The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

9 Apr 2014

garbage floating in the oceanThe Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of ocean where large amounts of marine debris have accumulated. It is located in the North Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and California, in a high-pressure region caused by an ocean gyre.

The gyre is a circular ocean current that draws in debris, which eventually becomes trapped in the gyre’s centre. Here, the debris accumulates as the gyre’s motion prevents it from escaping and much of the litter is not biodegradable.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not a huge visible mass of garbage floating in the ocean. In reality, it is made up of tiny pieces of plastic that have been broken down over extended periods of time.

These tiny pieces of plastic are known as ‘mircoplastics’ and make up the majority of the garbage patch. In a single square kilometre of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, scientists have collected up to 750 000 pieces of plastic!

Marine debris is very harmful to wildlife. Turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and other marine life become strangled by plastic rings. Birds also mistake small plastics for food and this plastic can accumulate in the bird’s stomach, eventually leading to its death.

Due to the location of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, far from any country’s coastline, no one is taking responsibility for cleaning it up. It is an ongoing issue that will hopefully be resolved to prevent any further harm to the marine ecosystems that surround it.

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