Today I want to introduce you all to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
If you haven’t already heard of it, you might want to take a seat because shit’s about to get real. The most prevalent trash concern lies in the North Pacific Ocean and is essentially an immense mass of garbage. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris such as litter and trash, but mainly plastic. A swirling vortex of current called the North Pacific Gyre creates a collecting point for this waste. It is estimated that the garbage patch consists of trash that is about 7 million tons of weight, twice the size of Texas, and up to 9 feet deep in certain areas.
Captain Charles Moore first discovered the Pacific Gyre’s pollution collection in 1997 while sailing on board his catamaran, Algalita. Since then, he has devoted his research to the issue of pollution and litter but more importantly how to prevent and reduce the problem. These plastics are neither recyclable nor biodegradable. Weather has assisted in breaking down the plastic to small pieces of debris that are then consumed by fish and seabirds. By collecting samples from the mass of trash, researchers have discovered its origins include much of North America as well as parts of Asia and Japan.
Researchers have suggested that the garbage patch is more of a “swirling plastic soup than an island.” Captain Moore agrees and admits that a clean up action is impractical because the problem is so big. At this point, it would be like bailing water from a boat with a giant hole. We HAVE to plug the hole, guys!
Not only does the evidence of this garbage island emphasize the global problem of pollution, but it expresses the extreme disaster that lies ahead for the entire ecosystem. If no actions are taken, the garbage patch is predicted to grow, significantly altering the development of marine life and thus continuing to harm the progression of our ecosystem.
One of the first steps to proposing a solution to this environmental catastrophe is to admit there is a problem. The biggest threat is ignorance. Many people have refused to acknowledge the garbage patch as a man made disaster and ultimately chalk it up to a myth as some do with global warming. It is usual that every reporter changes their story: embellishing it to something worth sale. We need to be honest with ourselves; stop pointing fingers and accept the fact that we, as humans, made this mess and now we have to clean it up.
Here are some easy ways to refuse, reduce, and reuse plastic in your everyday life:
- Refuse the straw: Straws are one of the worst, single-use plastics. They are entirely detrimental to our environment and marine life. Train yourself to enjoy your beverage without a straw or opt for reusable stainless steel ones. Amazon has a great selection but my favorite is EcoJarz! (Remember to ask for your items to be shipped without plastic!)
- Go for paper: About $1 out of every $10 spent on food is dedicated to plastic packaging. Buy in bulk and learn to cook! It will help you become a healthy eater as well. When it comes to the grocery store check out, bring your own reusable bags to put groceries in. It is estimated that less than 1% of plastic bags are recycled. (Anderson, 2015). There is absolutely no reason to have 3 apples in one plastic bag, 4 tomatoes in another, and so on… Throw them all in the cart and then into a canvas bag or even a backpack. If you forget your bags ask for paper or nothing at all. Make as many trips to the car/home as you need and call it your workout for the day!
- Take out the right way: When calling in take out orders, ask for your food to be prepared for here or dine in and inform them you’ll be bringing your own containers. Because of health codes, many restaurants will not be able to take your containers directly to the kitchen to serve the food but you can transfer your order from plate to glass containers when you arrive. I have worked in a restaurant many years and this has never been an issue. Styrofoam is still used in restaurants and takes up to a thousand years to decompose. If you dine in, bring your containers for leftovers – even on the first date because being green is sexy, duh.
Works Cited/Resources/More Information:
Algalita Marine Research Foundation www.algalita.org
National Geographic Pacific Trash Vortex
Advocate like a boss! Join Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen of 5 Gyres www.5gyres.org