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California Fourfold Garbage Island... A Plastic Graveyard

Plastic is anything but difficult to make. It takes just a trifling five seconds to make a plastic straw at the processing plant. However, it takes a minimum of 100 years to over 500 years to disintegrate.

So, once you're done using it, it's categorized as "recycled" waste. The real problem is not then, but next. In the event that you don't recycle it, it will be discarded like some other garbage.

Plastics made annually in the world are 330 million tons in total. About 25% of these, around 8,000 tons, is called the bundling, or packaging materials. Over 80% of the packaging plastics are simply said to be recycled, but in reality, they are disposed of as soon as they enter the consumer's hands. The junk that is dumped into the ocean, eventually, weighs 1,200 tons per year.

In total, the number of plastic pieces left in the ocean is evaluated at 5 trillion. More than half of them are less dense than water (average 997 kg/m³), indicating that they won't sink once they encounter the oceans. Plastic garbage that floats uninhabited is gathered at the point where the flows circulate, called the Gyre, to construct a colossal island of garbage.


In 1997, an American sailor named Charles Moore faced an astonishing sight when he was returning home through the North Pacific Gyre after competing in the Transpac yacht race. He spontaneously discovered the GPGP. According to the New York Times, the GPGP, or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, comprises approximately 1.8 trillion bits of plastic.

Changes in plastic density 1962~2018 (The Ocean Cleanup Foundation)

Where Is It Located?

It would be inaccurate to say that the GPGP is located in a particular area because variabilities of winds and water currents constantly change its location. From imitating concentration levels in the Northern Pacific Ocean, the researchers followed the location of the patch, demonstrating significant seasonal and inter-annual variations. On average, the patch orbits around 32°N and 145°W. However, the team observed a seasonal shift from west to east and substantial variations in latitude depending on the year.

How Big Is It?

A team of scientists conducted the most elaborate sampling method ever coordinated revealed that the GPGP possesses 1.6 million square kilometers, quadruple times the measure of California's size (around 420,000 square kilometers), triple times the size of France (around 640,000km²), and twice the area of Texas (around 700,000 km²). However, it is still growing exponentially.

What Is Its Mass?

The mass of this patch was guessed to be 800,000 tonnes, huge when compared to the previous calculation, which resulted in 4-16 times less than the latest one. This is equivalent to the weight of about 150000 Asian elephants. There is 1.8 trillion plastic debris, estimated, floating in the patch--identical to 250 pieces of debris for every human on Earth, 5500 plastic pieces for every US citizen, and 35000 for every South Korean population. Utilizing a similar approach as when they found the mass, the team employed the conservative estimations of the plastic count range. Their calculations showed a range of 1.1 trillion to 3.6 trillion pieces.

Ghost net hauled from the GPGP (The Ocean Cleanup Foundation)

What Types of Plastic Make the GPGP?

Polypropylene (PP) make up the vast majority of plastics retrieved. The fragments of plastic debris varies from kids' diversions, PET containers, abandoned fishing nets, to microbeads (microplastic under 5mm in measurement) that can not be recognized from the bare eye. An estimated number of 8 billion microbeads are emitted into the American oceans. There were 4 categories of plastic sizes the GPGP encompasses.

  1. Microplastics (0.05 - 0.5 cm)

  2. Mesoplastics (0.5 – 5 cm)

  3. Macroplastics (5 – 50 cm)

  4. Megaplastics (50 cm < )

Regarding the mass, 92% of the debris found is not microplastic and three-quarters of the total mass is consists of macro and megaplastics. However, in terms of the plastic count, 94% of the total is represented by microplastics.

How Do Plastics Effect the Living?

Human-made plastic isn't just an ecological debacle that contaminates the ocean, in fact, it is likewise lethal to marine animals. According to Greenpeace, one million seabirds and 100,000 ocean turtles eat plastic pieces every year.

Animals mistake plastic for food due to its color. This causes malnutrition as well as a highly possible slow, painful death if the plastic gets stuck in their guts and does not get digested.

Through bioaccumulation, chemicals in plastic enter the body of the animal feeding on the plastic, and as the feeder becomes prey, the chemicals will pass to the predator - making their way up the food web that includes humans. These chemicals that affected the plastic feeders could then be present within the human as well.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) stated, "There are 267 species of marine life harmed by human waste."


Tracking Trash by Loree Griffin Burns



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