Sometimes, people are lazy and don’t want to get up and find a trash can. They think that if they throw their cigarette out the car window, spit their gum on the sidewalk, let a few napkins get carried away by the wind, or toss an empty plastic bottle in the gutter, nothing will happen. After all, how can this one piece of trash cause any harm to our environment? Well, all this trash has to build up someplace or another and in 1997 Charles Moore discovered where most of it has accumulated – in the middle of our ocean. It’s a garbage patch so big that the state of Texas can fit into it twice. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
There are five major garbage patches in the world. The Pacific garbage patch, which is the largest of the five, is located 1, 000 miles northeast of Hawaii. In some places, the patch can reach depths of up to 90 feet.
This patch consists of about 3.5 million tons of trash such as light bulbs, Styrofoam cups, plastic bags, bottle caps, Popsicle sticks, bottle, cans, fishing gear, nets, buoys, and even toothbrushes. Plastic makes up over 80% of the garbage floating around in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch because even though plastic can break down, it can never decompose and biodegrade fully. Therefore, it builds up very quickly, especially considering the fact that people all over the world use plastic in everyday non-usable items, such as water bottles. That means every plastic ounce that humans have made is still on this planet today, whether the pieces are microscopic or not. There are about 46, 000 particles of plastic per every square kilometer in the ocean.
Fun Fact: New York Mayor Bloomberg is doing his part in reducing the amount of plastic New York is producing by ordering jugs of water instead of plastic water bottles for major events and parties such as his 2011 State of the City Address. Bloomberg is also a strong supporter in using re-usable bags to put groceries in.
Did you know that 10% of the plastic we make gets emptied into our oceans? When plastic finally breaks down, it causes trillions of plastic particles to float around in the ocean. This causes pollution in the oceans and has harmful effects on the sea life.
When fish eat plankton, they are ingesting the very small plastic particles floating around in the water. While conducting biopsies on the plankton and fish, scientists have also found that they have tiny particles of plastic in their tissue. These particles begin to accumulate in the sea life, which causes them to have a high level of toxic chemicals in their bodies and tissues. Then, when other fish eat the fish with the toxins inside their bodies, they absorb the plastic particles into their bodies, too. Plastic acts as poison, and millions of sea life have died already. The plastic works its way through the food chain, and without even knowing it, we humans might be absorbing the plastic particles from the fish we eat, too. The PCBs in the plastic in the fish cause people to get sick. This is why we have to protect our oceans, because the effects are huge and critical; our health is on the line!