Jul 31, 2017

The Menace of the Pacific Garbage Patch

The planet is in the grip of a major sanitation crisis. Not only are landfills running out of room, the waste we have dumped in the oceans over the decades has collected into huge masses of non-biodegradable trash, like plastic bottles. Sargasso Sea garbage levels are of particular concern. The clockwise tides of the surrounding Atlantic Ocean cause plastic to become enmeshed with the area’s sargassum sea weed.

Known as the North Atlantic Garbage Patch, these floating islands of trash have been around for decades. However, it has been in the past decade or so that they have reached truly daunting sizes and are causing a great deal of concern. Fish and other marine life can mistake these bits of trash for food and swallow them. That often leads to gastronomical distress and even death. Only about 1/3 of the trash floats at the surface; the rest sits on the bottom of the ocean.

Humans produce well over 100 billion pounds of plastic every year and about 10% of that ends up being dumped in the ocean. Scientists are at a loss as to how to clean it up. Snaring the garbage seems like the logical answer, but a huge number of small marine animals would undoubtedly also perish. That could cause even greater eco-system damage than the plastic.

Even if the waste could be collected without throwing off the oceans’ balance to such a degree, there is the tough question of what to do with it. With regular landfills already full to bursting, where would these billions of other tons of plastic go?

These questions need answers and scientists around the world are working on this very real problem. In the meantime, you can do your part by not contributing any more waste than there already is out there. Don’t pollute, especially in the water.

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