Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described North Pacific Gyre, is a collection of marine debris in the central North Pacific Ocean located roughly between 135° to 155°W and 35° to 42°N. The patch is characterized by exceptionally high concentrations of suspended plastic and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific.
Covering an area approximating ten million square miles, it is roughly the size of Texas. It contains approximately 3.5 million tons of trash, including shoes, toys, bags, pacifiers, wrappers, toothbrushes, and bottles too numerous to count. First discovered in 1988, the size of the patch has roughly doubled in the last five years.
There are eleven gyres of plastic in the world's oceans. While the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest, it is by no means an isolated problem.
Experts estimate that the annual global production of plastic, which was only 15 billion pounds in 1970, will by 2010 increase to 120 billion pounds. Because only three to five percent of plastics are recyclable, the size of the patch is likely to increase.
Extensive research has been conducted by oceanographers and marine biologists clearly linking the high levels of plastic in the ocean to our food supply. Plastic does not biodegrade. It becomes brittle from the sun's UV rays, eventually breaking into smaller pieces, much like the way coral becomes grains of sand. Ultimately this plastic gets ingested by invertebrates at the base of the food chain. The toxicity levels of bryozoans, barnacles, polychaete worms, hydroids and mollusks found in the gyre are evidence of the absurdly high cost we will bear for poisoning the food chain in our planet's oceans.
The existence of the grye received wider public and scientific attention after it was documented in several articles written by Charles Moore, a California-based sea captain and ocean researcher. Moore, through his research organization, Algalita, continues to work to resolve these and other issues related to plastic in our oceans.