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Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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A mass of plastic waste has accumulated in the sub-tropical ocean vortex of the Pacific Ocean holding around 80,000 tons of debris. An artificial island made up of trillions of pieces of plastic is growing year after year.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. It is also known as the Pacific trash vortex and spans waters from the West Coast of North America to Japan. The patch is actually comprised of the Western Garbage Patch, located near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch, located between the U.S. states of Hawaii and California.

The amount of debris in the GPGP accumulates because much of it is not biodegradable. Many plastics, for instance, do not wear down; they simply break into tinier and tinier pieces. No one knows how much debris makes up the GPGP. The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is too large for scientists to trawl. In addition, not all trash floats on the surface. Denser debris can sink centimeters or even several meters beneath the surface, making the vortex’s area nearly impossible to measure.

For many people, the idea of a “garbage patch” conjures up images of an island of trash floating on the ocean. In reality, these patches are almost entirely made up of tiny bits of plastic, called microplastics. Microplastics can’t always be seen by the naked eye. Even satellite imagery doesn’t show a giant patch of garbage. The microplastics of the GPGP can simply make the water look like a cloudy soup which, sometimes, is intermixed with larger items, such as fishing gear.

The seafloor beneath the GPGP may also be an underwater trash heap. Oceanographers and ecologists recently discovered that about 70% of marine debris actually sinks to the bottom of the ocean. While oceanographers and climatologists predicted the existence of the GPGP back in the ‘60, it was a racing boat captain by the name of Charles Moore who actually discovered the trash vortex in the mid ‘70.

Because the GPGP is so far from any country’s coastline, no nation will take responsibility or provide the funding to clean it up. Charles Moore says cleaning up the garbage patch would “bankrupt any country” that will try it. Many individuals and international organizations, however, are dedicated to research and develop innovative solutions to clean up the GPGP.

10R1O Maps GPGP - 10 Rivers 1 Ocean

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