The giant Pacific garbage patch

Discussion in 'Environment' started by Chris, Aug 3, 2009.

  1. Chris
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    Chris Gold Member

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    A "plastic soup" of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.

    The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world's largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting "soup" stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.

    Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" or "trash vortex", believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which Mr Moore founded, said yesterday: "The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States."

    Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has tracked the build-up of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years and compares the trash vortex to a living entity: "It moves around like a big animal without a leash." When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian archipelago, the results are dramatic. "The garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic," he added.

    The "soup" is actually two linked areas, either side of the islands of Hawaii, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches. About one-fifth of the junk – which includes everything from footballs and kayaks to Lego blocks and carrier bags – is thrown off ships or oil platforms. The rest comes from land.

    Mr Moore, a former sailor, came across the sea of waste by chance in 1997, while taking a short cut home from a Los Angeles to Hawaii yacht race. He had steered his craft into the "North Pacific gyre" – a vortex where the ocean circulates slowly because of little wind and extreme high pressure systems. Usually sailors avoid it.

    He was astonished to find himself surrounded by rubbish, day after day, thousands of miles from land. "Every time I came on deck, there was trash floating by," he said in an interview. "How could we have fouled such a huge area? How could this go on for a week?"

    Mr Moore, the heir to a family fortune from the oil industry, subsequently sold his business interests and became an environmental activist. He warned yesterday that unless consumers cut back on their use of disposable plastics, the plastic stew would double in size over the next decade.

    The world's rubbish dump: a garbage tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan - Environment - The Independent
     
  2. random3434
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    random3434 Senior Member

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    Right there says it all.

    Where will it all go? Maybe if we get enough we can walk to Hawaii from California on a bed of styrofoam and plastic. :evil:
     
  3. dilloduck
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    dilloduck Diamond Member

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    I like to think of it like a stash of stuff we're storing in case we ever run out of shit that floats.
     
  4. Chris
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    Chris Gold Member

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    I am suprised that Republicans backed by the plastics industry don't try to deny that it exists!
     
  5. Mr.Fitnah
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    Mr.Fitnah Dreamcrusher

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    Im not sure were all that stuff comes from , my guess South America and Asia.In any case The UN ought to be able to handle this unless it is deem an environmentally sensitive area and a breeding ground for low food chain life forms. Then the UN can surrender to plankton.
     
  6. Mr.Fitnah
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    Mr.Fitnah Dreamcrusher

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  7. Chris
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    Chris Gold Member

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    Here's more on the Giant Pacific Garbage Patch...

    Here's what scientists do know: They know the size of this zone is huge, maybe as big as Texas. And they know that all the plastic accumulated in the patch has mostly broken down into smaller bits, floating just under the water's surface like confetti, basically a soupy mix of plastic-filled seawater that stretches for maybe thousands of miles.

    They know the garbage patch has been growing for many years, and scientists first became aware of the problem years ago when fisherman reported encountering widespread debris. They know there are other debris fields in other oceans of the world, but this one is the biggest.

    Rusty Brainard with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says this giant garbage patch, in addition to plastic, also contains huge masses of fishing nets, which destroys ecosystems around the Hawaiian Islands.

    But the plastic is really the toxic killer. While it slowly degrades, it turns into increasingly smaller bits of plastic. Seabirds mistake it for food and they dive down and eat it.

    Brainard says they find a lot of skeletons of seabirds on the Islands and "their gut content is just filled with plastic." Brainard says that has scientists wondering what other animals are eating this plastic.

    As the larger animals and marine life eat the smaller animals, this plastic eventually ends up in the human food supply, too.

    But even the size is of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is uncertain.

    "It's not a hard and fast number. It's a little bit like a whirlpool on the surface of a river or a lake. You'd be hard-pressed to tell me where the edge is. All you know is that it's stronger in the middle than it is in the outer reaches. But it's an area of many hundreds of miles -- perhaps thousands -- in which the ocean currents tend to bring it together," according to Knox.

    NOAA has tracked the Great Pacific Garbage Patch movement to some degree. Scientists know it moves as much as a thousand miles north and south in the Pacific seasonally. And during warmer ocean periods, known as El Nino, it drifts even further south.

    A kind of large, clock-wise circulation of currents driven by the wind around the Pacific ocean basin causes the plastic and other garbage to mix together in convergence zones, forming this giant trash zone and making its movements comparable to a whirlpool.

    Researchers believe this enormous trash zone accumulated over many years from trash being dumped off boats and ocean-going ships, and from trash accumulated on beaches, where it eventually washed in the Pacific Ocean and into the huge zone.

    Scientists study 'garbage patch' in Pacific Ocean - CNN.com
     

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