Halfway between Hawaii and California lies the world’s largest plastic accumulation zone in the oceans of the world. If you are shocked to hear this, so are we! It just shows how negligent we have been about plastic usage despite knowing how it affects our environment. It is not like this happened in the last decade, it has been around for years now. Maybe creating more awareness as to what can plastic do to our environment will help people avoid it or make the right choice? Hence knowing about the Garbage Patch is a must! Here is what we should know about it.
Back in 1988, the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration first published a paper that described this patch in the Pacific Ocean. Due to the ocean currents, the North Pacific Gyre seemed to be a favorable region for the accumulation of plastic and other oceanic debris. In 1997, Charles J. Moore, who competed in the TransPacific Yacht Race, saw the floating patch again while returning.
How Did It Form?
The North Pacific Gyre is like a whirlpool that draws in all the garbage from the ocean and hence the patch was formed. A study in 2014 found that most of the waste materials that formed the patch consisted of fishing gears like buoys, lines, nets, etc. Illegal dumpings of plastic, trash, marine trash. It was also found that the currents carry the waste from the coast of North America to the Gyre in 6 years, while the waste from Asia reaches in just about one hour. Which is the reason the patch here is formed mostly from waste brought by the currents from countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, China, and Sri Lanka. In 2012, researchers found out that the microplastic which makes up the greater part of the patch has grown twice in the last 4 decades.
Effect On The Marine Life And Us
Needless to say, it has affected sea life directly and us humans, indirectly. A UN conference recently published a report that explained how the ocean will have more plastic than fishes by 2050. If you feel you are not be concerned with that, there is more news for you. Several fishes and birds have plastic in their stomach and when these animals are consumed by others who are above them in the food chain, it is a matter of concern for us, as it affects our health directly. Sea turtles and black-footed albatross are worst affected by the garbage patch. Also, the Midway Atoll, inhabited by Laysan Albatross are largely affected by plastic. Scientists believe, most of the 1.5 lakh birds have plastic in their stomach and also several of their chicks die because they feed them plastic. This kind of debris has affected 267 species in all, till now.
How To Remove The Patch
As you can see, we should be terribly afraid about the fate of animals as well as humans if the usage of plastic is not stopped. However, the marine debris from the oceans needs to be removed too. In order to do this, the Ocean Cleanup Project was set up. They have devised an Ocean Cleanup system, that has started its first collection in September 2018. Also, since the garbage patch has become symbolic of the huge threat that we are facing, several organizations have taken note and rooting for a cleaner environment. Dutch inventor Boyan Slat has come up with the technique that gave birth to the Ocean Cleanup project. The system is a cost-effective way of cleaning the ocean and according to Slat, it can take up to 5 years to clean up the gyre.
We can only hope that things will work out right for us in the end. But of course, each of us will have to do our bit when it comes to the environment. Banning plastic and making people aware of its harmful effects is critical. Each and every country should take steps to make the environment better. Otherwise, in a few more decades, who knows how many species will face extinction? As the only intelligent species on the face of the earth, it is our responsibility to stop this right now and create a better world for the coming generations.