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What’s in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
Banner image showing garbage in sea with the article title 'What's in the Pacific Garbage Patch' and the writer's name 'Jason Baldwin'.

What’s in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

“STOP Plastic Pollution Quick. Don’t Make the Ocean Sick.” ~ Hitesh M.

Sadly, 13 million metric tons of plastic are thrown into our oceans every year. It starts with people tossing small plastics into the waterways. This litter eventually reaches the shorelines and is carried out into the ocean by currents and waves. 

Where is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? 

As plastic waste floats on the sea, it leads to, and accumulates within, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a massive collection of marine debris in the Pacific ocean. There are actually two "garbage patches" in the North Pacific Ocean: a western garbage patch, located southeast of Japan, and the eastern garbage patch, located between San Francisco and Hawaii. 

Great Pacific Garbage Patch diagram
 Image from Project OceanUs

How is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch Formed? 

There are five gyres in the oceanone in the Indian Ocean, two in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific, that create vortex-like accumulations of waste. A gyre is a system of circulating ocean currents, caused by the Coriolis Effect.

Image showing the current systems of the ocean.

Currents and waves move plastic debris towards these systems, where they're gradually swept up into the centre of each gyre. Over time, these create pockets of waste in certain parts of the ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a product of the North Pacific Gyre. 

How Big is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Unbelievably, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is 1.6 million square kilometres in size, which means it's three times the size of France. Yes, that’s really how big the Great Pacific garbage patch is! 

 Photo from Parsons

What Materials Are in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Imagine a landfill site but in the sea. Unfortunately, all kinds of plastic debris, including microplastics, can be found in the ocean. There are plastic bags, shoes, caps and bottles, most of which do not biodegrade.

What Are the Impacts on Wildlife?

Plastic pollution has a direct and deadly impact on all wildlife and ecosystems, both on and off the land. Animals, birds and fish mistake pieces of plastic for food, which often leads to starvation, and many get easily tangled in our plastic waste. In fact, plastic waste kills up to 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year, and the sad fact is that that number is expected to rise every single year. So, what can we do to stop this devastation? 

Take Action Today

It's pretty simple: we need to all come together and start living a more sustainable lifestyle. We also need to get rid of the throw-away mentality so many of us seem to have. Relying on recycling and waste management systems to deal with your plastic waste is simply not enough. We must vote with our dollars and only buy products that are as close to zero-waste as possible. And, where you have no option to buy sustainable products, make sure to dispose of your waste responsibly.

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