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February 25, 2011 | By:  Samantha Jakuboski
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Garbage Dump in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean

Sometimes, people are lazy and don't want to get up and find a trash can. They think that if they throw their cigarette out the car window, spit their gum on the sidewalk, let a few napkins get carried away by the wind, or toss an empty plastic bottle in the gutter, nothing will happen. After all, how can this one piece of trash cause any harm to our environment? Well, all this trash has to build up someplace or another and in 1997 Charles Moore discovered where most of it has accumulated - in the middle of our ocean. It's a garbage patch so big that the state of Texas can fit into it twice. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

There are five major garbage patches in the world. The Pacific garbage patch, which is the largest of the five, is located 1,000 miles northeast of Hawaii. In some places, the patch can reach depths of up to 90 feet.

This patch consists of about 3.5 million tons of trash such as light bulbs, Styrofoam cups, plastic bags, bottle caps, Popsicle sticks, bottle, cans, fishing gear, nets, buoys, and even toothbrushes. Plastic makes up over 80% of the garbage floating around in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch because even though plastic can break down, it can never decompose and biodegrade fully. Therefore, it builds up very quickly, especially considering the fact that people all over the world use plastic in everyday non-usable items, such as water bottles. That means every plastic ounce that humans have made is still on this planet today, whether the pieces are microscopic or not. There are about 46,000 particles of plastic per every square kilometer in the ocean.

Fun Fact: New York Mayor Bloomberg is doing his part in reducing the amount of plastic New York is producing by ordering jugs of water instead of plastic water bottles for major events and parties such as his 2011 State of the City Address. Bloomberg is also a strong supporter in using re-usable bags to put groceries in.

Did you know that 10% of the plastic we make gets emptied into our oceans? When plastic finally breaks down, it causes trillions of plastic particles to float around in the ocean. This causes pollution in the oceans and has harmful effects on the sea life.

When fish eat plankton, they are ingesting the very small plastic particles floating around in the water. While conducting biopsies on the plankton and fish, scientists have also found that they have tiny particles of plastic in their tissue. These particles begin to accumulate in the sea life, which causes them to have a high level of toxic chemicals in their bodies and tissues. Then, when other fish eat the fish with the toxins inside their bodies, they absorb the plastic particles into their bodies, too. Plastic acts as poison, and millions of sea life have died already. The plastic works its way through the food chain, and without even knowing it, we humans might be absorbing the plastic particles from the fish we eat, too. The PCBs in the plastic in the fish cause people to get sick. This is why we have to protect our oceans, because the effects are huge and critical; our health is on the line!

Many people, including celebrities, are trying to help this urgent cause by getting people's attention on how important it is to protect the oceans. Many marine research organizations are also forming. One organization is trying to clean up the Pacific garbage patch by collecting the plastic in the patch, and turning it into diesel fuel. Edward Norton, a Hollywood star, did his part by telling the world to recycle plastic bags, since plastic bags are also in the ocean. He stressed the need to recycle, and how important it is to not litter. Charles Moore created the Algalita Foundation in 1994 to sample and study the Pacific garbage patch. The foundation examines plastic debris found in the ocean, samples the polluted ocean waters by the California coast and across the Pacific Ocean, and tests fish tissue to find out how much plastic is in their body. By collecting water samples, scientists are able to figure out the amount of plastic in a gyre and any raises of plastic or garbage in the water. By studying fish tissue, scientists discovered that one fish, a rainbow fish, had 84 pieces of plastic in its stomach. That is not healthy for the fish and we can prevent it if we do the right thing and take care of our oceans.

If we recycle garbage, and if we don't litter, then the oceans will be cleaner, and it will be better for the fish in the ocean and better for our health. Our life depends on the ocean, so we have to take care of it. Take the extra step to dispose of you trash the right way and help rid the world of "litter-bugs!"

Image source: Norway UN (via Flickr)


Grant, R. "Drowning in Plastic: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is Twice the Size of France." Telegraph. April 24, 2009.

Lee, J. "City Council Shuns Bottles in Favor of Water From Tap." New York Times. June 17, 2008.

"Sailing the Pacific on a Plastic Boat." Oprah Winfrey Show. April 22, 2010.

"Think Beyond Plastic" Great Garbage

Silverman, J. "Why is the World's Biggest Landfill in the Pacific Ocean?" How Stuff September 19, 2007.

February 26, 2011 | 02:46 PM
Posted By:  Sara El-Hennawy
I enjoyed reading your post Sam it was really inspiring. I think that as humans we should really be more cautious and caring of our environment. We need to keep in mind all the plastics that we dispose of and where they'll be going! Everyone needs to try using reusable water bottles and reusable shopping bags. There are a lot more ways where we can help out such as bringing reusuable cloth bags to shops, using scented candles instead of artificial air fresheners, and buying milk in glass or paper cartons. Another way we can all help out is by getting involved in our community. There are a lot of organizations that have ocean cleanup programs.
February 25, 2011 | 04:50 AM
Posted By:  Alice Harrison
Great post Sam! Before reading this post, I was unaware of the amount of pollution being let into our oceans. To be honest, I was completely unaware of the fact that there were any garbage patches in the ocean--let alone five of them! It is shocking that there is so much waste in our oceans. It is the duty of all people to take care of our environment in ways as simple as recycling or choosing not to litter. One easy way to limit plastic use that many people ignore is to try to avoid products that use plastic to begin with. Other ways include recycling old computer parts or cell phones and using a re-usable water bottle instead of drinking out of a plastic bottle. If everyone took action and did things as simple as those, we would be a huge step closer to reducing the amount of plastic that we use and one step closer to limiting the amount of waste that we release into our environment as a whole.
February 24, 2011 | 01:35 AM
Posted By:  deirdre o
Good job sam! I did research and found a couple of ways people around the world are reducing plastic intake. In some places, people are placing a 5 cent tax on supermarket bagging and have found use of the bags has gone down 50%! Some places are even banning plastic bagging in general. In London, they have even made an Unpacked supermarket, where things are sold unpackaged. Some streets in india have even been made from recycled plastic!
February 24, 2011 | 01:23 AM
Posted By:  Jessica Khrakovsky
Great post, Samantha! However, it truly shocked me. I never knew just how much trash filled the ocean. The statistics are awful and shameful to people everywhere. The amount of pollution is too extreme to believe and everyone should take note of this. Being a citizen of New York myself, I think that mayor Bloomberg is doing an excellent deed by setting an example for the rest of the world by reducing the superfluous usage of plastic. Bottled water isn't served at city council events any more in attempt to save plastic.
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