Great Pacific Garbage Patch Alyssa roche & Mia Bautista

Also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex

Vocabulary
  1. Marine Debris: Garbage, refuse, or other objects that enter the coastal or ocean environment
  2. Convergence Zone: Area where prevailing winds from different areas meet and interact
  3. Arctic: Region at Earth's extreme north, encompassed by the Arctic Circle
  4. Ocean Gyre: An area of ocean that slowly rotates in an enormous circle
  5. Biodegradable: Able to decompose naturally, like cardboard and some types of plastic
  6. Longitude: the angular distance of a place east or west of the meridian at Greenwich, England, or west of the standard meridian of a celestial object, usually expressed in degrees and minutes
  7. Latitude: the angular distance of a place north or south of the earth's equator, or of a celestial object north or south of the celestial equator, usually expressed in degrees and minutes
What is it?
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean
  • The patch is comprised of the Western Garbage Patch, located near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch located between Hawaii and California
  • The area of spinning debris are linked together by the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, located a few hundred kilometers north of Hawaii
Location
  • Spans waters from the West Coast of North America to Japan
  • The entire patch is comprised of the Western Garbage Patch which is located near Japan
  • The Eastern Garbage parch is located between the U.S. States of Hawaii and California
  • The entire garbage patch is bounded by the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre

Latitude: 38 degrees 00' 0.00" N" & Longitude -145 degrees 00' 0.0" W"

Location of the Garbage Patch
How does it affect ocean life?
  • The trash that drifts off from the patch to the rest of the ocean can be harmful to all sea life
  • Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish which they then mistakenly eat
  • Many marine mammals are especially at risk from "ghost gear" with abandoned fishing gear turning oceans into death traps for sea animals
  • 70% of the trash sinks to the bottom of the ocean, it is similar to an iceberg
  • Not only do turtles confuse the trash for food, albatrosses mistake plastic for fish eggs and then feed them to their chicks which die of starvation or ruptured organs
  • At least 136,000 seals, sea lions, and large whales die every year because of the patch
Collection of the trash
  • The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is at fault for the creation of the garbage patch.
  • It is created by the interaction of the California, North Equitorial, Kuroshiro, and North Pacific currents
  • The amount of debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch accumulates because most of it is not biodegradable
  • Most plastics do not wear down, they simply break into tinier and tinier pieces
  • 80% of the debris in the patch comes from land-based activities in North America and Asia
  • The other 20% is fishing nets collected from ships crossing the Pacific Ocean
Size, weight, comparisons
  • Consists of 7 million tons of trash, which is made up of over 250 billion pieces of trash
  • 9 feet deep
  • Two times the size of Texas
  • According to Charles Moore, the "island" will likely double in size over the course of the next decade
What can we do to stop it?
  • Biodegradable plastic; it is completely decomposed in organic materials once it reaches a gyre
  • Solutions that remove plastic (trash collecting, beach cleanup, etc)
  • Spreading awareness of negative impacts of plastic
  • Check out the Sea Change campaign from World Animal Protection and do everything you can to spread the word
Will the island ever go away?

There are several reasons as to why the patch will most likely never disappear. One of the most impactful is the fact that plastic is the majority of what makes up the patch and plastic is not biodegradable. Also, trash is accumulating in the island faster than it is degrading. For these reasons, oceanographers believe that the patch will not only never go away, but it will double in size.

Impact on the future of the ocean

It is killing off valuable parts of the ocean's ecosystem. Even the smallest creatures in the sea are affected. Microplastics and other trash block sunlight from reaching plankton and algae below the surface. plankton is an important source of food for other sea creatures but also as ecological sponges for carbon. So it goes without saying that the impacts of the plastic soup can have enormous unseen impacts to the planet.

Interview

We interviewed sea world employee, Nicole Barno, on her thoughts on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Q: How do you think humans have affected the ocean by accidentally creating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

A: Humans create so much waste that now, we don't know what to do with it anymore. So we think, why not dump it into the ocean? We don't think about how it can harm so many animals like seals, birds, and whales. There are so many communities of animals dying because we are so irresponsible and don't realize the consequence of our actions

Q: What do you think would be the best thing to do to prevent the growth of the patch?

A: I think that now that California requires people to pay for plastic bags when shopping it will make a huge positive impact. The easiest thing that we can all do is recycle on a daily basis. Instead of throwing some plastics, cardboard, and cans in the trash, recycle them. Another thing we could do that requires the smallest amount of work is use reusable grocery bags and water bottles. We don't realize how much of an impact that can make on pollution and how much trash we produce. You guys could also go do beach cleanups from time to time, it's gross but it is a huge help.

Q: What are you doing here at sea world to help prevent the expansion of the patch?

A: Myself, along with many of the other employees all make sure to use reusable water bottles and we recycle all the trash that we make. In the bigger picture, sea world is doing everything in its power to reduce the amount of trash we don't recycle by selling reusable cups and the plastic cups we sell are made up of biodegradable material. Also, if you visit any of our delicious food markets, the utensils, plates, along with any other things are almost all biodegradable.

Thank You!

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