The Plastic Shore: Waste Build-up in the North Pacific Ocean, Twice the Size of Texas
October 8, 2010
We’ve heard the facts. We’ve seen the signals. We listen to scientists time and time again list the numbers: 500 to 1,000 years it takes for plastic to decompose, 1,000,000 years for a plastic bottle to decompose. Yet what we don’t know is that since the 1950’s in the middle of the Pacific Ocean a continent twice the size of Texas is growing at a rapid pace completely composed by garbage and plastic waste.
Generally referred to as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” this island sits in the untouched waters between Hawaii and North America’s western coast. Plastic waste and other non degradable materials are being swept into the North Pacific gyre, a vortex of rotating ocean currents that’s roughly 12,000 miles long. The counterclockwise motion of the gyre deposits waste into the center of the Garbage Patch which consists of about 80 percent plastic.
Plastic waste is mistakenly perceived as biodegradable when in reality it is photodegradable, which means sunlight breaks the waste into smaller pieces that are ingested by organisms. These miniscule organisms are then hunted by larger fish that are in turn digested by humans. The plastic debris releases a toxic chemical known as Bisphenol A (BPA) which scientists have linked to reproductive problems, liver and kidney disease, and diabetes.
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