Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Garbage Patch Kids?

Snappy new name for a top-selling candy, right? Yes, and also our all-too-real legacy. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a real place – a giant, floating field of debris about a thousand miles off the coast of California. It is estimated to be up to twice the size of Texas.

Composed mostly of bits and pieces of plastic, researchers believe this enormous trash zone accumulated over many years. It is made of trash that was dumped off boats and ocean-going ships, or that washed into the ocean after accumulating in storm drains and on beaches. It is a zone of mostly smaller bits and pieces of plastic, mixed with some large pieces of plastic and fishing nets. The plastic bits float just under the water’s surface like confetti. PCBs, DDT and other toxins cannot dissolve in water, but get absorbed by plastic. As the toxic plastic slowly degrades and turns into smaller pieces, seabirds mistake it for food and dive down to eat it. Skeletons of birds found in this area are said to have guts filled with plastic. Fish that feed on plankton ingest the tiny toxic bits, and toxins get bio-accumulated up the food chain.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or North Pacific Ocean Gyre is located in the northwest Pacific Ocean, roughly between 135° to 155°W and 35° to 42°N . It is located within the North Pacific Gyre, one of the five major oceanic gyres. It was first documented by Charles Moore, a California-based sea captain and ocean researcher. Moore came upon the patch while returning home from competing in the Transpac sailing race in 1997.

A gyre is a large, clock-wise circulation of currents driven by the wind that causes the garbage to mix together in convergence zones, with movements comparable to a whirlpool. As material is captured, wind-driven surface currents gradually move floating debris toward the center, trapping it in the region. It is said to move as much as a thousand miles north and south in the Pacific seasonally. Currents carry debris from the west coast of North America to the gyre in about five years, and debris from the east coast of Asia in a year or less.

An estimated 80% of the garbage comes from land-based sources, and 20% from ships. A typical 3,000 passenger cruise ship produces over eight tons of solid waste weekly, much of which ends up in the patch.

To learn more about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch try these two sites: http://www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/blogs/recycling-design-technology/great-pacific-garbage-patch-research-461109#ixzz0X3CVQWLu

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/11/09/science/11102009_Garbage_index.html

2 comments:

Masked Liberal Evangelist said...

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity...
W.B.-Yeats

Anna, The Lemon Lady said...

A friend of mine from the farmers' market was telling me about this the other day. You blog prompted me to learn more!

Sad. Doesn't this just make us sick? It should.