There is a new garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean. Wait, back up a minute. There are garbage patches in the oceans?
Yes but an oceanic garbage patch looks a little different to what you might be imagining. It is mostly made up of microplastic particles in a soupy mix in the water.
The new garbage patch has been found in the South Pacific. It is larger than the country of Mexico, and wasn’t there in 2011!
What are microplastics? Microplastics are really small bits of all the plastic that we humans use that can’t be recycled.
Hmmm… why is plastic soup bad? The fish think that the microplastics are food so they eat them and die. Bigger fish eat these smaller fish so the microplastics get into them as well. And guess who eats the bigger fish? We do! That’s just one of the ways in which this harms us and life around us.
How did all this garbage get here? Plastic is not biodegradable. That means that it can’t be broken down into matter that the earth can absorb or use. All the plastic waste we use ends up in the sea and flows out with the currents. Some of it ends up in random places like Henderson island, and some of it mucks around in the gyres (swirling where different currents meet) and creates a soupy mess.
Photo Credit: Bluebird Marine Systems
What can we do about this? Scientists are trying to figure out a way to get rid of the oceanic garbage patches. In the meantime though, we can help by reducing the amount of plastics we use.
Here are a few handy tips:
- Don’t use those plastic mineral water bottles. Use water bottles that you can wash and reuse!
- Say NO to plastic bags! Carry around a few cloth bags with you when you go shopping so that you have something recyclable to put your new stuff in when you go nuts in the store!
- Say NO to straws! Drink straight from the cup instead!