Many of us know—or have at least heard—about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But on our worry scale, it probably ranks right up there with an alien abduction. It should register “urgent.”
This floating dump is mucking up things big time in the north Pacific, about 2000 miles off the California coast a few hundred miles north of Hawaii. If you’re in the neighborhood, you can’t miss it. Some estimates show the patch to be twice the size of Texas—and growing.
It’s definitely a Texas-style trash pile. Weight/volume measurements run as high as 3.5 million tons—much of it wind-blown, thrown, or pumped into the sea primarily from coastal areas of North America and Japan.
Currents carry the stuff to a circular ocean current known as a vortex, which is the site of the beast.
More than a huge hunk of garbage, it’s also a floating burial site. Each year, non-biodegradable plastic, long-lasting Styrofoam and other indigestible materials choke or poison to death over a million birds, according to the non-profit advocacy group Environment California.
Approximately 100,000 mammals and sea turtles meet the same fate. Nor do we get a free pass. Fish by the thousands ingest the patch’s toxic waste and become unsafe for human consumption.
To many observers, this seagoing cancer looks like it’s here to stay. Supporters of the Great Pacific Cleanup Campaign, sponsored by Environment California, don’t buy that.
An April 22 email I received from Dan Jacobson, EC’s Legislative Director, highlights the campaign’s anti-garbage patch lobbying activities.
A key objective, Jacobson noted, is “to stop the flow of plastic pollution that’s littering our beaches and killing ocean wildlife.” Since floating plastic is the main ingredient of the patch, success in this area would slow its growth considerably. No wonder the campaign has drummed up so much support.
—40 California municipalities now ban plastic and Styrofoam, thanks in large part to EC’s campaign stressing the seriousness of the situation.
—In April Santa Clara and Santa Cruz became the latest additions to the growing list of California counties that ban plastic shopping bags. Chalk up two more campaign victories.
—Efforts are underway to collect 30,000 signed postcards urging Governor Schwarzenegger to support a statewide ban on plastic grocery bags.
EC is also taking shots at the Styrofoam build-up by lobbying California lawmakers to ban single-use Styrofoam take-out containers. In addition, mayors and other officials are being urged to enact bans now in local communities.
Meanwhile, another sizeable garbage patch has been discovered in the north Atlantic. And trash litters beaches everywhere.
The problem has gone global. Want to be part of a possible solution? Visit: