There is an island of garbage in the Pacific Ocean that is nearly twice the size of Texas. While it is not the only garbage patch, or trash vortex in the world, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest accumulation of garbage on earth and it is getting larger every day. Litter from Los Angeles to Japan ends up in the ocean and accumulates in one large heap due to ocean currents. Although the patch is the result of worldwide neglect, it seems that nobody wants to take responsibility for it. The great Pacific Garbage Patch is a stain on the Earth and an embarrassment to humanity. Worldwide attention needs to be given to cleaning up the patch to prevent planet-altering consequences.
Human beings make a lot of trash. In an article on ocean debris, National Geographic reported that roughly eight million tons of plastic made its way into the ocean. That is eight million tons of potential microplastic fibers. Microplastic is a term used to describe small splinter-like pieces of plastic in the ocean. Since plastic does not decompose, the plastic is at the mercy of the sun and the ocean waves. Over time the plastic breaks down into tiny pieces of plastic, this process is called photodegradation.
Microplastics are very bad for the environment. Microplastics are not like most other plastic in that they are not one hundred percent buoyant. In other words, the tiny particles float freely in the current. One theory is that it is like an iceberg, where the majority of the mass lies below, stretching down. The patch is immeasurably large, because there is no way to calculate how far down or how far out the cloud of plastic garbage stretches.
This cloud of microplastics is growing larger and larger with every piece of plastic that enters the ocean. If the cloud gets big enough, it could effect the environment in irreversible ways. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch will keep growing until it is big enough to block out the sun in certain areas of the ocean. This would cause families of plankton to be killed. Phytoplankton feed on energy from the sun, without sunlight the phytoplankton will die. In his article on Earthobservatory.nasa.gov, Robert Simmon states those phytoplankton are the foundation of the aquatic food web. If phytoplankton are being killed by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, many species of fish could be killed, or even go extinct.
Blocking out the sun is not the only problem that plastic debris can have on the environment. Author Jocelyn Kaiser wrote for science magazine that the plastics could leach toxins into the ocean. BPA plastics are known to have unhealthy chemicals in them, and those toxins would be released into the ocean, harming marine life.
Microplastics are detrimental to the wildlife of the ocean. Animals of every kind consume these plastic pieces, mistaking them for food. The plastic then stays in the system of the animal, and eventually lead to death. Fish eat the plastics, mistaking them for plankton or smaller fish. Sea birds will often feed the microplastics to their hatchlings, thinking they are fish eggs. Microplastics are the cause of millions of cases of punctured organs, and death in millions of animals.
New York Times published an article by Lindsey Hoshaw saying that the toxins from the plastics could end up harming human beings as well. When the fish mistake the pieces of plastic for plankton, they ingest the chemicals and toxins. Hoshaw goes on to say that those fish can transfer the toxins into the predator that eats it. In this case, human beings are the predator. The fish that is served to millions of people every day is potentially contaminated with toxic chemicals from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Charles Moore discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997. The reason it took people so long to find it is because the plastic sits just below the surface. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not exactly an island of garbage. The microplatics sit below the surface, making the patch invisible to satellite imagery. Basically, human beings have been creating this massive problem for an immeasurable amount of time. The garbage patch has been growing for decades, and it is not being dealt with.
Cleanup efforts have been made in the past, but none have been successful. According to howstuffworks.com in an article by Julia Layton, most experts believe that cleaning up the patch is next to impossible. Three problems arise when the great pacific garbage patch is studied. The first problem is that the patch would be incredibly expensive to clean up. The patch is in the middle of the ocean, hence why it took so long to find it, so boats would be needed. The fuel for the cleanup boats alone would bankrupt any organization that decided to take the challenge of cleaning the patch.
The second problem with cleaning the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is that it is so incredibly massive. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is about two times the size of Texas. Experts say it may even be larger, due to the fact that the depth of the patch is unknown. The patch is simply too big, and the cleanup would take a very long time.
The third problem is the microplastic. Photodegradation results in trillions of tiny plastic fibers. Layton compares cleaning the microplastics out of the ocean to cleaning sand particles out of a Jacuzzi. No cleanup crew has been able to overcome those three problems. If a solution could satisfy those needs, it could solve the garbage patch issue.
Because of these three issues, no country has been willing to undertake the task of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The patch is the result of years of worldwide neglect, and shortsightedness. The patch is the fault of human beings and human beings alone, and thus should be the responsibility of human beings. No one group is responsible for the trash. The entire world has been throwing garbage into the ocean for years, and it is getting to be the time to face the consequences.
The Geneva Convention is a term that is used to refer to a set of rules that are recognized around the globe. These conventions contain things such as war crimes. An example of this is chemical warfare. Chemical warfare is illegal according to the Geneva Convention. After World War One, everybody saw how devastating and uncontrollable chemical weapons could be, and decided that they should be banned. The world collectively agreed on something, and that was a beautiful moment in human history. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a problem of the same magnitude. It is an ever-growing cloud of pollution in the oceans of the world, and humanity is almost turning a blind eye. It is a problem caused by countries around the globe, and should be dealt with as a collective effort.
No one country has come to take responsibility for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Unsurprisingly, the nations of the world are not lining up to take on a large-scale, expensive project such as this. That is an understandable notion, which is why the patch should be a worldwide effort. If the countries of the globe were united for the purposes of the betterment of society, the Garbage Patch would not be so expensive. With the combined economies and minds of the world, the garbage patch becomes a much smaller problem.
Having the support of the nations of the world would also solve the size issue. Compared to the entire globe, Texas is not very big. If every country sent a fleet of clean up barges, it would only be a matter of time before the garbage was collected, however the patch problem would still not be solved.
The problem with clean up boats is in the microplastics, and the other debris that is below the surface. Clean up boats can only do so much when presented with a problem this massive. Boats with nets could not, as put by Layton, clean sand out of a Jacuzzi. The plastic is the root of the issue. With the intangible pieces, and the blockage of the sun, and the leeching toxins, the plastic is the single worst thing that has happened to the ocean.
If the plastic is the root of the issue, than it could possibly be the root of the solution as well. One idea for the restoration of the ocean is to make plastic manufacturing more expensive. If big factories have to pay more for the plastic that they use, they would be likely to look into cheaper alternatives, such as biodegradable plant products. Some plant-based products are just as versatile and useful as plastic, but they are not used as often due to their hefty price tag. If the price for plastic were raised above the price for green plastic alternatives, the global plastic manufacturing would slow to a halt.
The raised price on plastic could come in the form of a plastic tax. Any company that exceeds a certain amount of plastic produced in a year would have to pay a fee. The money paid in the fee would go towards the cleanup efforts of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as well as research to find a solution for removing the existing microplastics.
Microplsatics present a unique problem. They are unlike any issue that mankind has had to face yet, and thus require a solution that is unlike any that mankind has come up with. An unorthodox problem requires an unorthodox solution. If the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a Jacuzzi, and the plastic is the sand, treat the problems equally. What would the solution be to getting sand out of a Jacuzzi? The answer is a filter.
An example of an unorthodox solution can be found in the Jones Falls River of Baltimore City. Baltimore City has a trash problem, as many cities in the United States do. All kinds of trash from cigarette butts to traffic cones can be found in the harbor of Baltimore city, much of which has washed in from the Jones Falls River. The Jones Falls River flows directly through Baltimore City, and as it does so it becomes filled with garbage. The garbage is then sent straight into the harbor, or at least it used to be.
Mr. Trash Wheel is a barge that rests at the end of the Jones Falls River. As the Trash flows down the river, it is funneled into the mouth of this barge. Using solar panels, and the current of the river, the Trash Wheel collects all of the garbage and puts it into a dumpster. Essentially, Mr. Trash Wheel is a gigantic filter. As of today, the trash wheel has collected 367,930 plastic bottles, 459,927 polystyrene containers, 8,905,600 cigarette butts, 6,394 glass bottles, 251,217 plastic bags, 338,079 chip bags. The garbage patch is then incinerated to help produce electricity for the city of Baltimore. Mr. Trash wheel proved to be so effective for the City of Baltimore, that another one was installed in the city of Annapolis.
The Trash collected by Mr. Trash wheel is all surface garbage, meaning it is unlike the microplastics found in the garbage patch, but that does not mean that the lessons learned from Mr. Trash wheel are completely non applicable to the situation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Utilizing the power of clean energy, Mr. Trash wheel has cleaned up the waters of Baltimore city. If funding was given into research on that topic, a clean solution could be found for cleaning up the microplastics below the surface. In the form of some kind of filter, a Mr. Trash Wheel 2.0 could be the solution.
Between adding the plastic tax, and designing a clean energy-powered machine, there is a lot of work to be done to clean up the garbage patch. That is the reason that the patch needs to be on the minds of the leaders of the world. If the patch became a worldwide effort, adding the plastic tax would be feasible, and the research required to clean up the microplastic would better society forever.
This is all very optimistic thinking. Getting the attention of the world is not an easy task, and it is rarely done. It took chemical weapons to get the attention required for the Geneva Convention; hopefully the garbage patch does not have to take the lives of people in the same way to gain the attention it deserves.
The nations of the world are acting like children who broke something expensive when it comes to the garbage patch. Every country is blaming one another and cannot see that it is not the fault of any one nation. Nobody is claiming responsibility even though everybody is in fact responsible.
Politicians have made conservation efforts for years. Theodore Roosevelt invented the National Parks service to protect the beautiful landscapes of America from development. When animals are endangered, they get special treatment and breeding to renew their species. Why is it that the ocean is not treated with the same respect?
The ocean is one of the single most important things on this earth. No living thing can survive without water. The ocean is what makes Earth unique from the other planets in the solar system, and human beings use it as a trash can.
It is an easy problem to ignore for now. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was not even truly discovered until 1997. This means that the patch had not yet made a noticeable impact on the ecosystem of the ocean. After all, a pile of garbage halfway around the world is hardly a pressing matter, or at least that’s how it’s viewed.
The most frustrating thing about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is that it is not a problem that should have happened in the first place. Pollution is not unavoidable if everybody treats the earth with the respect that it deserves. The Great Pacific Garbage patch is the sole fault of a lack of attention. Entire ecosystems are put at risk because of a lack of attention. Human beings are lazy and arrogant, and just throw their trash wherever they want, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is what comes of that sort of behavior.
The patch is not a problem that should have happened at all, and human being should be embarrassed that it exists. Human beings like to think of themselves as the only important life on Earth, but that simply is not true. The fact that throwing garbage into the ocean is so common that there is an island of over one million tons of trash is unacceptable behavior. Human beings made a mistake and it is time for human beings to fix it and make sure it never happens again.
The fact of the matter is that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is like a cancer tumor on the earth. It is growing every day and making itself into a bigger issue than it was the day before. It is a problem that requires worldwide attention and effort, despite its costs. The patch will not be an easy problem to solve, but solving it is necessary. A mistake was made by the human race in the form of pollution, and it needs to be fixed.
Hoshaw, Lindsay. “Afloat in the Ocean, Expanding Islands of Trash.” New York Times. 10 Nov. 2009. Web. 06 Feb. 2017
Campbell, Colin. “Rank record: Mr. Trash Wheel gathers 1 millionth pound of trash from Jones Falls.” Baltimoresun.com. N.p., 20 Oct. 2016. Web. 19 Feb. 2017.
Parker, Laura. “Eight Million Tons of Plastic Dumped in Ocean Every Year.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 14 Apr. 2015. Web 19 April, 2017
SImmon, Robert. “What are Phytoplankton.” NASA. Earth Observatory. 13 July, 2010
“Ocean Trash: 5.25 Trillion Pieces and Counting, but Big Questions Remain.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 24 Mar. 2017. Web. 27 Mar. 2017
Layton, Julia. “Could We Clean Up the Great Pacific Gatbage Patch?” Hoestuffworks Science. Howstuffworks, 04 Feb. 2010. Web.