The Great Pacific garbage patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, is a gyre of marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean. It is located roughly from 135°W to 155°W and 35°N to 42°N.The collection of plastic and floating trash originates from the Pacific Rim, including countries in Asia, North America, and South America. The gyre is divided into two areas, the "Eastern Garbage Patch" between Hawaii and California, and the "Western Garbage Patch" extending eastward from Japan to the Hawaiian Islands.
An ocean current about 6,000 miles long, referred to as the Subtropical Convergence Zone, connects the two patches, which extend over an indeterminate area of the widely varying range, depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to define the affected area.The vortex is characterized by exceptionally high relative pelagic concentrations of plastic, chemical sludge, wood pulp, and other debris trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. It is estimated that 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers. More than half of this plastic is less dense than the water, meaning that it will not sink once it encounters the sea.
Despite the common public perception of the patch existing as giant islands of floating garbage, its low density (4 particles per cubic meter) prevents detection by satellite imagery, or even by casual boaters or divers in the area. This is because the patch is a widely dispersed area consisting primarily of suspended "fingernail-sized or smaller bits of plastic", often microscopic, particles in the upper water column known as microplastics.
Researchers from The Ocean Cleanup project claimed that the patch covers 1.6 million square kilometers. The plastic concentration is estimated to be up to 100 kilograms per square kilometer in the center, going down to 10 kilograms per square kilometer in the outer parts of the patch. An estimated 87,000 metric tons of plastic inhabit the patch, totaling 1.8 trillion pieces.92% of the mass in the patch comes from objects larger than 0.5 centimeters, while 94% of the total objects are represented by microplastics. Some of the plastic in the patch is over 50 years old, and includes items (and fragments of items) such as "plastic lighters, toothbrushes, water bottles, pens, baby bottles, cell phones, plastic bags, and nurdles."
It is estimated that approximately "100 million tons of plastic are generated [globally] each year", and about 10% of that plastic ends up in the oceans. The United Nations Environmental Program recently estimated that "for every square mile of ocean" there are about "46,000 pieces of plastic."The small fibers of wood pulp found throughout the patch are "believed to originate from the thousands of tons of toilet paper flushed into the oceans daily." The patch is believed to have increased "10-fold each decade" since 1945.
Research indicates that the patch is rapidly accumulating.A similar patch of floating plastic debris is found in the Atlantic Ocean, called the North Atlantic garbage patch.
The patch was described in a 1988 paper published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The description was based on research by several Alaska-based researchers in 1988 who measured neustonic plastic in the North Pacific Ocean.Researchers found relatively high concentrations of marine debris accumulating in regions governed by ocean currents. Extrapolating from findings in the Sea of Japan, the researchers hypothesized that similar conditions would occur in other parts of the Pacific where prevailing currents were favorable to the creation of relatively stable waters. They specifically indicated the North Pacific Gyre.
Charles J. Moore, returning home through the North Pacific Gyre after competing in the Transpacific Yacht Race in 1997, claimed to have come upon an enormous stretch of floating debris. Moore alerted the oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who subsequently dubbed the region the "Eastern Garbage Patch" (EGP).The area is frequently featured in media reports as an exceptional example of marine pollution.
The JUNK Raft Project was a 2008 trans-Pacific sailing voyage made to highlight the plastic in the patch, organized by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.
In 2009, two project vessels from Project Kaisei,/ Ocean Voyages Institute; the New Horizon and the Kaisei, embarked on a voyage to research the patch and determine the feasibility of commercial scale collection and recycling.The Scripps Institute of Oceanography's 2009 SEAPLEX expedition in part funded by Ocean Voyages Institute/Project Kaisei also researched the patch. Researchers were also looking at the impact of plastic on mesopelagic fish, such as lanternfish.
In 2010, Ocean Voyages Institute conducted a 30-day expedition in the gyre which continued the science from the 2009 expeditions and tested prototype cleanup devices.
in July & Aug 2012 Ocean Voyages Institute conducted a voyage from San Francisco to the Eastern limits of the North Pacific Gyre north, (ultimately ending in Richmond British Columbia) and then made a return voyage which also visited the Gyre. The focus on this expedition was surveying the extent of tsunami debris from the Japanese earthquake-tsunami.
At TEDxDelft2012, million tons of plastic across all gyres. He also advocated "radical plastic pollution prevention methods" to prevent gyres from reforming. In 2015, The Ocean Cleanup project was a category winner in the Design Museum's 2015 Designs of the Year awards. A fleet of 30 vessels, including a 32-metre (105-foot) mothership, took part in a month-long voyage to determine how much plastic is present using trawls and aerial surveys.Boyan Slat unveiled a concept for removing large amounts of marine debris from oceanic gyres. Calling his project The Ocean Cleanup, he proposed to use surface currents to let debris drift to collection platforms. Operating costs would be relatively modest and the operation would be so efficient that it might even be profitable. The concept makes use of floating booms that divert rather than catch the debris. This avoids bycatch, while collecting even the smallest particles. According to Slat's calculations, a gyre could be cleaned up in five years' time, amounting to at least 7.25
The 2012 Algalita/5 Gyres Asia Pacific Expedition began in the Marshall Islands on 1 May, investigated the patch, collecting samples for the 5 Gyres Institute, Algalita Marine Research Foundation, and several other institutions, including NOAA, Scripps, IPRC and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. In 2012, the Sea Education Association (SEA) conducted research expeditions in the gyre. One hundred and eighteen net tows were conducted and nearly 70,000 pieces of plastic were counted.
In 2012, researchers Goldstein, Rosenberg and Cheng found that microplastic concentrations in the gyre had increased by two orders of magnitude in the prior four decades.
On 11 April 2013, artist Maria Cristina Finucci founded The Garbage Patch State at UNESCO – Paris in front of Director General Irina Bokova.
On 9 September 2018, the first collection system was deployed to the gyre to begin the collection task.This initial trial run of the Ocean Cleanup Project started towing its "Ocean Cleanup System 001" from San Francisco to a trial site some 240 nautical miles (260 miles) away.
In June 2019, Ocean Voyages Institute, the same organization behind the 2009, 2010 & 2012 expeditions, conducted a cleanup in the gyre and removed over 84,000 pounds of polymer nets and consumer plastic trash from the ocean.
In May/June 2020, Ocean Voyages Institute conducted a cleanup expedition in the Gyre which removed over 170 tons (340,000 pounds) of consumer plastics and ghostnets from the oceanUtilizing custom designed GPS satellite trackers which are deployed by vessels of opportunity, Ocean Voyages Institute is able to accurately track and send cleanup vessels to remove ghostnets. The GPS Tracker technology is being combined with satellite imagery increasing the ability to locate plastic trash and ghostnets in real time via satellite imagery which will greatly increase cleanup capacity and efficiency.
In 2015, a study published in the journal Science sought to discover where exactly all of this garbage is coming from. According to the researchers, the discarded plastics and other debris floats eastward out of countries in Asia from six primary sources: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Thailand.In fact, the Ocean Conservancy reported that China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam dump more plastic in the sea than all other countries combined. China alone is responsible for 30% of worldwide plastic ocean pollution. Efforts to slow land generated debris and consequent marine debris accumulations have been undertaken by the Coastal Conservancy, Earth Day, and World Cleanup Day.
According to National Geographic, "About 54 percent of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from land-based activities in North America and Asia. The remaining 20 percent of debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from boaters, offshore oil rigs, and large cargo ships that dump or lose debris directly into the water. The majority of this debris—about 705,000 tons—is fishing nets."
In September 2019, when research revealed that much ocean plastic pollution comes from Chinese cargo ships,an Ocean Cleanup spokesperson said: "Everyone talks about saving the oceans by stopping using plastic bags, straws and single-use packaging. That's important, but when we head out on the ocean, that's not necessarily what we find."
The Great Pacific garbage patch formed gradually as a result of ocean or marine pollution gathered by ocean currents.It occupies a relatively stationary region of the North Pacific Ocean bounded by the North Pacific Gyre in the horse latitudes. The gyre's rotational pattern draws in waste material from across the North Pacific, incorporating coastal waters off North America and Japan. As the material is captured in the currents, wind-driven surface currents gradually move debris toward the center, trapping it.
In a 2014 studyresearchers sampled 1571 locations throughout the world's oceans, and determined that discarded fishing gear such as buoys, lines and nets accounted for more than 60% of the mass of plastic marine debris. According to a 2011 EPA report, "The primary source of marine debris is the improper waste disposal or management of trash and manufacturing products, including plastics (e.g., littering, illegal dumping) ... Debris is generated on land at marinas, ports, rivers, harbors, docks, and storm drains. Debris is generated at sea from fishing vessels, stationary platforms, and cargo ships." Constituents range in size from miles-long abandoned fishing nets to micro-pellets used in cosmetics and abrasive cleaners. A computer model predicts that a hypothetical piece of debris from the U.S. west coast would head for Asia, and return to the U.S. in six years; debris from the east coast of Asia would reach the U.S. in a year or less. While microplastics make up 94% of the estimated 1.8 trillion plastic pieces, they amount to only 8% of the 79,000 metric tons of plastic there, with most of the rest coming from the fishing industry.
A 2017 study concluded that of the 9.1 billion tons of plastic produced since 1950, close to 7 billion tons are no longer in use.The authors estimate that 9% was recycled, 12% was incinerated, and the remaining 5.5 billion tons remains in the oceans and land.
The size of the patch is indefinite, as is the precise distribution of debris because large items are uncommon. 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) (about the size of Texas) to more than 15,000,000 square kilometres (5,800,000 sq mi) (about the size of Russia). Such estimates, however, are conjectural given the complexities of sampling and the need to assess findings against other areas. Further, although the size of the patch is determined by a higher-than-normal degree of concentration of pelagic debris, there is no standard for determining the boundary between "normal" and "elevated" levels of pollutants to provide a firm estimate of the affected area.Most debris consists of small plastic particles suspended at or just below the surface, evading detection by aircraft or satellite. Instead, the size of the patch is determined by sampling. Estimates of size range from
Net-based surveys are less subjective than direct observations but are limited regarding the area that can be sampled (net apertures 1–2 m and ships typically have to slow down to deploy nets, requiring dedicated ship's time). The plastic debris sampled is determined by net mesh size, with similar mesh sizes required to make meaningful comparisons among studies. Floating debris typically is sampled with a neuston or manta trawl net lined with 0.33 mm mesh. Given the very high level of spatial clumping in marine litter, large numbers of net tows are required to adequately characterize the average abundance of litter at sea. Long-term changes in plastic meso-litter have been reported using surface net tows: in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre in 1999, plastic abundance was 335,000 items/km2 and 5.1 kg/km2, roughly an order of magnitude greater than samples collected in the 1980s. Similar dramatic increases in plastic debris have been reported off Japan. However, caution is needed in interpreting such findings, because of the problems of extreme spatial heterogeneity, and the need to compare samples from equivalent water masses, which is to say that, if an examination of the same parcel of water a week apart is conducted, an order of magnitude change in plastic concentration could be observed.— Ryan et al
In August 2009, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography/Project Kaisei SEAPLEX survey mission of the Gyre found that plastic debris was present in 100 consecutive samples taken at varying depths and net sizes along a path of 1,700 miles (2,700 km) through the patch. The survey found that, although the patch contains large pieces, it is on the whole made up of smaller items that increase in concentration toward the gyre's centre, and these 'confetti-like' pieces that are visible just beneath the surface suggests the affected area may be much smaller. 2009 data collected from Pacific albatross populations suggest the presence of two distinct debris zones.
In March 2018, The Ocean Cleanup published a paper summarizing their findings from the Mega- (2015) and Aerial Expedition (2016). In 2015, the organization crossed the Great Pacific garbage patch with 30 vessels, to make observations and take samples with 652 survey nets. They collected a total of 1.2 million pieces, which they counted and categorized into their respective size classes. In order to also account for the larger, but more rare debris, they also overflew the patch in 2016 with a C-130 Hercules aircraft, equipped with LiDAR sensors. The findings from the two expeditions, found that the patch covers 1.6 million square kilometers with a concentration of 10–100 kg per square kilometer. They estimate an 80,000 metric tons in the patch, with 1.8 trillion plastic pieces, out of which 92% of the mass is to be found in objects larger than 0.5 centimeters.
While "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" is a term often used by the media, it does not paint an accurate picture of the marine debris problem in the North Pacific Ocean. The name "Pacific Garbage Patch" has led many to believe that this area is a large and continuous patch of easily visible marine debris items such as bottles and other litter – akin to a literal island of trash that should be visible with satellite or aerial photographs. This is not the case.— Ocean Facts, National Ocean Service
The patch is one of several oceanic regions where researchers have studied the effects and impact of plastic photodegradation in the neustonic layer of water.Unlike organic debris, which biodegrades, plastic disintegrates into ever smaller pieces while remaining a polymer (without changing chemically). This process continues down to the molecular level. Some plastics decompose within a year of entering the water, releasing potentially toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A, PCBs and derivatives of polystyrene. As the plastic flotsam photodegrades into smaller and smaller pieces, it concentrates in the upper water column. As it disintegrates, the pieces become small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms that reside near the ocean's surface. Plastic may become concentrated in neuston, thereby entering the food chain.
Disintegration means that much of the plastic is too small to be seen. In a 2001 study, researchers kg (11.3 lbs) per km2, in the neuston. The overall concentration of plastics was seven times greater than the concentration of zooplankton in many of the sampled areas. Samples collected deeper in the water column found much lower concentrations of plastic particles (primarily monofilament fishing line pieces).found concentrations of plastic particles at 334,721 pieces per km2 with a mean mass of 5.1
The United Nations Ocean Conference estimated that the oceans might contain more weight in plastics than fish by the year 2050.Some long-lasting plastics end up in the stomachs of marine animals. Plastic attracts seabirds and fish. When marine life consumes plastic allowing it to enter the food chain, this can lead to greater problems when species that have consumed plastic are then eaten by other predators.
Animals can also become trapped in plastic nets and rings, which can cause death. Plastic pollution affects at least 700 marine species, including sea turtles, seals and sea lions, seabirds, fish, and whales and dolphins.Cetaceans have been sighted within the patch, which poses entanglement and ingestion risks to animals using the Great Pacific garbage patch as a migration corridor or core habitat.
Affected species include sea turtles and the black-footed albatross. Midway Atoll receives substantial amounts of marine debris from the patch.
Of the 1.5 million Laysan albatrosses that inhabit Midway Atoll, nearly all are likely to have plastic in their gastrointestinal tract.Approximately one-third of their chicks die, and many of those deaths are from plastic unwittingly fed to them by their parents. Twenty tons of plastic debris washes up on Midway every year with five tons ending up in the bellies of albatross chicks. Fish and whales may also mistake the plastic as a food source.
On the microscopic level, debris can absorb organic pollutants from seawater, including PCBs, DDT and PAHs.Aside from toxic effects, some of these are mistaken by the endocrine system as estradiol, disrupting hormone levels in affected animals. These toxin-containing plastic pieces are also eaten by jellyfish, which are then eaten by fish and then by humans.
Marine plastics facilitate the spread of invasive species that attach to floating plastic in one region and drift long distances to colonize other ecosystems.Debris affects at least 267 species worldwide.
Increasing microplastic concentrations have released the insect Halobates sericeus from substrate limitation. A positive correlation between H. sericeus and microplastic was observed, along with increasing H. sericeus egg densities.
In oceanography, a gyre is any large system of circulating ocean currents, particularly those involved with large wind movements. Gyres are caused by the Coriolis effect; planetary vorticity, horizontal friction and vertical friction determine the circulatory patterns from the wind stress curl (torque).
Marine debris, also known as marine litter, is human-created waste that has deliberately or accidentally been released in a sea or ocean. Floating oceanic debris tends to accumulate at the center of gyres and on coastlines, frequently washing aground, when it is known as beach litter or tidewrack. Deliberate disposal of wastes at sea is called ocean dumping. Naturally occurring debris, such as driftwood, are also present.
Marine pollution occurs when harmful effects result from the entry into the ocean of chemicals, particles, industrial, agricultural and residential waste, noise, or the spread of invasive organisms. Eighty percent of marine pollution comes from land. Air pollution is also a contributing factor by carrying off iron, carbonic acid, nitrogen, silicon, sulfur, pesticides or dust particles into the ocean. Land and air pollution have proven to be harmful to marine life and its habitats.
Plastic resin pellet pollution is a type of marine debris originating from plastic particles utilized in manufacturing large-scale plastics. These pre-production plastic pellets are created separately from the user plastics they are melted down to form, and pellet loss is incurred during both the manufacturing and transport stages. Commonly referred to as nurdles, these plastics are released into the open environment, creating pollution in the oceans and on beaches.
Plastic soup is a term referring to pollution of the sea by plastics in general, ranging from large pieces of fishing gear that can entrap marine animals to the microplastics and nanoplastics that result from the breakdown or photodegradation of plastic waste in surface waters, rivers or oceans.
Kamilo Beach, is a beach located on the southeast coast of the island of Hawaii. It is known for its accumulation of plastic marine debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
C-MORE: SUPER HI-CAT
Charles J. Moore is an oceanographer and boat captain known for articles that recently brought attention to the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch', an area of the Pacific Ocean strewn with floating plastic debris caught in a gyre.
Project Kaisei is a scientific and commercial mission to study and clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a large body of floating debris trapped in the Pacific Ocean by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. Discovered by NOAA, the patch is estimated to contain 20 times the density of floating debris compared to the global average. The project aims to study the extent and nature of the debris with a view to capturing, detoxifying, and recycling the material, and is organised by the Ocean Voyages Institute, a California-based 501c3 non-profit organisation dealing with marine preservation. The project is based in San Francisco and Hong Kong.
The North Atlantic garbage patch is an area of man-made marine debris found floating within the North Atlantic Gyre, originally documented in 1972. Based on a 22-year research study conducted by the Sea Education Association, the patch is estimated to be hundreds of kilometers across in size, with a density of more than 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometer. The source of the garbage originates from human waste traveling from the rivers into the ocean and mainly consists of microplastics. The garbage patch is a large risk to wildlife and humans through plastic consumption and entanglement. There have only been a few awareness and clean-up efforts for the North Atlantic garbage patch such as The Garbage Patch State at UNESCO and The Ocean Cleanup, as most of the research and cleanup efforts have been done for the Great Pacific garbage patch, a similar garbage patch in the Great Pacific.
Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic that pollute the environment. Microplastics are not a specific kind of plastic, but rather any type of plastic fragment that is less than 5 mm in length according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the European Chemicals Agency. They enter natural ecosystems from a variety of sources, including cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes.
The Indian Ocean garbage patch, discovered in 2010, is a gyre of marine litter suspended in the upper water column of the central Indian Ocean, specifically the Indian Ocean Gyre, one of the five major oceanic gyres. The patch does not appear as a continuous debris field. As with other patches in each of the five oceanic gyres, the plastics in it break down to ever smaller particles, and to constituent polymers. As with the other patches, the field constitutes an elevated level of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge, and other debris; primarily particles that are invisible to the naked eye. The concentration of particle debris has been estimated to be approximately 10,000 particles per square kilometer.
A junk raft is a type of home-built watercraft made of plastic bottles or other recycled materials constructed by artists and community-minded groups organizing recreational flotillas, or by environmentally concerned individuals seeking to draw attention to the problem of floating debris and the need for recycling. It can also be an improvised small, functional watercraft from readily available materials.
Take 3 - A Clean Beach Initiative is a non-profit organisation based on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia. In 2009, two friends marine ecologist, Roberta Dixon-Valk and youth educator, Amanda Marechal developed Take 3 – an idea where a simple action could produce profound consequences. Joining forces with environmentalist, Tim Silverwood, the trio publicly launched Take 3 as an organisation in 2010.
The majority of environmental issues affecting Hawaii today are related to pressures from increasing human and animal population and urban expansion both directly on the islands as well as overseas. These include tourism, urbanization, climate change implications, pollution, invasive species, etc.
Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic objects and particles in the Earth's environment that adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat, and humans. Plastics that act as pollutants are categorized into micro-, meso-, or macro debris, based on size. Plastics are inexpensive and durable, and as a result levels of plastic production by humans are high. However, the chemical structure of most plastics renders them resistant to many natural processes of degradation and as a result they are slow to degrade. Together, these two factors have led to a high prominence of plastic pollution in the environment.
The 5 Gyres Institute is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that focuses on reducing plastics pollution by focusing on primary research. Programs concentrate on science, education and adventure. Since 2017, 5 Gyres has been in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The organization's 2015 Expedition was featured in the 2017 documentary "Smog of the Sea," produced by Jack Johnson, who participated in the voyage.
Plastisphere is a term used to refer to ecosystems that have evolved to live in human-made plastic environments.
The Ocean Cleanup is a nonprofit engineering environmental organization based in the Netherlands, that develops technology to extract plastic pollution from the oceans and intercept it in rivers before it can reach the ocean. After testing and prototyping in the North Sea they deployed their first full-scale prototype in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It ran into difficulty after two months and was towed to Hawaii for inspection and repair. In June 2019, their second prototype system was deployed.
The South Pacific garbage patch is an area of ocean with increased levels of marine debris and plastic particle pollution, within the ocean's pelagic zone. This area is in the South Pacific Gyre, which itself spans from waters east of Australia to the South American continent, as far north as the Equator, and south until reaching the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The degradation of plastics in the ocean also leads to a rise in the level of toxics in the area. The garbage patch was confirmed in mid-2017, and has been compared to the Great Pacific garbage patch's state in 2007, making the former ten years younger. The South Pacific garbage patch is impossible to detect using satellites, or other visual means as most particles are smaller than a grain of rice.
China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are dumping more plastic into oceans than the rest of the world combined, according to a 2017 report by Ocean Conservancy
China was responsible for the most ocean plastic pollution per year with an estimated 2.4 million tons, about 30 percent of the global total, followed by Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria and Bangladesh.
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