From time to time, the pitfalls of our disposable society and its failure to properly recycle can come to light in a big way. Research teams recently presented findings detailing the discovery of a tremendous “garbage patch” occupying thousands of square miles of the Atlantic Ocean.
A similar concentration of ocean-going trash, twice the size of Texas, was found in the Pacific in 1997. These gigantic garbage collections form when various ocean currents converge in one place, carrying millions of tons of non-biodegradable materials along with them.
The result is a vast stew of debris, mostly plastic, lurking on and below the surface on a massive scale. Although it lies far out to sea, the material still has the potential to affect our natural resources and possibly even impact economic conditions by killing food sources.
Over a decade ago, when the Pacific patch was discovered between Hawaii and California, it was speculated that others were quite likely to exist in other places around the world. The newly found Atlantic mess not only confirms the theory, but also indicates the possibility that others have also been created or could develop.
It is estimated that 80% of the trash comes from land-based origins. Carelessly discarded items find their way into streams and rivers and are eventually washed out to sea. The plastics eventually break down into tiny particles, but they do not fully decompose and simply collect into vast murky pools of manmade scum.
Because of the quirky ocean currents, debris of all sorts has been accumulating there for hundreds of years. Dead spots in the currents provide final resting places for the wayward refuse. However, the latest rubbish does not degrade and disappear. It continues to grow.
After the confirmation of the existence of not one, but two of these enormous floating, “garbage patch“, waste dumps, important questions are being asked. First of all, how big will they get? Secondly, how many more are out there around the globe? And most importantly, what steps can we take to prevent them?