Nearly every human being on this planet uses plastic in one way or another. All together humanity produces over 300 million tons of plastic every year with half of this amount being single-use plastic. Unfortunately, more than eight million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. There, currents transport it through the water. Many of the dumped plastic particles and objects end up in one of the great garbage patches.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest of the five offshore areas in our oceans where a lot of plastic accumulates over time. The Pacific Ocean alone has two garbage patches with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch being located halfway between Hawaii and California.
In garbage patches – also called gyres – the plastic slowly dissolves to microplastic. Due to humanity dumping more and more plastic in the ocean, the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will likely increase in the future. At the moment it covers an area roughly three times the size of France (1.6 million square kilometres according to The Ocean Cleanup).
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not a litter island. The affected area has a high concentration of litter items that are often too small to see with the naked eye. All together they weight an estimated 80,000 tonnes – or 500 Jumbo Jets. Nearly half of the litter is made up of discarded fishing nets.
Plastic in the ocean does not only pollute one of the most important living spaces of our planet it is also a grave danger to marine animals. Fish for example often mistake plastic particles with nutrition and eat it. Therefore, plastic also enters the human food chain when people eat fish.
What you can do
Several organisations are working on reducing the amount of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – with The Ocean Cleanup being one of the most prominent ones. While it is important to get the plastic that is already in our oceans out of the water again, we can not forget to also make sure that no more plastic enters the oceans from the land. Therefore, every single one of us is responsible for how we deal with our own litter.
We should aim to drastically reduce the amount of plastic we consume and instead recycle and reuse the items we already possess.