A Continent of Garbage
If you’ve ever wondered what happens to that plastic bottle you’ve thrown out of your car window, be aware that there’s a chance it may have wound up as part of a new continent in the Pacific Ocean–a continent of garbage.
If by chance you are missing a basketball, you may be glad to know that it has been found in the Pacific Ocean.
It was there along with giant tangles of rope, sunken snack-food bags, a plastic six-pack ring and thousands upon thousands of plastic bags, billowing under the ocean surface like jellyfish.
And that’s not all.
There is a floating garbage dump about the size of Africa created by Pacific currents now carrying refuse from North America, Asia and the islands, concentrating it into a swirl of flotsam estimated to contain 3.5 million tons of junk, 80 percent of which is plastic.
If that wasn’t disgusting enough, this pile of refuse is having some dangerous effects–both known and unknown–on the ecology of the ocean.
But some obvious consequences are known.
Moore and his crew have found jellyfish, fouled and caught in rope. Birds and sea life mistake the plastic for food. Bags that looks like jellyfish could choke turtles. Albatross chicks have been killed by a diet of plastic bits.
And then there’s the question of what happens when the plastic breaks down even further.
“The bigger chips turn to smaller chips,” Moore explained. “And we eventually get dust. Our concern is that this dust then goes to the molecular level and invades the entire food web in the ocean.”
I don’t have any policy advice to offer regarding this situation–this is well beyond my expertise, but it strikes me that this is a problem that needs a solution.