There are many things that are great in this world: me, Taylor Swift’s new album ‘Midnights’, my parents, anything Leigh Bardugo writes, my friends, the smell of the damp woods, Pinterest pictures, etc. However, there is something that is greater than all of these things; I know, you may be wondering: how is that possible? Pair plastic and humans together and you inevitably get something greater than Taylor Swift’s new album ‘Midnights’: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Or the Pacific Trash Vortex.
It’s concerning, don’t you think? That something like this garbage patch could be greater than things like Taylor Swift’s new album. This is why we should take action now.
Despite the word “Great” in its title, the adjective doesn’t refer to an easily assumed honor that this patch may hold. It refers to the horrendously huge size of this collection of marine debris. Debris that has found solace with one another in the central part of the North Pacific Ocean. Imagine this. You are in Texas listening to country songs and yelling “Yeehaw!” whenever you can. Now imagine a place double the size of Texas in the middle of a very large expanse of sea. That is how big the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is. Numerically, it is estimated to cover a surface area of 1.6 million square km; that’s three times bigger than France.
Here is a rundown of what the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is. It weighs 80,000 tonnes - the weight of 500 Jumbo Jets. The patch is also considered a wonder; this is one of the instances when humanity has gone through its boundaries and achieved something many may deemed impossible. Although some instances may involve the invention of the telephone or the forging of planes, this instance involves being able to dispose of 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic ever since researchers started measuring its collection in the 1970s. Furthermore, the collection varies over a wide range of plastics from polyethylene and polypropylene to fishing nets and ropes. Nevertheless, it smells like food.
Hence, a question pops out: why can’t we clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? The answer is simple; there are too many microplastics contained in this collection of debris. Most of it - we are talking 94% of the objects included in the patch - are microplastics, and the annoying thing about them is the fact that they are not easily removable from the ocean. Due to their minuscule size of less than 5mm in diameter, this makes it extremely difficult to clean them up. Moreover, the size of the patch itself poses a challenge. If you attempted to clean up less than 1% of the patch, it would take the efforts of 67 ships one year to remove the trash present.
How can we take action? The most obvious solution is to take care of your disposing habits; the more you carelessly throw trash around, the more likely it is for the patch to be visible in space. Support strikes or organizations that demand for change of a larger scale. In this time, it is crucial firms and governments start establishing policies to encourage dealing with waste, e.g., demonstrating what can be recycled and what can’t. More legislation and tighter regulations against companies that do not comply are needed to approach the problem as it has never been more urgent for us to collectively take a stand.
As Ben Prior - CEO of Earthworm - once quoted, “The painful irony is that the rubbish we don’t want near us might actually end up inside us.”