DID YOU KNOW: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
We were overwhelmed when we first heard about the existence of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) – sounds grand, right? Well, it is certainly not something to be proud of.
In case you have not heard about the GPGP, here are some key highlights that you should know:
What is the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”?
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is the largest of the five offshore plastic accumulation zones in the world’s oceans. It is located halfway between Hawaii and California.
FACT: 1.15 TO 2.41 MILLION METRIC TONNES OF PLASTIC ARE ENTERING THE OCEAN EACH YEAR.
As more and more plastics are discarded into the environment, microplastic concentration in the GPGP will only continue to increase.
The GPGP covers an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France. To formulate this number, the team of scientists behind this research conducted the most elaborate sampling method consisting of a fleet of 30 boats, 652 surface nets and two flights over the patch to gather aerial imagery of the debris.
How much plastic floats in the GPGP?
At the time of sampling, the mass of the plastic in the GPGP was estimated to be approximately 80,000 tonnes, which is 4-16 times more than previous calculations. This weight is also equivalent to that of 500 Jumbo Jets.
What types of plastic can be found floating in the GPGP?
The vast majority of plastics retrieved were made of rigid or hard polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), or derelict fishing gear (nets and ropes particularly). Ranging in size from small fragments to larger objects and meter-sized fishing nets.
4 size classes of plastics;
- Microplastics (0.05 – 0.5 cm)
- Mesoplastics (0.5 – 5 cm)
- Macroplastics (5 – 50 cm)
- Megaplastics (anything above 50 cm)
FACT: 92% OF THE TOTAL MASS IS MADE OF DEBRIS LARGER THAN 5MM.
How does this affect marine life and humans?
1. Impact on Wildlife
The deterioration of plastics into microplastics have been discovered floating within the water surface layers, but also in the water column or as far down as the ocean floor. Microplastics are very difficult to remove and are often mistaken for food by marine animals.
Discarded fishing nets (ghost nets) that account for 46% of the mass in the GPGP are dangerous for animals who swim or collide into them and cannot extract themselves from the net. Interaction with these ghost nets often result in death of the marine life involved.
2. Impact on Humans
Chemicals in plastics will enter the body of the animal feeding on the plastic. The feeder becomes prey, and the chemicals will pass to the predator – making their way up the food web that includes humans. These chemicals that affected the plastic feeders could then be present within the human as well.
Source & Full Write Up: The Ocean Cleanup
Image Credit: Global Trash Solutions