere between 700,000 - 15,000,000 sq km (270,000 - 5,800,000 sq miles), or 0.41% - 8.1% of the entire Pacific ocean. 


Due to the effects of photodegradation, the plastics contained within the vortex are being broken down until they are small enough to be ingested by the surrounding fish. Terrifyingly, this means that plastic is slowly making its way into the food chain. Once the plastic has been ingested by the fish, these fish are then being caught by trawlers, sold, cooked, and served to you. This means that plastics and their toxicity is also making its way into your diet. As for the longer lasting plastic that is more resilient to photodegradation; this is being eaten by marine birds, mammals and other ocean dwelling animals such as sea turtles, as well as their young. This results in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of unnecessary and pre-mature deaths each year.

Some clean-up attempts are being made, but as the waste is taken out of the ocean, more is being swept up and added. It appears to be an endless cycle of adding and removing trash, waste and chemical sludge. 

The location of the Pacific trash vortex.

Debris and chemical sludge as seen from a low-flying aircraft.


- Until the next Butterfly...