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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Also Known As The Trash Vortex

April 9, 2008
Sad Picture: No one to blame for this but ourselves. Four fifths of the plastic detritus floating over 2.5 million square miles of ocean surface arrives there from land-based run off: from stormwater, in other words: litter.

Sadly – many people take the “out of sight, out of mind” approach.

Plastic contamination in the world’s oceans is worse than previously imagined and no amount of technology can clean it up.

We are damned to a future of pollution by plastic. All succeeding generations will only see an ocean filled with trash.

Net a piece of plastic, and you’ll find barnacles and small crabs clinging to it. Not a good thing for fish, birds, and mammals that mistake it for its natural food, such as eggs, jellyfish, or other sea creatures.

Most of the plastic will eventually photo-degrade into small, dust-like particles to the point that it will be non-detectable to the human eye, but ingestible by sea mammals, birds, and fish—many of which we then consume ourselves.

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Albatross Carcass with a gut filled with plastic photo
The carcass of an albatross on the beach; birds and sea mammals mistake plastics for food then inevitably starve to death. This is the bird’s actual gut sample.


Trash on a Los Angeles beach being cleaned up by Public Works department

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great pacific garbage patch
the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” or “trash vortex” – essentially a floating expanse of waste and debris in the Pacific Ocean now covering an area twice the size of the continental U.S. Believed to hold almost 100m tons of flotsam, this vast “plastic soup” stretches 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan
“trash vortex” aren’t just limited to the marine ecosystem
“What goes into the ocean goes into these animals and onto your dinner plate. It’s that simple.”
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It’s everywhere. Multiple paths of Ziploc baggies, bottle caps, balloons, pretzel bags, and other debris lead you to the swirling trash vortex like a trail of bread crumbs
In the most polluted areas, the plastic-to-plankton ratio is 48 to 1. It’s become part of the oceanic landscape
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25 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2009 6:03 pm

    Doing what I can in Thailand, Need all the help I can get, One day, One beach at a time.
    The life of the people is in our hearts and shows in the land.
    Healt and Happiness to All, Leaving only foot prints
    The Pollution Solution Group

    • Caleb permalink
      November 16, 2009 9:38 pm

      Hey Rob..

      Do you have proof to back your statement? They have pictures.

      Why not in the oceans, garbage gathers on land why not with currents?

      Also you trust the media to be accurate?

      Sure and the “Big O” is more than simply a mouthpiece for the ones really in charge.

      I hope you didn’t fall for that “change” crap! Cause thats a joke! (fairytale)

      Pinocchio could do more for the US Economy.


      • Rob permalink
        November 16, 2009 9:49 pm

        If “They have pictures” as you claim, then where are they?? This myth is supposed to be the size of the state of Texas. If it existed, it would be big news and the media would be blaming it all on George Bush.
        I stand by my earlier statement. This is a total fabrication. No photos, no video, therefore no garbage patch.

  2. trashbook permalink
    April 21, 2009 10:07 am

    Our trash will never quite leave us; we have to create saner approaches to what we throw away and how we throw it away, while thinking about how we can waste less. This is no infinite land we live on, in spite of what many once thought.

  3. landdweller permalink
    April 24, 2009 7:04 am

    make huge floating factories to recycle the trash out at sea

  4. Mike Dupre permalink
    April 25, 2009 2:55 am

    I don’t have a research website to enter in your form. This is baloney. You fear mongers should be ashamed of yourselves. I’ve been scouring google images and I can not find a single picture of this so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Sounds like another Global Warming Scam to me. Why don’t you people get real jobs?

    • Stefano permalink
      June 22, 2009 9:39 pm
      Google confirmed they don’t provide accurate images of Ocean areas. Remember, Google is not God, it does not know everything

      • Mark permalink
        August 29, 2009 2:55 pm

        He didnt mean google’s images sir, it was a search through their image engine.

    • Mark permalink
      August 29, 2009 2:54 pm

      Agreed. The pictures i see are on a “patch” the size of a small pool. However i agree we are all asses to the environment, but for goodness sake drop all the bullshit and stop grabbing onto slogans and wake up and do something. No More Lies.

  5. versyficator permalink
    May 12, 2009 5:49 pm

    Good job mike. You are a real example of what we need more of. Everything is fine. There is no picture of it on the internet therefore it doesn’t exist. Humans are great. we don’t do anything wrong. It’s all a liberal conspiracy theory. Let’s all stop wasting our time trying to make things better and get real jobs… Nice Mike.

    • mike permalink
      November 12, 2009 2:07 am

      Truth is – left wing whackos do just make stuff up and blow some stuff way way way out of proportion. We are entering a new age – we have moved beyond chalenging the information fed to us by big brother – to questioning the even worse untruths of the left wing. Sorry – the people that were digging for the truth are now the biggest liars and that is the truth. It’s been proven (particularly during the latest war) that they will lie and exagerate to achieve their own goals.

  6. Rob permalink
    May 26, 2009 11:14 pm

    The so-called garbage patch is an urban myth. If it did exist in the size claimed by it’s fans then it would be constantly in the news. The media loves a crisis and Geraldo Rivera would be doing stories on site. Furthermore there would be pictures and video footage on all the networks and cable channels. Don’t be fooled. This is a hoax brought to you by the same folks who brought you the so-called global warming hoax. Have you ever noticed that none of these people have any scientific training?

    • Marko permalink
      October 9, 2010 4:46 am

      Nice one Rob. Sadly a large percentage of people are like you and have little education or ability to think critically. Do a bit of research before you make such outlandish comments. This problem is in fact very similar to global warming. The cause is near invisible, the effects are slow to become apparent and unless we make some drastic changes to the way we live our lives it will continue to worsen. Unless there is a drastic or highly apparent change we seem to get people claiming the problem doesn’t exist. Maybe its another innate flaw in the intellectual make up of the greedy, selfish, short-sighted human animal.

      • Rob permalink
        October 12, 2010 7:11 pm

        After reading your comments, I know that I have more education than you. I stand by my previous comments. All I am asking for is one lousy photo. Just one! It is supposed to be the size of Texas which is a big place. But there are no photos because the garbage patch doesn’t exist except in the minds of stupid Liberals. Furthermore, you obviously don’t read or watch the news or you would know that all the so-called Global Warming scientists lied. It doesn’t exist either. But good luck with your invisible problems.

  7. June 6, 2009 7:20 pm

    We have all seen the massive amounts of trash that cover the earth’s land masses, and dry land accounts for only 30% of our globe. You would have to be incredibly naive to think that large amounts of trash don’t make their way to the oceans. Where do you think that trash goes? What is heavy settles to the ocean floor. The lighter items float on the surface. It doesn’t take a scientist or a degree, it only takes common sense. Anyone who has had middle school science understands the concept behind the ocean’s currents, so it shouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to think that ocean garbage patches exist.

    That being said, I believe some people are missing the point here. The fact of the matter is that garbage, mainly plastic garbage, is causing great harm to our oceans and marine life, regardless of where this garbage is located exactly. Pollution of our oceans should be as great of a concern to us as pollution of our air and land masses.

    If nothing else, just clean up your own trash when you go to the beach. Is that so difficult?

    • Mark permalink
      August 29, 2009 3:00 pm

      Leave out all that hippy babble and just say this….. Listen people, clean up after yourselves. Put it where it belongs, and Set up clean ups locally to help clean your local beaches and parks. Enough with the drama added to it.

    • Caleb permalink
      November 16, 2009 9:41 pm


      I agree 100 percent!


      • Caleb permalink
        November 16, 2009 9:43 pm

        Angela that is.

        Great post!

  8. Rhian permalink
    June 24, 2009 9:38 am

    48 to 1 ratio? Dang, some guys go out and trawl for 4 days, in the daytime when zooplankton is deeper in the water and doesn’t get trawled, with a mesh that is too large to collect the phytoplankton. Then they dry out the plankton they did manage to collect — taking a sample at the wrong time, in a place with little zooplankton anyway — thus reducing its weight hugely — and get a 6 to 1 plastic weight ratio.

    Suddenly, this tiny and inaccurately measured sample has become a 48 to 1 ratio of plastic to sea life at EVERY PART OF THE OCEAN?

    Yes, the trash in the oceans disgusts me. But this kind of frantic, illogical, ranting, overblown fanaticism and out-and-out departure from reality on the part of environmentalists disgusts me just as much, or even more. Stop spewing these ridiculous, preposterous numbers, and maybe you’ll actually convince someone of something. Right now, many of the environmentalists are simply coming across as delusional.

  9. August 5, 2009 2:26 am

    I wrote an article about how you could harvest river power to drive a perpetual conveyor that would lift river debris out after being trapped by an appropriate barrier.

  10. Mike permalink
    August 27, 2009 4:05 pm

    Reading the comments above, this is why we will continue along the same ways that have environmentally impacted this planet for the next several decades. Because we have been indoctrinated and de-sensitized to not care enough. All life is sacred, all. So if one image of a bird’s stomach filled with plastic doesn’t move you, or if one image of a turtle trapped in a plastic ring doesn’t make you take feel the tragedy of what has happened, then I have little hope that we can turn things around enough to reverse what we’ve done.

    Native Americans would make decisions based on how it would affect seven generations ahead. We are so caught up in our modern lives, that we can’t even think one generation ahead. Yet, in this society this kind of thinking is termed “liberal.” I wished I lived in a land and time when people really understood the connections between all living things and lived in harmony with the Earth. Luckily, I do believe this planet will survive, long after we’ve polluted the human ourselves to death.

    • April 16, 2010 1:19 am

      I have to agree and disagree with you at the same time.

      My definition of liberal is a government that wants to be in charge of everything, to make life easier on the inhabitants of their country. Liberals are about halfway between center and a dictatorship. Conservatives want a very small government that doesn’t do anything really with the people other than foreign affairs and defense, much as called for in the Constitution. They lie about halfway between center and anarchy.

      However, liberals like to use “science” to their advantage, and use touchy feely terms such as “for the greater good”, “the future”, and “save the (fill in the blank)” to their advantage, so they have lost a lot of credibility to the majority of conservatives, not to mention any time something that helps liberals get a stronger foothold passes, it has a few earmarks to hurry the next item along. Conservative beliefs are based upon fact, rather than opinions and statements. If there are no pictures, then there is no proof. They are guilty of using statistics to prompt action.

      Having said that, if there is a giant floating trash pile out there, the first thing I would do is go scoop it, like you do with a pool to clean it out. It may not catch all the smaller pieces, but it will prevent the bigger ones from eroding into smaller ones. Lacking a giant boat and a crew to run it, the average person can just remember to recycle, volunteer to pick up their beach, pick up trash that they see, and clean up after themselves.
      Don’t do it for everyone else though, do it for yourself. Do it to enjoy cleaner sunsets, days driving on the highway without having to dodge random bits of road debris, days of fishing and eating the catch, and days going to a clean beach to swim in.
      No one likes garbage anyways.

  11. Ungawa permalink
    October 12, 2009 12:29 pm

    You’re missing the point of people criticizing “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. The point is, the way it’s been described in the media is a complete lie. Instead of stating the facts, they say there’s an island of trash at least the size of Texas floating in a remote part of the Pacific and the reason no one ever noticed is that it’s in an area rarely traversed.

    Calling this phenomenon an island of trash is a complete lie. It’s well beyond an exaggeration. Realizing the logical response to this would be to ask why no one ever saw it till now, it’s stated that the Pacific Gyre is an area rarely traveled.

    I don’t have the answer to the world’s problems but I know lying isn’t it. The fact that people don’t have a bigger problem with major media outlets outright lying is nuts.

  12. Original6 permalink
    January 12, 2010 7:36 pm

    Funny how you never see pictures of the thing. Just small images of pollution. Also interesting how all these people so worried about the environment make sure you know how to donate money to them.

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