Did you know that there is an enormous soup of plastic litter that floats somewhere between California and Hawaii?
You are at the beach and decide to roll up a message, put it in a bottle, and throw it out to sea hoping it will reach land.
Please don’t follow through with that thought. The bottle will most definitely make its way to the middle of the Pacific Ocean and possibly become lunch for marine life.
In the ocean, the plastic waste which has so carelessly been discarded by humans accumulates in a “massive, slow rotating whirlpool”, also known as a “gyre”.
There are 5 gyres: North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic and Indian Ocean Gyre. The most famous and researched gyre, is the North Pacific Gyre or The Great Garbage Patch.
So just how big is this “soup of plastic” in the North Pacific you might ask? Some experts state it is twice the size of Texas. While others argue it is approximately the size of the U.S – 3.8 million square miles. Some even insist it could be twice that size. No matter, it is still a gathering point of a vast amount of ocean trash. And, that is only information for 1 gyre, there are 4 more.
Take a look around you – I am sure most of what you will see is plastic, made from petrochemicals such as crude oil and natural gas. Plastic has been made to last forever. However, we dispose of it almost as fast as it is produced and it does not fully decompose in the environment. Much of this plastic eventually ends up in the ocean, if it has not been recovered for recycling.
Toys, plastic bags, plastic bottles, pacifiers, and toothbrushes, all trash that we have created on land runs into our oceans by means of storm drains and watersheds. The trash can fall off of garbage trucks, over-flows from trash cans or may be it was thoughtlessly tossed away.
Once the plastic debris and trash make its way to the ocean, the sunlight and waves eventually break up the trash into smaller and smaller pieces, but it never completely dissolves.
Now, where the problem truly lies is that marine life mistakes all these little pieces of plastic for food. Birds, mammals, sea life are dying of starvation and dehydration with their stomachs full of plastics which came from plastic bags, plastic bottles etc; the fish are absorbing the toxins at such an alarming rate that soon they will no longer be safe for human consumption.
A teenage sea turtle was recently found dead with 317 pieces of plastic inside its stomach. It is believed the ingested plastic is what lead to the sea turtles death. Disgusting! This is just one example of the millions of sea creatures that are affected by the sea of plastic.
“The pesticides that you spray on your dandelions run off into the oceans and end up in the food chain, which ends up back in our plates. It’s a closed system. Everything’s connected. We’re all connected with the planet in very fundamental ways.”~Fabien Cousteau, you know Jaques Cousteau’s grandson
So there you have it. Everything we are doing or not doing is impacting the world we live in. The ocean is a beautiful thing and if we are not careful it will become an even bigger trash can. Imagine a world without marine life- no fish, no sea turtles, no whales, no dolphins. I believe that if we keep trashing the planet and our oceans we will be left with nothing.
Next time you think it’s a great idea to leave your plastic bag at the beach. Please think of the helpless sea creatures that just maybe, will think it’s a nice light snack.
Sources: 5 Gyres, Great Garbage Patch and Oprah-Green Articles