What is The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

We have recently been posting many blogs about sustainability in your home and how to improve your impact on the earth. Although we all know that going green is a better for the environment, it can be easy to start doubting whether your hard work and dedication is going to improving anything. The truth is that although it may not feel like it, you are helping tremendously. One example of how you are helping is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is exactly what it sounds like. A giant island of garbage in the Pacific Ocean. Well… it isn’t exactly an island, more like a soup consisting of small microscopic plastics and trash that get stuck the middle of the oceans. This video can give you a sense of what we are talking about.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a combination of both the western garbage patch from Japan and the eastern garbage patch between Hawaii and California. The two patches converge above Hawaii and gets trapped in a vortex. Due to the rotation of the earth, sea, and wind directions, a single water bottle from San Diego can make it all the way to Japan and then end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. From there all non-biodegradable trash, such as plastic, gets worn down and broken apart to microscopic levels and makes the water look cloudy. It is estimated that 70% of all marine debris will end up on the ocean floor as well.

But the shocking part is that all this trash comes from two main sources. The first source is from the land where it is estimated that 80% of all pollution of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from both America and Asia. 20% of the garbage comes from ships and oil platforms. This means that the western part of America is directly responsible for decades worth of trash, especially since California is the 4th largest producer of trash in America with 35 tons of trash each year. Now, cleaning it up is more of a challenge than initially perceived.

The problem lies in the growing patch. National Geographic said “during a 2014 expedition, Moore and his team used aerial drones, to assess from above the extent of the trash below. The drones determined that there is 100 times more plastic by weight than previously measured. The team also discovered more permanent plastic features, or islands, over 15 meters (50 feet) in length,” this means that the rate of growth for the patch is far superior to what we can currently clean. Not only is it continuously growing, but one of the main concerns of scientists is to keep marine life safe during clean up.

It has been a great concern for the marine life of the area as all current cleaning efforts will result in animals such as dolphins and fish getting trapped in nets and cleaning equipment. Although there is currently no mass cleaning effort, scientists agree that the safest and easiest way to clean up the garbage patch is through eliminating plastics and switching to biodegradable products. To give you a sense of just how much of an impact this would have we can look at our lifestyles as Americans. Each American produces the average of 4.4 pounds of trash per day, and is higher than the global average of 2.6 pounds. This might not seem like much but during a year a single person would produce 1,606 pounds of trash. Salon.com tried to put this into perspective by producing this infographic.

So, if you still think you are not making a difference, remember that you eliminate 4.4 pounds of trash for every day that you live sustainably. Imagine how much power a single community would have if everyone pitched in and tried to limit waste. San Diego is fortunate enough to be in a transitioning phase to a zero-waste city by 2040. This would help ensure the reduction of the waste significantly and aid in the cleanup efforts. Enji encourages each one of you to try and reduce your disposable consumption, especially plastics. Make a pledge to our sea friends that you will use more biodegradable products instead of plastics. Our previous generations might have made a mistake, but it is now our time to learn from them.