The Pacific Garbage Patch: A Monumental Tribute to Our Love Affair with Plastics

s.hswstatic.com
s.hswstatic.com

The Pacific Garbage Patch sounds like something from a dystopian novel. It’s literally an enormous patch of garbage floating in the northern Pacific Ocean, weighing about seven million tons and occupying about twice the space of the state of Texas. But before you picture a literal island of garbage, like a garbage-based iceberg of Titanic proportions, think again: the patch isn’t all big, recognizable chunks of plastic. Much of it is composed of millions of tiny pieces of plastic, chemical sludge, or other debris – particles so tiny, in fact, that the patch is barely even visible to the naked eye. They remain trapped there due to the circular currents of the North Pacific Gyre which creates a sort of bowl effect.

Despite the patch’s enormous size, since it has a relatively low density of about 4 particles per cubic meter, even boaters can pass through portions of the patch without realizing it. So it’s not as big a deal as we originally thought, then, right? Actually, yes, and it has a lot to do with photodegradation. Organic debris, like paper, biodegrades over time, meaning it’s broken down by bacteria, fungi, or some other means. But plastics do not biodegrade; instead, they photodegrade after long-term exposure to sunlight, during which particles become ever-smaller, but still essentially retaining the chemical composition of plastics. That’s a problem, because even microscopic debris particles that have spent a significant amount of time photodegrading can interfere with wildlife when ingested. For example, albatrosses mistake small plastic pieces for food, even feeding them to their young. This blocks their digestive tracts and prevents them from absorbing nutrients from actual food, often causing death. Not only can they cause impaction, but the plastic pieces also often collect chemical pollutants from sea water, leading to various health issues when ingested by other marine animals.

Where did all these tiny plastic pieces even come from? The majority start out as everyday items like plastic water bottles, grocery bags, and plastic rings that hold together six-packs of soda. Before the photodegradation process occurs and animals can ingest the microplastics, the larger items cause their own significant problems: six-pack rings have been known to entangle and kill birds and turtles, and recently, a beached whale was found on the coast of Norway with about 30 plastic bags in its stomach, which researchers believe to have caused it to become impacted and unable to digest food. Some ideas have been put into practice to deal with the issue, including recycling the ocean’s plastic waste into new items, but we have yet to see if it will make a dent in the giant Pacific Garbage Patch.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • The Wise Seemingly Mad People Of Gotham

    Throughout history, not many people have been very fond of taxes being raised or new taxes appearing. And that is even true as far back as 1200 when the small sleepy medieval town of Gotham played an incredible rouse all to get out of paying taxes. Gotham a small town...

    Read More
  • As Flashy As A Sea Sapphire

    Growing up any kid would like to be able to control color on demand. Explode into different shades of light and cause your very own firework show. There is actually a creature that is able to flash up brightly and then completely disappear, on the fly. These ant size creatures live in subtropical or warm...

    Read More
  • Camels Disqualified From Beauty Contest Due To Botox Use

    It sounds like such a mad thing to do, to inject a camel with botox. But in the money mad world of Saudi Arabia’s Camel Festival anything is possible. Plastic surgery is now a big problem that organizers of King Adbulaziz’s Camel Festival are having to deal with. This festival...

    Read More
  • The Rapist Hunting Warrior Woman

    The Hundred Year War between France and England was the birthplace of many legends and tales of revenge. Years of turmoil and battles created the perfect outlet for warriors to become legends. Or they became the perfect place for you to seek your vengeance: to hunt your demons. That is what Marguerite de Bressieux did,...

    Read More
  • Swarm Robots Ready For Mass Production

    If you have had ever had nightmares about robots taking over the world, then maybe you should close this article right now. The Zebro swarm robot is an insect hive mind-like robot which is pretty much ready to be mass produced. Why are we potentially causing a Terminator plot like scenario? ...

    Read More
  • When Ants Go To War They Bring The Medics

    A species of aggressive Viking-like raiding ants actually save their wounded and then stitch them up. Yes, it appears they have dedicated doctor and nurse ants ready to save the wounded. And the incredible thing is researchers have determined that this strange behavior actually gives the injured ant a 90%...

    Read More
  • Secret Painting Found Behind A Picasso Masterpiece

    A new scanning technique put together by art researchers in the US continues to undercover amazing art secrets. The newest discovery has been found beneath a Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece: The Crouching Woman or “La Misereuse Accroupie” as called in French. Scanning systems for art pieces have existed for some time...

    Read More
  • The Man Who Fought WWII For 30 Years

    The mission was to stay out of sight and collect information about the Allied troop movements. The Location was the island of Lubang in the Philippines. Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda from the Japanese Imperial Army was tasked with a Rambo-like top secret mission: him and his four man team against the world. At least that is...

    Read More