World’s largest collection of ocean garbage is now twice the size of Texas
It turns out there's a whole lot more garbage floating in the Pacific than we thought:
The world's largest collection of ocean garbage is growing.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of plastic, floating trash located halfway between Hawaii and California, has grown to more than 600,000 square miles, a study published Thursday finds. That's twice the size of Texas.
Winds and converging ocean currents funnel the garbage into a central location, said study lead author Laurent Lebreton of the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a non-profit organization that spearheaded the research.
First discovered in the early 1990s, Lebreton said the trash in the patch comes from countries around the Pacific Rim, including nations in Asia as well as North and South America.
The patch is not a solid mass of plastic. It includes some 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic and weighs 88,000 tons — the equivalent of 500 jumbo jets. The new figures are as much as 16 times higher than previous estimates.
The research — the most complete study ever undertaken of the garbage patch — was published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Scientific Reports(…)
Sadly, the Pacific patch isn't alone. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest of five known such trash collections in the ocean, Lebreton said.
This is a "tragedy of the Commons" on a planetary scale. Since no nation owns the oceans, none is standing up to prevent their reckless abuse.
Similar to the short-sightedness of those who cut down the last trees on Easter Island, will we only decide to care once it's too late to do anything? Will that be when we can walk from California to Hawaii across thousands of miles of plastic?
The average 20′ shipping container that is loaded on a cargo ship can hold ~20 metric tons of goods. If this 88,000 tons of trash could be collected at sea and compacted to fit that weight in a 20′ container, we’re talking about 4,400 shipping containers of trash that need to be removed. By contrast, the largest class of cargo ship sailing the oceans, the triple E, can move 18,000- 20′ containers. I theorize that one ship of that size could be outfitted to dredge a good part of the waste, compact it, pack it and ship it to recycling facilities around the world. The fact that everyone is aware of this problem and no viable solutions have been presented speaks to the hubris of mankind. This should be an easy one to solve.
There’s work being done creating devices to corral the plastic and load it onto a small ship. Crushing into shipping containers is an interesting idea. Even when the collecting and crushing part is solved there’s a problem with handling the containers. The ships you speak of stack containers and also store stacked ones under deck. To pack containers would require a ship which can shuffle the containers at sea. This is a nontrivial task. Solving it would likely substantially reduce the carrying capacity of the ship.
When you do get them back to port the containers would make unloading the garbage relatively easy but it still might be a better system to use a large tanker like ship and fill it with the trash. Emptying it would be more difficult but it might be easier than the shuffling problem.
The links below describe some of what’s being tried
There is a North Atlantic garbage patch as well. So far, it gets less attention.
Except they’d end up collecting and compacting a lot of wildlife as well. The solution is forcing all plastics to he biodegradable, education, banning non biodegradable plastic garbage bags.
Some biodegradable plastics just turn into smaller pieces of plastic, which is not helpful, ie., degrades to small pieces, but still plastic. What I think you mean is no petrochemical based plastics. Just things like celloloid, or sponges made from cellulose, or quasi plastic made from cornstarch, so made from actual natural feedstock that will not be a problem even when broke down to micro-fibres.
start a thing with those of us on this site, to stop, right now, in buying no new plastic. Start a thread to share alternates, and comisserate on the (hopefuly rare) failures….
we dont need any plastic garbage bags — zero. Try it we have for years.
Medical waste, even at home, is where we have trouble avoiding it
I've sailed and flown over that area and not seen anything. In recent years, I've sailed the Mediterranean, Baltic, North Sea, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, and South Pacific. I've seen nothing of this. It doesn't mean it doesn't exist but where I sailed, it was amazingly free of any garbage other than some litter in harbors. It is a big, big world and a surprising amount of it is very, very empty. We did have a huge storm in Lake Superior this fall with 28 foot waves and lots of debris (both natural and man-made like plastics) washed up on the beach. I patrolled the 1 mile stretch that I frequent with several black plastic garbage bags over a weekend and cleaned up everything that was synthetic. Other people did the same on other stretches of beach. Problem taken care of by private citizens who care. Not a big deal.
I reduce, reuse and recycle. I produce about 1 plastic shopping bag’s worth of garbage every month or two.
I do recycle as much plastic as I can. I hope this turns into park benches. I have heard also that sometimes it just goes to the landfill, which is unfortunate. Really, if it isn’t going to be recycled it should be burned, which can be done cleanly in the proper facility.
I honestly don’t understand why more cities don’t ban plastic garbage bags. A few already do but with all the data out there on the floating garbage patch it’s a wonder that supposedly progressive places like Vancouver don’t. Maybe I should start a campaign.