What’s the size of Texas, made of plastic, and floating in the Pacific Ocean?

If you guessed the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” you’re right.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is also known as the largest landfill in the world, and unfortunately it is not found in a thoroughly planned, designed and controlled waste management facility — it’s found in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The name itself is quite deceiving and conjures up images of a large, solid, island-like mound of garbage sitting in the ocean or something similar to the infamous garbage barges of New York City.  This is not the case.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is in fact more of a trash soup, found floating in both the Eastern and Western Pacific Oceans and is connected by a thin 6,000 mile long current known as the sub-tropical convergence zone.

Trash vortex convergence zonesThe Eastern Garbage Patch floats between Hawaii and California, and the Western Garbage Patch floats between Japan to the west side of Hawaii.  The garbage is drawn in here and trapped within the circular motion of the North Pacific Gyre — the rotating ocean currents.

The Garbage Patch is comprised of floating debris and trash, mainly bits of plastic that are often mistaken for food by fish and birds alike.  It is estimated that the plastic outweighs the plankton (micro-organisms AKA fish food) by a ratio of 6:1!

The main issue with plastic is that it never, ever biodegrades — once a piece of plastic is manufactured it stays that way forever!!

Ocean trash is a problem for all of the marine wildlife, and ultimately becomes a concern for humans as well.  It is heart-wrenching to think of all the dolphins and sea turtles being trapped and entangled in the discarded nets, the birds choking on plastic, and of all that garbage floating onto those beautiful beaches!

Drifting "Ghost Net" of plastic, rope and various aquatic animals

Drifting "Ghost Net" of plastic, rope and various aquatic animals

And what about the fish? Toxins in fish “bio-accumulate,” which mean the small fish eat the plastic, the bigger fish eat the small fish and so on, until humans eat the biggest fish and all the while the level of toxicity from plastic debris is increasing as it moves up the food chain.  All of that trash and garbage is just floating around out there, threatening the entire food chain of our delicate, well-balanced marine ecosystem.

Did I mention the Garbage Patch is estimated to be twice the size of Texas?  Though there is much debate over the actual size, because 70% of it falls to the ocean floor, and much of it is suspended beneath the surface.  As I mentioned, it is not a clearly visible isle of waste.

Because it is virtually impossible to go out there and just “clean it all up,” it all comes down to managing waste properly on land, to prevent it from arriving there in the first place — did you know that 80% of this ocean trash originates from land?

To do that, make the 3R’s part of your everyday living, find alternatives to plastic, and use reusable items when it’s an option.  Make conscientious, environmentally responsible decisions when making purchases, and consider your options when throwing all that “stuff” out.

There is a lot of information out there on the Great Pacific Garbage patch, various discussions and arguments for or against it.  Whether you believe it’s exaggerated or not, does it really matter?  The fact is garbage is destroying our oceans, along with everything that lives in them. You see it when you go for sunset walks along the beach searching for seashells, finding everything else instead.

Beach Plastic Art - Fish Handle - made of disposable razor blades

Art made of disposable plastics found on a beach

If you’d like to learn more about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, check out blogger Karim, who has many informative videos about this issue.

What are you going to do to help reduce your contribution to the largest landfill in the world?

About Andrea Graham

I currently work in the Waste Management Services division for Halton Region as the Administration Technician. This involves data management and analysis, and financial administration of the waste collection and processing contracts. I am determined to travel the world, and you may see me scooting around town on my Vespa.
This entry was posted in Garbage, Green Living, Recycle, Reduce, Reuse and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to What’s the size of Texas, made of plastic, and floating in the Pacific Ocean?

  1. Emmett Latus says:

    Incredible points. Great arguments. Keep up the great effort.

  2. Clive says:

    Interesting, but scary. Thanks for the insight.
    It really was a pleasure meeting you the other day Andrea.
    Drop me a line if you fancy meeting up for a tea to discuss more the merits of recycling and world travel 😉

  3. Pingback: Travelogue – Up Close and Personal with Beach Plastic Litter | HaltonRecycles

  4. ^ws says:

    Here is a great infographic related to the patch contents… https://fbcdn-sphotos-e-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/304335_291983880906699_421673285_n.jpg
    (please copy and paste if the link does not work directly)

  5. akarimomar says:

    Dear Andrea Graham,
    Thanks for linking to my blog.

  6. Pingback: Litter in the Arctic? Say it ain’t so… | HaltonRecycles

  7. Pingback: Floating cities and the waste they create | HaltonRecycles

  8. Pingback: Can we ban plastic? | HaltonRecycles

  9. Pingback: Top 10 blogs about recycling and waste | HaltonRecycles

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