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Is The Great Pacific Garbage Patch A Myth?

Is The Great Pacific Garbage Patch A Myth?

The human race manufactures, transports, packages, and throws away a staggering amount of plastic each year.

While each step of the process comes with its own environmental impacts, none have been so widely reported on as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; a convergence of ocean currents in which some scientists say plastic waste is trapped, creating a toxic soup that stretches for half a million square miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Concern about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has sparked petitions, fundraisers, and even a trans-ocean trip in a boat made of plastic bottles. But according to the research of Oregon State University professor of oceanography Angelicque White, both the size and threat of this “garbage patch” have been greatly exaggerated.

“Given the observed concentration of plastic in the North Pacific, it is simply inaccurate to state that plastic outweighs plankton, or that we have observed an exponential increase in plastic,” White told The Telegraph.

The NOAA agrees with her:

The name “garbage patch” has led many to believe that this area is a large and continuous patch of easily visible marine debris items such as bottles and other litter—akin to a literal blanket of trash that should be visible with satellite or aerial photographs. This is simply not true.

This contradicts the desription published by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, the organization who claims credit for discovering the Garbage Patch:

“…it is a vast plastic soup (from the surface down through the water column) containing everything from large abandoned fishing nets (ghost nets) to plastic bottles, bottle caps, toothbrushes, containers, boxes, to miniscule particles of plastic that have either been reduced from larger pieces by wave action or sunlight (photodegradation)” [emphasis added].

But it’s hard to ignore convincing eyewitness accounts, like this one:

And this PSA from the California Coastal Commission:

“While the plastic stretches across the surface, its mass compared to the amount of water means it only takes up a tiny fraction of its proclaimed area,” Prof White told The Telegraph. However, “plastic clearly does not belong in the ocean,” she added.

Related Reading:
Worried About Plastic Pollution?
Living Without Plastic–And Teaching Others How To Do It
3 Artists That Are Cleaning Up Ocean Pollution

Read more: , , , , ,

Image Credit: greatpacificgarbagepatch.info

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220 comments

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2:15AM PDT on Jun 21, 2013

It's no myth. I've seen all kinds of garbage washed up on beaches and floating in oceans.
The whole world is to blame. Every country/nation should have mandatory
recycling programms.

7:55AM PDT on Sep 10, 2012

This is unbelievable. What happens to this waste?

10:21PM PDT on Mar 28, 2012

Homo sapiens have become a really stupid insensitive species on Earth, mostly due to money, but also ignorance. Not being taught in kindergarten and the next few grades about this shit.
I am so disappointed in humanity. It could be so much better with so little effort. We must shame each other when someone does something stupid, like littering, and not recycling.

12:01AM PDT on Mar 28, 2012

We have not inherited this earth from our forefathers but borrowed it from our children - A native saying

5:43AM PDT on Apr 12, 2011

We need more of those Everything to Oil mini refining plants to turn much of that plastic into a good substitute for crude oil and tow it by barge to on shore refineries that can make good use of it.

4:43AM PDT on Apr 11, 2011

I live one block from the beach and like to walk very often very early in the morning. It's incredible to find so many plastic bags, toys, shoes, cans, even boat parts! So every time i go, I take a bag and while walking pick up everything I find. Since there are several garbage cans along the beach I empty my bag and start over again. I could do it every day and every day I will find the same amount of garbage. What's wrong with this people that cannot dispose the garbage properly!! Poor world

2:21PM PST on Mar 5, 2011

This is so depressing. I went for a walk today and had to pick up four bottles from where they were scattered around my street. I mean, I don't understand why most young people are concerned about a natural phenomena causing the end of the world when we're doing a pretty good job of it ourselves.

10:06PM PST on Mar 2, 2011

depressing!!!

8:12PM PST on Mar 2, 2011

OMG!!! Someone save this planet from us humans!!!

6:57PM PST on Mar 2, 2011

How can Humans be so ignorant? You don't mess with Mother Nature...and you don't poison your own planet!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Beth Buczynski Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in... more
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