The Pacific Trash Vortex is here to stay. Poor global awareness and understanding of this problem is a growing concern. Most people don't know what it is, where it is or the impact it's having on the world. If people do not know the gravity of the problem, how can they fix it? Here is a list of the things you need to know about the Pacific Trash Vortex.
1. Trash Vortex Explained
It's a section of the Pacific Ocean consisting of microscopic pieces of plastic. Think of it as "plastic soup," and the key ingredients are salt water, marine life and plastic. The Pacific Trash Vortex or "garbage patch" has been gradually formed by oceanic currents. It's often perceived as a huge trash island floating in the middle of the ocean. This inaccurate description of the Trash Vortex stems from being unable to visually see the problem.
2. Size and Location
To the naked eye, the Vortex just looks like a body of ocean. This is because trash vortexes are not photogenic and cannot even be seen on satellite photography. The Pacific Trash Vortex is roughly double the size of Texas and is still growing. It's important to remember these plastic particles do not just skim the surface. In some parts of the vortex, plastic has been found at 30-meter depths.
Captain James Moore discovered the Eastern Vortex in 1997. There are two vortexes in the Pacific Ocean. The Western one, located in between Japan and Hawaii; and the Eastern one, found in between Hawaii and California. There are similar vortexes in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. It's difficult to know when they formed because plastic has been around for over one hundred years. However, scientist studies have estimated vortexes are approximately forty years old.
4. The Main Offenders
The four biggest offenders contributing to the vortex are plastic bags, water bottles, bottle caps and Styrofoam cups. Can you believe small items we consume every day can have such a detrimental impact? Considering 80% of waste originates from land, this makes sense. Remember to always take collect your rubbish when leaving the beach.
5. Who’s Responsible?
We all consume and dispose of plastic, therefore, fixing the problem is a global responsibility. Governments disassociate themselves from the problem due to the expense and complexity of the clean up. Perhaps the problem is the vortex is invisible. If it were a visible garbage tip the size of Texas floating in the middle of the ocean, maybe it would spark a global outcry.
6. The Impact
Warm water temperature and UV rays allow plastics to degrade. These form microscopic pieces of plastic and are proof the problem will never completely disappear. As the plastic degrades in the ocean, it releases toxins into the water. Our bird and marine life consume both the plastic and the toxins in the water. Recently a whale washed up on the California coast and had over 400 pounds of plastic in its stomach, the equivalent of an adult lion.
7. How to Help
We cannot all set sail on a ship to clean up the trash vortex. Instead, we can start being proactive and doing small things every day. It's time to stop littering and start disposing of items properly. Also, try to reduce the amount of waste you personally produce. Finally, reuse as many items as possible and recycle as much as you can, too.
I hope this article has helped you become aware of the impact human consumption is having on the ocean. For a sustainable future, we must protect our natural assets. Do you have any tips or advice on how we can help minimize the growth of the Pacific Trash Vortex?