Garbage Island: Floating Plastic Ocean.

garbagepile.jpgThat title almost sounds like a Radiohead song but unfortunately the tune is more catastrophic than harmonic. I just read an article in the LATimes about how much plastic garbage there is floating in the ocean.

To read the full article go here.

Here are some of the key points that I found completely incredible.

There are two huge floating areas of garbage in the Pacific two times the size of Texas.


They are not actually piles of garbage but sort of like water with a lot of garbage in it; 90% of which is plastic-“supple, durable materials such as polyethylene and polypropylene, Styrofoam, nylon and saran.

About four-fifths of marine trash comes from land, swept by wind or washed by rain off highways and city streets, down streams and rivers, and out to sea.

The amount of plastic in the oceans has risen sharply since the 1950s. Studies show a tenfold increase every decade in some places. Scientists expect the trend to continue, given the popularity of disposable plastic containers. The average American used 223 pounds of plastic in 2001. The plastics industry expects per-capita usage to increase to 326 pounds by the end of the decade.

The qualities that make plastics so useful are precisely what cause them to persist as trash.

Derived from petroleum, plastics eventually break down into carbon dioxide and water from exposure to heat and the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

On land, the process can take decades, even centuries. At sea, it takes even longer, said Anthony L. Andrady, a polymer chemist at the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina who studies marine debris. Seawater keeps plastics cool while algae, barnacles and other marine growth block ultraviolet rays.

“Every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50 years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere,” Andrady said, “because there is no effective mechanism to break it down.”-LA TIMES

These last paragraphs were literally copied from the LA Times article so don’t sue-it’s just that the information just makes you go “Holy Shit!  I never realized that plastic doesn’t bio-degrade and that literally millions of tons of it is still floating in the ocean.(which means my Six Million Dollar Man™ doll that I had when I was eight is still out there either in a landfill or in the ocean swimming around with his bionic arms and legs.)

The craziest thing is that some “yachting guy” decided to take a short cut through one these garbage patches after a big race and spent a week sailing through garbage!  Yes, it took him seven days of sailing through garbage until he hit open ocean again! WTF!

I guess the story made me very aware of the plastic I use on a daily basis and so now I’m looking at ways to reduce plastic in my life; plastic made from corn is bio-degradable!

On a side note, we all know plastic comes from oil and so does gasoline. It seems like oil has given us a great many conveniences over the last fifty years but at the same time it’s the root of what is hurting our chances for survival on the planet. It’s too bad our parents didn’t have the foresight to see the consequences of their actions on future generations.  I hope we can.

13 Responses to “Garbage Island: Floating Plastic Ocean.”

  1. Mai-Ling Says:

    Food for thought…..

  2. Marnie Says:

    Sure it’s too bad your parents didn’t have the foresight. What about you? When your children will be saying “it’s too bad our parents didn’t have the foresight to see the consequences of GMO’s and and all the unforgiveable DNA changes made to so many animal species”, and on and on.

  3. Tabetha Says:

    What was the title and author of that article in LA times? And when was it printed? I would like to read the article, and that information would be helpful in finding it.

  4. admin Says:

    Click on the link in my article and it will take you there. thx.

  5. admin Says:

    I am not sure about your tone here..but I pretty much do everything within my means to live a better, smarter life than my parents starting with driving rarely and fueling my car with vegetable oil.

  6. maribeth Says:

    Hey – good for you in placing this information in another accessible location – yea, a friend just told me it is the size of the whole U.S.?! I’m trying to find it on google earth – have you been able to? And …seems we need a ‘clean it up’ website for this? Here’s a couple things I’m doing:
    buying as much in bulk as I can find, the new one this week, is cat food, because those bags are lined in plastic!!!!
    Last week, it was Good Earth butter substitute – yup, in bulk, at my co-op!
    The week before that, it was freezing the raspberries in glass jars!! Learned that from my local Permaculture Guild meeting.
    One I am trying to learn more about is storing the veggies in the refridgerator – one guy said damp papertowels, or damp towels, maybe – my exp. has been things still wilt quite a lot – ideas, anyone?
    Best to all,

  7. Kita Kakira Says:

    I’m glad that there are some people like me out there that have seen what we are doing to the earth and are horrified by it, I’m trying to get more people to see and listen to things like this, thanks for helping the cause.

    The reason why you cant see it from a satellite is because most of it is just under the surface of the water so it disappears.

    Oh and for the veggies most of them aren’t supposed to be stored with moisture, so not rinsing them until your going to use them helps, usually only fruits need moisture. Also when you buy them in a store your usually not getting them as fresh as you think you are. Most commercially grown food is picked early and sprayed down with chemicals so that it looks ripe, then it is shipped to your supermarket and never really gets ripe before it rots in your fridge or at the store.

    Thanks for listening to all my ramblings and caring for my dearest love.
    Peace and Joy to you all.

  8. Megan Schmitz Says:

    that is a giant chucky head lol but my teacher told me to chack this out

  9. Gavin Sayers Says:

    G’day, It’s nice to stumble upon a good website like this one. Do you care if I use some of your info, and I’ll put a link back to your site?

  10. admin Says:

    Gavin, No problem..I got it from the LA Times.

  11. Ryan Giesinger Says:

    I was wondering why these islands are not visible from orbital view, and I got a few good answers.

    Firstly a good portion of this debris exists just below the water’s surface – so the majority of it – like an iceberg – is below surface photography.

    Secondly although we call them islands, and our minds bring to the forefront images of permanent structures. these things are constantly being moved and reformed by ocean currents, which means that what is there is constantly shifting.

    Third, although graphicly stunning, the majority of the ‘islands’ are not made up of large matter. The grinding action of the currents smashing them into one another makes it into a plastic particulate soup which can be relatively hard to notice from the deck of a ship- until you see the big epicenters of these nasties, which are the most commonly photographed. Most of the mass of these things are not visible from orbit due to thier miniscule particulate size. (Size of the component parts, NOT the sludge zones themselves.)

    As for thermographic sensing – they are bathed in ocean waters, and darker colors blocked from absorbing large amounts of heat by algae etc. Plastic conducts heat relatively well in some forms (plastic bags, etc) and in other foam formats resists heat (coffee cups) – in other words, minimal thermographic profile.

    So there ya go – I got curious and looked on google earth, and then hunted for why I could not see them. Those are some of the reasons why. Terrifying thought, no?

  12. Langley chiropractors Says:

    WOW, this is really shocking.

    I know that this is over 2 years old now, but even since then I have never heard of it. Admittedly I am not someone who always reads or watches the news (as I feel its too depressing), but people do need to know about these things.

    A few of our local stores charge 5C for a bag now, but I’m pretty sure that just goes to the stores. If they trebled it to 15C and the 10C was used to clean up that “new island” then at least it would be a step in the right direction!

    I do have to agree with post 2 as well. Although I personally don’t have children, what messages should we be saying to them now, so that in a generations time they’re not saying to us about all the things we could have done…

  13. admin Says:

    Thanks for the reply! I think we should be acting in a way that helps to conserve our resources and think about things like product lifespan, packaging and where our garbage goes. The less garbage we produce as individuals the better for all of us.

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