Who’s To Blame For The Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Look In The Mirror.

The slowly moving, perpetually undulating mass of pastel and primary colored plastic trash that bobs up and down in the middle of the ocean is perhaps one of the biggest man made eyesores of its …

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The slowly moving, perpetually undulating mass of pastel and primary colored plastic trash that bobs up and down in the middle of the ocean is perhaps one of the biggest man made eyesores of its kind aside from the infinite landfills of rotting post consumer waste that continue to dot our landscape. We’ve seen photos and video footage documenting the existance of this aquatic nightmare and every single one of us probably understands the correlation between our consumer obsession with plastic and what happens when we discard the temporary fixtures of our lives. For years, human beings have purged ships and boats of their excess plastic waste. We’ve conveniently forgotten to clean up after ourselves following long, lazy days at the beach. Countless plastic shopping bags, one-time-use plastic water bottles and beverage caps have been wind-swept from the pavement (where we dropped them) into overflowing sewage systems or carried there following rain storms.

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Our rational minds may tell us that a state-sized mass of plastic trash does not belong in the middle of the ocean and our mouths may even fall agape at the sight of hard to fathom images of the chunky plastic buouyant soup. In spite of the shock that may radiate through our systems, every single one of us is to blame for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’s existance. Scoff if you will. Cling onto the fact that you are a diligent recycler — go ahead and pound your chest while proudly declaring that you gave up bottled water one year ago and that reusable bags are your thing. You can itemize all of the personal efforts you’ve made to positively impact the environment but the bottom line is that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the result of society’s carelessness, and as a member of the human race, every single one of us is to blame.

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There is now so much plastic waste clogging the ocean 1,000 miles north of Hawaii that scientists estimate it is now about twice the size of Texas. This is hardly accidental, unless you consider apathy and outright littering a chronic mistake that has been coincidentally repeated ad nauseum by the large majority of our population. Perhaps it is a symptom of our cultural ignorance or it demonstrates the general lack of regard that humans have for what happens beyond our own small sphere.  How many times have you or someone else you know uttered such phrases as: “I’m too busy.” “It’s not my fault in the first place.” “Let someone else deal with it.” “I’ve never thrown out a single piece of plastic in my life, so don’t look at me.” “There’s no recycling service in my neck of the woods.” “I don’t live in the middle of the ocean, so why should I care?”

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 Not only is it our problem, we’ve got to stop passing the buck and presuming that someone else will take care of this mess. It may be unreasonable to suggest that everyone should start paddling out into the middle of the ocean on their weekends and dragging as much plastic trash as they can back to the mainland for proper recycling — that job is perhaps best left to marine scientists who must figure out how on Earth they can resolve this ecological problem as effectively as possible. In the meantime, we can’t allow these images to fade from our minds because they serve to remind us that our daily eco-friendly efforts can make a huge difference. Stay away from non-recyclable plastic products and make sure that every single piece of plastic that does enter your household leaves in a recycling container or is repurposed in a responsible manner. Pick up plastic “junk” that is discarded in public places and relocate it to a proper recycling bin. Shift your household over to more eco-friendly alternatives such as glass, wood and ceramic. Stop thinking that recycling one bag or cap is not going to make a difference. Clearly, it all adds up over time…just take a good long look at what is clogged in the middle of the ocean for all the proof that you’ll ever need.

The Top 10 Facts About the Great Pacific Garbage Patch:

  1. Each year, 10% of the 200 billion pounds of plastic produced globally ends up in our oceans and now, roughly 46,000 pieces of plastic litter are floating on every square mile of the ocean.
  2. A 1,700 mile mass of plastic garbage sits in the middle of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a slowly moving, clockwise spiral of ocean currents.
  3. The gyre actually consists of two large masses of ever-accumulating trash, the Western Pacific patch (located east of Japan and west of Hawaii) and the Eastern Pacific patch (floating between Hawaii and California).
  4. Both zones form what is referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and they are connected by a thin 6,000-mile long current called the Subtropical Convergence Zone.
  5. The mass moves seasonally as much as a thousand miles North and South in the Pacific while in warmer El Nino periods, it drifts even further South.
  6. Approximately 3.5 million tons of plastic waste can be found in this water-bound waste zone.
  7. 90 percent of all trash floating in the world’s oceans is plastic-based and some of the most common items found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch include toothbrushes, wrappers, bottle caps, plastic shopping bags, pacifiers, old toys, fishing floats, soda bottles, Styrofoam chunks, tangled nets and even patio chairs.
  8. The plastic pieces in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch contain toxic elements able to absorb other chemicals such as DDT and PCBs, and these components can persist in the environment for decades.
  9. 100,000 marine mammals each year — such as sea turtles, seals and birds — are the victims of plastic trash-related deaths because they consume or become entangled in the waste.
  10. There are up to six pounds of marine litter for every pound of plankton in the ocean.

The Story of Stuff

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.