Garbage patch

Summary

A garbage patch is a gyre of marine debris particles caused by the effects of ocean currents and increasing plastic pollution by human populations. These human-caused collections of plastic and other debris, cause ecosystem and environmental problems that affect marine life, contaminate oceans with toxic chemicals, and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Once waterborne, marine debris becomes mobile. Flotsam can be blown by the wind, or follow the flow of ocean currents, often ending up in the middle of oceanic gyres where currents are weakest. Garbage patches grow because of widespread loss of plastic from human trash collection systems.

The United Nations Environmental Program estimated that "for every square mile of ocean" there are about "46,000 pieces of plastic."[1] The 10 largest emitters of oceanic plastic pollution worldwide are, from the most to the least, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Bangladesh,[2] largely through the rivers Yangtze, Indus, Yellow, Hai, Nile, Ganges, Pearl, Amur, Niger, and the Mekong, and accounting for "90 percent of all the plastic that reaches the world's oceans."[3][4] Asia was the leading source of mismanaged plastic waste, with China alone accounting for 2.4 million metric tons.[5]

The best known of these is the Great Pacific garbage patch which has the highest density of marine debris and plastic. Other identified patches include the North Atlantic garbage patch between North America and Africa, the South Atlantic garbage patch located between eastern South America and the tip of Africa, the South Pacific garbage patch located west of South America, and the Indian Ocean garbage patch found east of south Africa listed in order of decreasing size.[6] In the Pacific Gyre, specifically 20°N-40°N latitude, large bodies with floating marine debris can be found.[7] Models of wind patterns and ocean currents indicate that the plastic waste in the northern Pacific is particularly dense where the Subtropical Convergence Zone (STCZ), meets a southwest–northeast line, found north of the Hawaiian archipelago.[7]

In the Pacific, there are two mass buildups: the western garbage patch and the eastern garbage patch, the former off the coast of Japan and the latter between Hawaii and California. The two garbage patches are both part of the great Pacific garbage patch, and are connected through a section of plastic debris off the northern coast of the Hawaiian islands. These garbage patches contain 90 million tonnes (100 million short tons) of debris.[7] The waste is not compact, and although most of it is near the surface of the pacific, it can be found up to more than 30 metres (100 ft) deep in the water.[7]

2017 research [8] reported "the highest density of plastic rubbish anywhere in the world" on remote and uninhabited Henderson Island in South Pacific as a result of the South Pacific Gyre. The beaches contain an estimated 37.7 million items of debris together weighing 17.6 tonnes. In a study transect on North Beach, each day 17 to 268 new items washed up on a 10-metre section.[9][10][11]

Identified patchesEdit

 
Of the five gyres on this map, all have significant garbage patches.

In 2014, there were five areas across all the oceans where the majority of plastic concentrated.[12] Researchers collected a total of 3070 samples across the world to identify hot spots of surface level plastic pollution. The pattern of distribution closely mirrored models of oceanic currents with the North Pacific Gyre, or Great Pacific Garbage Patch, being the highest density of plastic accumulation. The other four garbage patches include the North Atlantic garbage patch between the North America and Africa, the South Atlantic garbage patch located between eastern South America and the tip of Africa, the South Pacific garbage patch located west of South America, and the Indian Ocean garbage patch found east of south Africa.[12]

Great PacificEdit

The Great Pacific garbage patch (also Pacific trash vortex) is a garbage patch, 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.[13] The collection of plastic and floating trash originates from the Pacific Rim, including countries in Asia, North America, and South America.[14] The gyre is divided into two areas, the "Eastern Garbage Patch" from California to Hawaii, and the "Western Garbage Patch" extending from Hawaii to Japan.

Despite the common public perception of the patch existing as giant islands of floating garbage, its low density (4 particles per cubic metre (3.1/cu yd)) 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"—often microscopic—particles in the upper water column known as microplastics.[15] Researchers from The Ocean Cleanup project claimed that the patch covers 1.6 million square kilometres (620 thousand square miles).[16] 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." 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."[15]

Research indicates that the patch is rapidly accumulating.[17] The patch is believed to have increased "10-fold each decade" since 1945.[18] Estimated to be double the size of Texas, the area contains more than 3 million short tons (2.7 million metric tons) of plastic.[19] The gyre contains approximately six pounds of plastic for every pound of plankton.[20] A similar patch of floating plastic debris is found in the Atlantic Ocean, called the North Atlantic garbage patch.[21][22] This growing patch contributes to other environmental damage to marine ecosystems and species.

South PacificEdit

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.[23] The degradation of plastics in the ocean also leads to a rise in the level of toxics in the area.[24] 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[when?] impossible to detect using satellites, or other visual means as most particles are smaller than a grain of rice.[citation needed]

Indian OceanEdit

The Indian Ocean garbage patch, discovered in 2010, is a marine garbage patch, 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.[25][26][27][28][29][30] 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.[31] 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.[32][33][34][35]

North AtlanticEdit

The North Atlantic garbage patch is a garbage patch of man-made marine debris found floating within the North Atlantic Gyre, originally documented in 1972.[36] 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.[37][38][39][40] The source of the garbage originates from human waste traveling from the rivers into the ocean and mainly consists of microplastics.[41] The garbage patch is a large risk to wildlife and humans through plastic consumption and entanglement.[42] 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.[43][44]

Environmental issuesEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Maser, Chris (2014). Interactions of Land, Ocean and Humans: A Global Perspective. CRC Press. pp. 147–48. ISBN 978-1482226393.
  2. ^ Jambeck, Jenna R.; Geyer, Roland; Wilcox, Chris (12 February 2015). "Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean" (PDF). Science. 347 (6223): 769. Bibcode:2015Sci...347..768J. doi:10.1126/science.1260352. PMID 25678662. S2CID 206562155. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  3. ^ Christian Schmidt; Tobias Krauth; Stephan Wagner (11 October 2017). "Export of Plastic Debris by Rivers into the Sea" (PDF). Environmental Science & Technology. 51 (21): 12246–12253. Bibcode:2017EnST...5112246S. doi:10.1021/acs.est.7b02368. PMID 29019247. The 10 top-ranked rivers transport 88–95% of the global load into the sea
  4. ^ Harald Franzen (30 November 2017). "Almost all plastic in the ocean comes from just 10 rivers". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 18 December 2018. It turns out that about 90 percent of all the plastic that reaches the world's oceans gets flushed through just 10 rivers: The Yangtze, the Indus, Yellow River, Hai River, the Nile, the Ganges, Pearl River, Amur River, the Niger, and the Mekong (in that order).
  5. ^ Robert Lee Hotz (13 February 2015). "Asia Leads World in Dumping Plastic in Seas". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 23 February 2015.
  6. ^ Cózar, Andrés; Echevarría, Fidel; González-Gordillo, J. Ignacio; Irigoien, Xabier; Úbeda, Bárbara; Hernández-León, Santiago; Palma, Álvaro T.; Navarro, Sandra; García-de-Lomas, Juan; Ruiz, Andrea; Fernández-de-Puelles, María L. (2014-07-15). "Plastic debris in the open ocean". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111 (28): 10239–10244. Bibcode:2014PNAS..11110239C. doi:10.1073/pnas.1314705111. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 4104848. PMID 24982135.
  7. ^ a b c d "Marine Debris in the North Pacific A Summary of Existing Information and Identification of Data Gaps" (PDF). United States Environmental Protection Agency. 24 July 2015.
  8. ^ Lavers, Jennifer L.; Bond, Alexander L. (2017). "Exceptional and rapid accumulation of anthropogenic debris on one of the world's most remote and pristine islands". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 114 (23): 6052–55. doi:10.1073/pnas.1619818114. PMC 5468685. PMID 28507128.
  9. ^ Remote South Pacific island has highest levels of plastic rubbish in the world, Dani Cooper, ABC News Online, 16 May 2017
  10. ^ Hunt, Elle (15 May 2017). "38 million pieces of plastic waste found on uninhabited South Pacific island". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  11. ^ "No one lives on this remote Pacific island – but it's covered in 38 million pieces of our trash". Washington Post. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  12. ^ a b Cózar, Andrés; Echevarría, Fidel; González-Gordillo, J. Ignacio; Irigoien, Xabier; Úbeda, Bárbara; Hernández-León, Santiago; Palma, Álvaro T.; Navarro, Sandra; García-de-Lomas, Juan; Ruiz, Andrea; Fernández-de-Puelles, María L. (2014-07-15). "Plastic debris in the open ocean". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111 (28): 10239–10244. Bibcode:2014PNAS..11110239C. doi:10.1073/pnas.1314705111. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 4104848. PMID 24982135.
  13. ^ See the relevant sections below for specific references concerning the discovery and history of the patch. A general overview is provided in Dautel, Susan L. "Transoceanic Trash: International and United States Strategies for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch", 3 Golden Gate U. Envtl. L.J. 181 (2007).
  14. ^ "World's largest collection of ocean garbage is twice the size of Texas". USA Today. Archived from the original on 15 February 2020. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  15. ^ a b Philp, Richard B. (2013). Ecosystems and Human Health: Toxicology and Environmental Hazards, Third Edition. CRC Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-1466567214.
  16. ^ Albeck-Ripka, Livia (22 March 2018). "The 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' Is Ballooning, 87,000,000,000 Tons of Plastic and Counting". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 11 January 2020. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  17. ^ Lebreton, L.; Slat, B.; Ferrari, F.; Sainte-Rose, B.; Aitken, J.; Marthouse, R.; Hajbane, S.; Cunsolo, S.; Schwarz, A. (22 March 2018). "Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic". Scientific Reports. 8 (1): 4666. Bibcode:2018NatSR...8.4666L. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-22939-w. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 5864935. PMID 29568057.
  18. ^ Maser, Chris (2014). Interactions of Land, Ocean and Humans: A Global Perspective. CRC Press. pp. 147–48. ISBN 978-1482226393.
  19. ^ "Congress acts to clean up the ocean – A garbage patch in the Pacific is at least triple the size of Texas, but some estimates put it larger than the continental United States". The Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on 5 October 2008. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  20. ^ "Great Pacific garbage patch: Plastic turning vast area of ocean into ecological nightmare". Santa Barbara News-Press. Archived from the original on 12 September 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  21. ^ Lovett, Richard A. (2 March 2010). "Huge Garbage Patch Found in Atlantic Too". National Geographic News. National Geographic Society. Archived from the original on 5 March 2010. Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  22. ^ Victoria Gill (24 February 2010). "Plastic rubbish blights Atlantic Ocean". BBC. Archived from the original on 27 August 2017. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  23. ^ "South Pacific Gyre - Correntes Oceânicas". Google Sites.
  24. ^ Barry, Carolyn (20 August 2009). "Plastic Breaks Down in Ocean, After All And Fast". National Geographic Society.
  25. ^ "Ocean Geography ~ MarineBio Conservation Society". www.marinebio.org. Retrieved 2021-09-17.
  26. ^ First Voyage to South Atlantic Pollution Site SustainableBusiness.com News access-date=10 December 2021
  27. ^ New garbage patch discovered in Indian Ocean, Lori Bongiorno, Green Yahoo, 27 July 2010
  28. ^ Opinion: Islands are 'natural nets' for plastic-choked seas Archived 6 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine Marcus Eriksen for CNN, Petroleum, CNN Tech 24 June 2010
  29. ^ Our Ocean Backyard: Exploring plastic seas Archived 20 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Dan Haifley, 15 May 2010, Santa Cruz Sentinel
  30. ^ Life aquatic choked by plastic 14 November 2010, Times Live
  31. ^ Moore, Charles (November 2003). "Across the Pacific Ocean, plastics, plastics, everywhere". Natural History Magazine. Archived from the original on 2009-07-06.
  32. ^ Sesini, Marzia (August 2011). "The Garbage Patch In The Oceans: The Problem And Possible Solutions" (PDF). Columbia University.
  33. ^ For a discussion of the current sampling techniques and particle size, see Peter Ryan, Charles Moore et al., Monitoring the abundance of plastic debris in the marine environment. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 27 July 2009 vol. 364 no. 1526 1999–2012, doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0207
  34. ^ "OSU: Reports of giant ocean 'garbage patch' are exaggerated". 4 January 2011. Archived from the original on 14 February 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
  35. ^ Transoceanic Trash: International and United States Strategies for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Susan L. Dautel, 3 Golden Gate U. Envtl. L.J. 181 (2009)
  36. ^ Carpenter, E.J.; Smith, K.L. (1972). "Plastics on the Sargasso Sea Surface, in Science". Science. 175 (4027): 1240–1241. doi:10.1126/science.175.4027.1240. PMID 5061243.
  37. ^ "Mānoa: UH Mānoa scientist predicts plastic garbage patch in Atlantic Ocean | University of Hawaii News". manoa.hawaii.edu. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  38. ^ Steve, By (4 August 2009). "Scientists study huge ocean garbage patch". Perthnow.com.au. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  39. ^ "Scientists find giant plastic rubbish dump floating in the Atlantic". Perthnow.com.au. 26 February 2010. Archived from the original on 14 April 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  40. ^ Gill, Victoria (24 February 2010). "Plastic rubbish blights Atlantic Ocean". BBC News. Retrieved 10 May 2012.
  41. ^ Orcutt, Mike (2010-08-19). "How Bad Is the Plastic Pollution in the Atlantic?". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  42. ^ Sigler, Michelle (2014-10-18). "The Effects of Plastic Pollution on Aquatic Wildlife: Current Situations and Future Solutions". Water, Air, & Soil Pollution. 225 (11): 2184. doi:10.1007/s11270-014-2184-6. ISSN 1573-2932.
  43. ^ "The garbage patch territory turns into a new state - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization". unesco.org.
  44. ^ "About". The Ocean Cleanup. Retrieved 2019-11-08.