Great Pacific Garbage Patch Update

A couple of years back, I wrote a brief piece on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, home to little except phytoplankton – oh, and plastic trash. 

The Great Pacific Garbage patch isn’t located anywhere near a city – it’s a gyre, a vortex of currents, a thousand miles out to sea off California; covering possibly thousands of square miles

Researchers from the University of California’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography have just returned from three-week mission to the garbage patch to study just how extensive the problem is.

One of the researchers upon his return had this to say:

“Finding so much plastic there was shocking. How could there be this much plastic floating in a random patch of ocean – a thousand miles from land?”

You can read more about the researchers’ experiences on the SEAPLEX blog

While not a massive floating island of garbage as some rumors say, there is a lot of visible plastic, plus millions of tiny pieces that some animals ingest, mistaking it for food. Ingestion of this trash can lead to internal injury, intestinal blockage, starvation and death. According to the NOAA’s Marine Debris site, plastic debris also attracts and accumulates organic toxins such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) up to 105-106 times ambient seawater concentrations.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not an isolated phenomenon unfortunately, there are other gyres ladened with plastic trash throughout the world. It’s just yet another reason for us to be very conscious of ensuring that plastic is disposed of thoughtfully, and where possible, recycled.


Plastic recycling by the numbers – includes my free plastics recycling cheat sheet.