A huge patch of trash floating around is not how most of us picture the Pacific Ocean. However, that is the sad reality of the largest ocean on the planet. There is a floating patch of waste between Hawaii and California. The environmentalists are calling it the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The floating trash has been covering a large area. The alarming fact is that the area is larger than the state of Texas.
The discovery of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch dates back to 1997. It was only in 2013, that a teenager started a company to clean the pile. Boyan Slat from Ocean Cleanup is the man behind the initiative. The company is spending millions of dollars to clean up the garbage. Scientists are closely looking into the Ocean clean-up in 2018 to find what is lying there in the patch, and here’s what they found out.
All About the Patch
The patch was much larger than the scientists had imagined. It is an enormous pile of plastics weighing over 87,000 tons. It may be three times as heavy as the Statue of Liberty.
The garbage is full of fishing gear and things such as ropes and traps. Most of the trash comprises fishing nets. There are also tiny pieces of plastic in the patch. The plastics can be seen only through a microscope. And that is why they fall under the category of microplastics.
The Impact of Plastics on Sea Animals
There is no doubt that plastic can kill sea animals. Nets that are left behind float through the entire ocean. These nets can capture even huge sea creatures like whales and seals. In their search for food, they land in the nets. Ocean scientists are shocked to see the utter destruction caused by different types of litter.
Scientists in Britain also searched the garbage patch and took aerial shots from the air. They even collected trash to study the same. Scientists understand that plastic pollution is a growing menace and one of the biggest threats to the sea. Research suggests that plastic waste would be three times more by 2050.
The Truth about Plastic Accumulation
Almost 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers. The plastic is also less heavy than water, and hence it won’t sink once it swirls in the sea.
However, there are stronger, more buoyant plastics that show more resiliency once it meets up with the more marine environment, pushing them over extended distances. They continue to remain at the sea surface as they leave the offshore, helped by the converging currents and finally meeting up with the patch.
Once these plastics meet the gyre, they remain in the area till they shred into smaller microplastics with the cumulative effects of the sun, waves, and marine life. As more and more plastics enter the environment, microplastic concentration in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is more likely to multiply.
The Size Of it
The GPGP covers a surface area of about 1.6 million square kilometers. The area is almost twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France.
Scientists had to conduct an elaborate sampling method to formulate a specific number. They searched the entire region with the help of 30 boats, 652 surface nets, and another two flights to gauge the aerial view of the debris. Taking samples from numerous locations in the same period they gave an estimation of the size of the patch. The data also information of the plastic intertwined in it.
According to a tweet by Boyan Slat, the Dutch inventor, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch cleanup is finally underway. He is a university dropout who is behind the Ocean Cleanup Project initiative.
His cleanup system that had begun much earlier had failed when a 60-foot length of the cleaning device broke off. The device was necessary to carry the 2,000-foot device back to Hawaii for closer inspection.
The cleanup system incorporates a barrier that carries a 10-foot screen below it to catch plastics taking care not to harm the marine life. The self-contained system is floating with the natural sea currents to collect the plastic debris; cleaning up the mess in the ocean.
As Boyan says there’s still a lot of work! But the only saving grace, work has begun. And soon The Great Pacific Patch will be belonging to history.