Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Pacific Garbage Patch

Did you know there's a huge patch of mostly plastic debris - pop bottles, old toys, etc. - about twice the size of Texas sitting in the Pacific Ocean about 1000km north of Hawaii?

If ever there was a reason for us to change our ways, this is it.

An expedition just returned from the most extensive study of the Patch yet and what they found most shocking was the incredible amount of tiny, confetti-like pieces of broken plastic they found floating in the water. They took hundreds of water samples between the Farallon Islands off San Francisco and the Patch and in every one found tiny, confetti-like pieces of plastic. As they got closer to the Patch the more plastic pieces per gallon they found.

Researchers also saw jellyfish eating the bits of plastic. Of great concern is the fact that jellyfish are eaten by fish like tuna, that in turn, we eat.

The exact boundaries of the Patch are unknown. It cannot be seen from the air or by satellite as most of the plastic in the Patch has been broken down into billions of little pieces that sit just below the ocean's surface. Scientists believe that this garbage washes down drains and rivers from places like the San Francisco Bay area and Japan into several large currents that eventually swirl together.

Read more about the Patch and the expedition's findings here. The photo above shows some of the debris brought back by the expedition.

In light of the Patch, we think choosing reusable shopping bags, food containers, water bottles, sandwich wraps is no longer a 'should do' but a 'must-do'.

If you have any thoughts or comments on The Pacific Garbage Patch, we'd love to hear from you! Just leave a comment below.

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