What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Pollution May 26, 2021

The mass production and consumption of plastic started in 1950 and today it's present all across the globe even at the least expected places. A huge amount of plastic gets discarded in the ocean on an everyday basis. According to researchers, it is estimated that about 8 million tons of plastic waste were presented in oceans as of 2010. Thanks to ocean currents this waste started getting accumulated in certain areas of oceans and resulted in various garbage patches.

One fine example of this is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

As per a study done in 2019, researchers found that the plastic waste present in the oceans just accounts for 1% of the total expected waste. This raises the question, " Where's the rest of the 99% of plastic waste?". As simple as the question might appear the answer to it is rather complicated and shocking as to how close it is to us. Even though plastic breaks down into tiny pieces due to degradation this still doesn't quite explain the disappearance of plastic completely from the ocean surface.

Let's look at some theories that scientists reached about the remaining plastic waste.

In a research done on the Arctic Deep-Sea while analyzing the sea bed, the researchers stumbled upon a large number of plastic waste that was still intact. This made one thing clear that a lot of the waste was getting deposited on the ocean bed, the reason being that the density of 50% of plastic found in landfills was more than that of the seawater. This resulted in the waste submerging into the ocean away from the surface. At the same time, the waste on the surface becomes home to various types of organisms which make the object heavier and eventually they sink into the water as well.

In an extensive study of the waste found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch scientists found that most of the waste found there was at least a few decades old. This raised another question: what happens to the new waste? The plastic is closer to us hiding in plain sight than we can imagine. The new plastic was majorly found on the beaches and seashore. Some of them do end up being a part of the garbage patches but most of them remain very close to the shore getting transferred from one beach to another and up and down the ocean.

We might not be able to see it or position the waste present but we know for sure that it's present and is moving every second.

The sediment study implies that a part of our plastic waste is more likely to be buried in the seafloor as well. Knowing exactly where our plastic waste ends up and how it keeps affecting us by being circulated in our ecosystem tells how urgent it is to avoid it. This can be done by making sure we adopt effective recycling methods and ensure that plastic waste doesn't enter our oceans.

This article has been written by Ritika Pandey for The Paradigm

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