Oceans are mysterious; they’re filled with interesting animals and beautiful marine landscapes. Sadly, they’re now also home to large masses of floating plastic debris, whom have been swept up from land. The ocean is a victim to our exaggerated love for a cheap and durable product, plastic. But how does all this plastic end grouping up? Why doesn’t it just float around aimlessly, instead of collecting into a mass? ‘
Our oceans are not flat, although when you look into the distance the ocean may seem peaceful, waves and currents are always busily moving around, and these currents aren’t random, they swirl in patterns that work as guides to lost debris, eventually churning it together with other stray pieces of plastic. If only there wasn’t so much of it, then they’d be a much smaller family.
A very large plastic patch, also known as the Pacific Trash vortex, spans from the west coast of North America to Japan. This “large patch” is actually made up of two separate patches, one, which is located near Japan (western garbage Patch), and another (eastern Garbage Patch), which is between Hawaii and California. The two patches are connected by a North Pacific Subtropical Convergence zone, which is close to north of Hawaii. The zone is where warm water from the south meets colder water from the north (artic). This zone is conveniently placed, and acts as a sort of highway for floating marine debris. Marine debris is litter that ends up in oceans, seas, and other large bodies of water.
In the Pacific Ocean, four currents also come together to churn and create the North Pacific gyre, also known as the North Pacific Subtropical High. An ocean gyre is a system of circular ocean currents formed by earth’s wind patterns and the forces created by the rotation of the planet. These currents swirl in a clockwise rotation around an area of 20 million square kilometers (7.7 million miles). The North Pacific gyre covers ocean from the western US to japan, and Hawaii to California, guiding plastic debris into a rotating swirl, pushing it together, this pack of plastic is known as the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch. However, although tons of plastic gather there, it cannot be seen from satellite or aerial photographs, the floating pieces of plastic are very small and sometimes not visible to the human eye. Although don’t be mislead, there is a lot of plastic gathering, a 2014 study estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic trash enter the sea from land every year. Insane, right?
If only the plastics could magically disappear after churning for sometime. Unfortunately, plastic does not biodegrade, although plastic can be broken down into very tiny pieces, they will never actually dissolve. So the patches are a quickly growing mass of plastic, and that’s not even entirely true, because around 70% (scientists predict) of marine debris sinks to the bottom of the sea, covering plants in a layer of destructive micro plastics (plastic that has been broken down into micro size).
It’s important that we put in effort to prevent these masses from growing, learn how you can help by reading my blog posts under the top “What We Can Do to Help”.
Thank you to these helpful sites who have shared helpful information
Ocean Portal (ocean.si.edu)
National Geographic (nationalgeographic.org)