Trash Islands: Where Will Your Holiday Gifts End Up?
A scant 1,000 miles off the coast of paradise an atrocity of human making mars the beauty of the Pacific Ocean. Covering a space twice the size of Texas—yes Texas—and growing each year, is an island of trash. According to the National Geographic, marine chemist Giora Proskurowski says waves can carry the debris as deep as sixty-five feet. It is being called by many, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But such an unassuming name hardly seems accurate for a festering wound that is poisoning one of our largest bodies of water. Changing ocean currents have even littered some of this trash onto the beaches of Hawaii.
Everything from fishing nets and buoys to glass and rope can be found in these islands. But the most prevalent item among them is plastic, much of which is the size of grains of rice. Plastic absorbs toxic chemicals from the trash that cannot dissolve in water and it gets transferred into algae and plankton that live on or near the trash. According to scientists from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation that means fish that feed on them, take in the plastic and toxins. Then of course any of those fish we eat, can transfer that to us. Marine life can also get caught up in this trash. Old fishing nets, ropes, plastic pop can rings and much more can endanger or otherwise inhibit animals. It is especially troublesome to endangered sea turtles.
Unfortunately, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not an anomaly. There is another, this one forming in the Atlantic Ocean. Scientists say there are likely more whose location is harder to pin down because they move with the tides. Without a more aggressive approach to recycling, and an awareness of where our trash goes, this problem can only grow worse. So when you’re shopping this holiday season, don’t forget your re-usable bags, and don’t forget to recycle everything you can that comes out from under your tree.
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-Written by Heather M.