I came across this article the other day that I found to be really interesting and concerning. There is a giant garbage patch that has been accumulating in the Pacific Ocean for quite some time. I have heard of the garbage patch before but didn’t realize just how large and harmful it really is. The National Ocean Service’s website states that the exact size of the concentrated debris is hard to estimate and is not as big as people have made it out to be. While other websites state that it is almost twice the size of Texas. Either way, it is a substantial amount of debris that poses a great threat to the environment and marine life. This giant patch is actually compromised of two other patches, the western garbage patch near Japan and the eastern garbage patch near California. The trash is being trapped by the north pacific subtropical gyre that is composed of four big ocean currents. These currents move in a clockwise direction around 7.7 million square miles of the ocean. The area in the center of the gyre is where the trash is accumulating from these currents. The convergence zone links together the spinning patches of garbage and is essentially a trash highway. Most of the trash is non biodegradable however it does break apart in smaller pieces forming microplastics. About 70% of these microplastics sink to the bottom of the ocean. According to National Geographic, 80% of the debris comes from land activities and the other 20% comes from boats, oil rigs, and cargo ships. Most of the 20% of debris coming from boats is fishing net, about 705,000 tons of it.
The effects on the animals and the environment are extremely dangerous. Marine animals such as turtles and birds mistake the trash for food. The tons of fishing nets create a death trap for whales, seals, sea lions, and many other animals. At least 136,000 animals are killed by these nets each year. The microplastics block the sunlight from getting to from reaching plankton and algae. This affects other animals as plankton is a main source of food.
So how do we go about stopping or at least reducing the size of this patch. First, I think we should try to cut back if not stop all trash entering the ocean. Maybe we could create bans on the use of plastic bags at grocery stories that are near the beach. I know Folly beach has recently placed a ban on using plastic bags, balloons, styrofoam plates, cups, and containers on the beach. The grocery stores on James Island have also been asked to provide recyclable bags instead of plastic.