Enviro-Monday: What is the Pacific trash vortex?

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch


The Great Pacific garbage patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, is a gyre of marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean.

The patch is characterized by exceptionally high relative concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Ocean.

The North Pacific Gyre has a clockwise circular pattern and is formed by four prevailing ocean currents: the North Pacific Current to the north, the California Current to the east, the North Equatorial Current to the south, plus the Kuroshio Current to the west. It is the site of an unusually intense collection of man-made marine debris, that has come to be known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Since 1997

In 1997, oceanographer Charles Moore discovered the area this trash-vortex occupies. Consisting of non-biodegradable waste which has been accumulating for at least 50 years it is composed mainly of plastic and comprises 90% of the total volume of waste floating in the world’s oceans. The cleaning of this veritable soup of marine debris is an immense problem.

Healthy oceans, healthy planet


World Oceans Day is a United Nations initiative.

The ocean is the heart of our planet. Like your heart pumping blood to every part of your body, the ocean connects people across the Earth. The ocean regulates the climate, feeds millions of people, produces oxygen, is home to an incredible array of wildlife, provides us with important medicines, and much more.

Plastic pollution – Microbeads


Picture: Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Plastic pollution is a serious threat because it degrades very slowly, polluting waterways for a very long time. In addition, plastic pollution impacts the health of aquatic animals because animals including zooplankton mistake the microbeads for food. Scientists also fear the health impacts for humans.


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