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The Pacific Garbage Patch Will Live On

June 12, 2013

Over time I have seen a lot of information about the North Pacific Gyre, a large intersection of ocean currents that has an accumulating effect in the open water. Before man made garbage found its way here nature had a use for this incredible feature of our globe. Organic materials that had a nutrient value would come here to float, and be further broken down into the food chain by a variety of creatures ranging in size from very large to microscopic. Over time this came to support an enormous amount of life and biodiversity and to this day attracts ocean dwellers like a magnet. In essence this convergence of ocean rivers served as an open water estuary allowing many a creatures a place to begin life.

Now when these same animals follow their instincts they’re led to place with almost no nutrition. Instead, the bounty that was once present has been replaced with tiny pieces of plastic that contain a variety of harmful compounds. These small morsels look exactly like a great deal of the food that used to be here, so they are ingested by everything from sea turtles to open water birds. Bisphenol-A, an endocrine disruptor, is used in the manufacturing of hard plastics like shampoo bottles and toothbrushes. The presence of this chemical has been detected in all levels of the food chain and we are just now hitting the ocean’s tipping point with this compound and seeing the real effects that it is going to continue to have. According to captain Charles Moore, a renowned researcher who first documented the Pacific garbage patch, one in four male swordfish caught in The Mediterranean Ocean are now producing female yolk hormones. This is a direct result of the bisphenol-A and mankind’s irresponsibility.

Charles Moore estimates that their is at least one hundred million tons of plastic garbage floating in the open water. With the development of other countries over the past fifty years has come increased plastic use in manufacturing. Asia’s waste products are just now working their way into the patch and there will certainly be a lot more behind them. Ranging anywhere in size from Texas, to twice the size of Texas this open water dump is actually very illusory. Watching the VICE documentary of a three week journey through the patch with Capt. Charles Moore one sees the true dilemma. On the surface the ocean appears to be a pristine expanse of untouched water. Here and there a large piece of trash floats by and if that’s all that was there we would be in good shape. The problem is that the ultra violet light has broken the plastics down so much that they are literally suspended in a chemical soup. Ratios of plastic to marine life have been found as high as 60:1 in some samples! That means that for every sixty pieces of micro plastic there is only one planktonic organism.

This one is a hard one to fix, and it doesn’t really look like we’re trying. Over eons the ocean will “spit this stuff out” on islands etc., but how will it ever be able to keep up when we just keep adding more? Stopping the introduction of new materials is the obvious first step. We are going to have a massive ecosystem crash take place here sooner or later, the only organisms that will likely be able to coexist with our trash will be the jelly fish and there has already been unusually high densities of them reported across the globe. In summary, I’d like to steal a quote from one of the greatest minds in history that was used in the VICE documentary which I don’t recommend watching unless you’d like to see hipsters whine on a boat for three weeks.

“Today’s problems cannot be solved if we still think the way we thought when we created them.”

English: Albert Einstein Français : Portrait d...

Albert Einstein

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