The area of increased plastic particles is located within the North Pacific Gyre, one of the five major oceanic gyres in the Pacific.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, is a gyre of marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean discovered between 1985 and 1988. It is located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N and 42°N. The patch extends over an indeterminate area of widely varying range depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to define the affected area.
It is thought that, like other areas of concentrated marine debris in the world’s oceans, the Great Pacific garbage patch formed gradually as a result of ocean or marine pollution gathered by oceanic currents. According to a 2011EPA report, “The primary source of marine debris is the improper waste disposal or management of trash and manufacturing products, including plastics (e.g., littering, illegal dumping) … Debris is generated on land at marinas, ports, rivers, harbors, docks, and storm drains.
Estimates of size
The size of the patch is unknown, because large items readily visible from a boat deck are uncommon. Estimates of size range from 270,000 square miles (about the size of Texas) to more than 5,800,000 sq. mi (0.4% to 8% of the size of the Pacific Ocean), or, in some media reports, up to “twice the size of the continental United States”. Such estimates, however, are conjectural given the complexities of sampling and the need to assess findings against other areas. Further, although the size of the patch is determined by a higher-than-normal degree of concentration of plastic debris, there is no standard for determining the boundary between “normal” and “elevated” levels of pollutants to provide a firm estimate of the affected area.
In August 2009, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography/Project Kaisei SEAPLEX survey mission of the Gyre found that plastic debris was present in 100 consecutive samples taken at varying depths. The survey also confirmed that, although the debris field does contain large pieces, it is on the whole made up of smaller items that increase in concentration toward the Gyre’s center, and these ‘confetti-like’ pieces are clearly visible just beneath the surface. The Great Pacific garbage patch has one of the highest levels known of plastic particulate suspended in the upper water column. Unlike organic debris, which rapidly biodegrades, the photodegraded plastic disintegrates into ever smaller pieces while remaining a polymer. This process continues down to the molecular level. As the plastic flotsam photodegrades into smaller and smaller pieces, it concentrates in the upper water column. As it disintegrates, the plastic ultimately becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms that reside near the ocean’s surface. In this way, plastic may become concentrated in neuston, thereby entering the food chain.
Effect on wildlife and humans
Some of these long-lasting plastics end up in the stomachs of marine animals, and their young, including sea turtles and the black-footed albatross. Midway Atoll receives substantial amounts of marine debris from the patch. Of the 1.5 million Laysan albatross that inhabit Midway, it is believed nearly all are likely to have plastic in their digestive systems. Approximately one-third of their chicks die, and many of those deaths are due to being fed plastic from their parents. Approximately twenty tons of plastic debris washes up on Midway every year with five tons of that debris being fed to albatross chicks. While eating their normal sources of food, plastic ingestion can be unavoidable or the animal may mistake the plastic as a food source. Research has shown that this plastic marine debris affects at least 267 species worldwide.
The Goldstein et al. study compared changes in small plastic abundance between 1972–1987 and 1999–2010. The follow-up study compared changes in small plastic abundance between 1972–1987 and 1999–2010 by using historical samples from the Scripps Pelagic Invertebrate Collection and data from SEAPLEX, a NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer cruise in 2010, information from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation as well as various published papers. In 2016, plans were in the concept stage to create floating Oceanscrapers, made from the plastic found in the Great Pacific garbage patch. In June of that year, The Ocean Cleanup project launched a prototype boom, nicknamed Boomy McBoomface, off the coast of the Netherlands in the North Sea, with the intention that if tests with the 100 meter prototype go well plans to develop a 100 kilometer long scaled up version that would then be deployed in the Pacific would go forward.
What can we do?
While efforts to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are necessary and admirable, should we not be also focusing on preventing it from occurring in the first place? To ignore proven methods to control future plastic litter while pursuing methods of removing it once discarded across both land and sea is paramount to leaving the barn door open with a well-rehearsed plan to chase the horse once escaped. A simple truth must be addressed; despite well-meaning politicians and environmentalists, individuals are not going to properly dispose of all plastic items. Hence the need to CHANGE THE PLASTIC, NOT THE CULTURE.
It is a proven fact that the use of SMART OXO BIODEGRADABLE ADDITIVE can have a dramatic and immediate impact on the reduction of future plastic litter. It is 100% scientifically proven to cause the degradation of plastic resulting in full biodegradation to biomass, much the same as paper or a leaf…..not reduction to polymer filaments but fully biodegraded plastic. We invite you to join us in our efforts to control plastic litter. This is a problem we can solve as a society. For information please contact us at www.sptweb.com