Why there are no pictures of the North Pacific Trash Gyre

A lot of folks over on Digg were very skeptical of the existence of the North Pacific Trash Gyre. They want to know: why are there no photos of floating heaps of trash? Why can’t you see the giant trash island the size of Texas on Google Earth?

When I learned of the trash gyre, I was equally skeptical, due to common misconceptions that get perpetuated in mainstream media articles. The most common misconception is that the trash pile is like an island, or a dense pile like this one in San Diego Harbor. It’s not packed in as tight as that – it’s more like a dense collection of tiny floating pieces of plastic, most of which are not on the surface. A big container ship or naval vessel going through there would probably not notice much out of the ordinary – after all, there is some degree of plastic trash floating on the surface all over the world.

To really get a sense of how much plastic is in there, you have to do a trawl, which entails dragging a net with a bucket on the end behind your boat. Here’s a photo of a bongo trawl taken off of southern California. (Credit: Barbeau Lab, SIO) And here’s a photo of what a normal bongo trawl should produce – lots of zooplankton, a few invertebrates, and the occasional small fish.

Now, contrast this with the results of a trawl from the North Pacific Gyre. Here’s the bongo net being hauled up – see how the ocean looks normal? But the contents – plastic, plastic, and more plastic.* (Credit: Algalita Marine Research Foundation).  When all that plastic collects somewhere, you get beaches like this one in the NW Hawaiian Islands.

For this reason, the trash gyre would be very, very hard to clean up. The plastic is so small, and so scattered, that it would take high-intensity trawling similar to that for shrimp. And shrimp trawling kills 10 pounds of non-targeted life (sharks, turtles, fish, you name it) for every pound of shrimp gathered. (Yes, Forrest Gump lied to you – for some reason they didn’t want drowned turtles next to Tom Hank’s angelic self.) The mortality caused by trying to remove all the trash in the gyre would probably be similar. We’re just going to have to live with it and try to prevent it from getting any bigger.

*Note: some of these results are from manta trawls intead of bongos – it’s just a differently shaped net.

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206 Responses to Why there are no pictures of the North Pacific Trash Gyre

  1. I just noticed this Indigo Society proposal to weld the trash into a floating utopia. I’m not going to comment on either Indigo Societies or the fate of utopias, but please do refer to the 5th paragraph above where I explain why it would be difficult and environmentally damaging to try to remove small pieces of trash from the ocean. Unless you want to kill 10 lbs of sea life for every pound of plastic, you’ll have to build your brave new island out of something else.

  2. Luckyreow says:

    I am sorry, but after reading several articles that state there is very little marine life nor nutrition in the gyre, due to its nature, i am confused about your figures, Miriam. There is no dispute that the north pacific gre is created by the Pacific’s currents. Also, there is research that has revealed that marine life avoid the gyre due to it’s lack of nutrients, which is a byproduct of the ocean current. As a result there is very little in the way of the food chain inhabiting the gyre area. The ratio you use of 10lbs of marine life to 1 lb of plastic surely would not apply to the gyre area if there is little sea life there in the first place. I do agree that the pollutants would be hard for the indigo society, or anybody for that matter, to remove. But i do believe that mother nature will need a hand in this and more marine life ,in the long run, would be saved if the trash was removed verses how many pounds would be sacrificed by trawling.

  3. [...] The Oyster’s Garter…re:satellite images of the Gyre and more [...]

  4. Luckyreow – You are right that the gyres are a marine desert with relatively little life. However, like a terrestrial desert, the life that is there is specially adapted to living in a harsh environment and is often really cool. For example, the ocean sunfish, which eats jellyfish, can be found there. You are incorrect that there is little food chain. Due to the lack of nutrients, the food chain is actually very long because it is based on the tiniest of plankton.

    Regarding trawling the gyre, I do not quite understand your argument – if there is little marine life in the gyre, why not leave the plastic where it is? It is true that the 10:1 ratio from shrimp fisheries may not apply in the gyre – it would be interesting to do an experimental trawl and see. However, remember that turtles and albatrosses, which have been the plastic-eating poster children, are also hit hardest by high-intensity trawling since they get caught in the net and drown.

  5. rammer says:

    Ok, so there is some stuff floating on the ocean. If you told me that there was a big sandy spot in the mid-latitudes of Africa with little life and some plastic, I wouldn’t care. Now we find that there is some desert in the Pacific with little life and some plastic. Whoopdy do.

  6. Well, I suppose apathy is your prerogative. Here’s why I care about the huge amount of trash in the gyre:
    1) Direct killing of sealife. Though the gyre is not productive, there is still lots of special critters that live there. Albatrosses has been hit hardest since it can’t distinguish between trash and fish.
    2) Transportation of toxins and invasive species to one of the last true wildernesses. Plastic soaks up PCBs like a sponge, and invasive invertebrates cling to debris. Debris also aggregates fish, which like to swim in shadows, which increases the chance of toxins accumulating up the food chain. That is bad for people.
    3) Morality. Letting tons and tons of plastic float about in the Pacific is bad, tacky, and the equivalent of people who smear their feces on bathroom walls. I don’t think we can clean it up, but at least we stop putting more in.

  7. Luckyreow says:

    I agree with Miriam as to some of the major concerns regarding the gyre and it’s pollutants. However, I am having a hard time accepting that nothing can be done about it, except not to make the situation worse. Unfortunately, when cleaning up an environmental disaster, such the plastic in this gyre, there will be a negative effect on another aspect of the environment or wildlife. I probably don’t fully understand what the barriers are to such a task, but if some marine life is lost in the process it may be for the greater good.

  8. ESJ says:

    Best compilation of general info I’ve seen on this yet … thanks.

    Strange that some wouldn’t care — where do they think their seafood comes from?

  9. john says:

    and maybe people need to be reminded that this mess, which could survive for (hundreds of?) thousands of years, was all created in the past 50 or so!
    are we prepared to live with this trashpile becoming 2, 3, … times as large in coming decades?
    i hope not

  10. ESJ, to be painfully accurate, your seafood probably does not come from the North Pacific Gyre. There are relatively few big fish out there because it’s not very fertile. But personally, I rather like having albatrosses and turtles in the world, and I bet a lot of people agree.

    John, I agree. One easy way to stop the gyre from growing is to stop using plastic shopping bags yourself and to support banning them altogether. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Beth Hoffman says:

    I have three words that will help this go further: Education, Education, Education! So many people do not know what a problem plastics are – both in the developed and developing nations (I noticed that in parts of Mexico its almost rude to deny a plastic bag when offered – very strange). Distrubuting leaflets to school children with good, clear pictures and descriptions of the plastic problem is going to be my new years resolution. Also, where is the media on this one? Whatever happened to the FCCs promise that a portion of television will be for the public good – yeah right! Ok – save fighting the FCC for 2009…Thanks for the great website!

  12. Jeff says:

    First off, thank you for a great explanation of this problem. Before I found this article, I did alot of searching for more about this, including pictures, but only could find the map with drawing of the approx size of this thing. I was starting to think this thing was a hoax or at best not much of a problem. I think the media is doing great harm to this cause, as they do with most things.

    As to the idea of getting people to reduce thier plastic consumption, it would be a bit impractical to completely stop using plastics. I’d say, instead of scaring kids with more sensationalized facts (see the media) we might be better served to teach recycling. The plastic bag issue is a favorite scare thing, although alot of poeple don’t realize that they can be recycled with your other plastics. I use plastic bags from my grocery store all the time. Then they go right into the recycle bin for round 2.

    Have a nice day, yall

  13. Jeff – I’m glad you enjoyed the post. In most states, plastic bags cannot be placed in the curbside recycling bins. Here in CA, they must be returned to grocery stores. This makes rates of recycling extremely low (only 1-3% according to this site). I don’t think that people need to stop using plastics altogether – I like my mixing bowls & contact lenses! – but if you’ve got to lug your plastic bags back to the store to be recycled anyway, why not just use a reusable bag? That way your groceries are easier to carry & you’re reducing your carbon footprint (since making & recycling plastic bags takes energy).

  14. matt says:

    Excellent post on this major issue Mriam.

    You readers maybe interested in the following as well;

    1. Expeditions into the gyre and in the Atlantic; http://environmentdebate.wordpress.com/2007/05/17/the-dead-zone-plastic-fcuktastic/

    2. Visuals; http://environmentdebate.wordpress.com/2007/11/02/images-video-from-the-north-pacific-gyre/
    :)

  15. Janet says:

    Good discussion. I’m putting a foldable little shopping bag in my coat pocket right now so that I can avoid using plastic bags and paper bags as much as possible. I also carry them in my car for shopping, but I’m going to be more diligent about using them.

    I think there must be a way we can clean up some of the gyre. Nothing is truly impossible. I am concerned about the “developing” world. We in the US have the riches and “luxury” to be thinking about these issues, as daily survival is not such a big deal for most of us. But China, India, etc….. as they become more and more “like us” they will be polluting like us, too. We MUST lead the way in changing our ways!

  16. Dave says:

    I think that plastic is a problem even in the ocean. My thoughts after researching about the ocean are that we should deff/ clean the plastic up and perhaps recycle some of it. I don’t think the U.S.A. is resp. for all of the plastic I think we should deff/ get other countries involved in the clean up process.It might damage some ocean life now, but the over all results should be rewarding both for human beings and marine life for years to come. We can open plastic recycling centers in California and in other areas, and countrie to help open jobs and contribute to helping the earth. These special recycling centers will only deal with plastic from the ocean not regular products from a weekly pick up. (Not until the project is complete)

  17. Donita says:

    Thank you for bringing this information together for reader! One thing that I thought of while reading the comments is that I do not think that people really get how the food chain in the ocean actually works. Plastic photodegrades (it will never, ever biodegrade — it simply breaks down until it is finally molecule-size, but it is still a polymer) until it basically mimics zooplankton. Currently, in the gyre, the mass of plastic bits is 6 times the mass of zooplankton. Zooplankton are the basis of the entire food chain. Filter feeders, like jellyfish, consume huge amounts of zooplankton. Then other creatures eat the filter feeders. They are in turn consumed by other predators. And the process continues. Many of the fish that we target for commercial fisheries are relatively high on that food chain, and it does not matter that they are not caught in the gyre. The food chain starts in places like the gyre — the same vortex of currents that concentrate flotsam (floating trash) also concentrate zooplankton. That makes it a good place for the predators of zooplankton to congregate. The problem is that non-organic substances — like polymers, heavy metals, etc. — cannot be digested and accumulate in the organisms that eat them until they are, in turn, consumed. They are then stored in that animal’s body for the rest of its life … and so on. This is why extremely high levels of mercury were recently recorded in bluefin tuna in New York City — bluefin tuna are long-lived and peak predators, so they end up concentrating large amounts. And guess who eats the ocean’s peak predators? That’s right: you and me. As far as I have been able to find, no one is doing any big studies about polymers in peak predators, but it should be a concern. Worse yet, as has been mentioned here already, plastic absorbs toxins (like PCBs), which are also passed through the food chain.

    Because of the future threat that even the current plastic concentration in the gyre poses, and because of the cumulative effect of the toxicity, I am in favor of the international community studying clean-up options. (I do think that some bio-mass loss is acceptable in the process, but just how much is where the studies need to come in to the equation.) In the meantime, I think stopping plastic pollution is imperative. So, yes, reduce the demand for plastic (avoid it or reuse it), commit to plastic recycling (keep it out of the landfills, and reduce the amount of virgin plastic being produced from petroleum), and encourage the transition to bio-based plastics (buy it, support it).

    Thanks again for bringing this topic to light!

  18. matt says:

    Good comment Donita. Yes, less packaging and if packaging is necessary, biodegradable packaging is the way to go. For example; http://blog.environmentsolutions.co.uk/?p=86

    But there are many companies out there doing this and they must be supported. Using corn for corn starch in biodegradable packaging is far better than using it for ethanol! Still better of course that corn is used for food products.

  19. Scott says:

    this is well funny i throw loads of used tyres in the sea all the time lol

  20. brittany says:

    this is a great site to find out about the sea if you want to keep in touch email me at annatillman_91@yahoo.com

  21. timmy says:

    this is just fucked up do something someone

  22. riverNet says:

    Seems like leaving it there is a bad idea. The plastic is degrading down to molecule size. It is toxic and will continue to leach into the stream of life. That along with the other pollutants we know about creates an extremely hostile environment for all living things. Consider this: If you ate only natural organic foods, and drank only distilled water, upon death, your body would still qualify as toxic waste by EPA definition. Regardless what you consume or where you live, you cannot avoid it. The entire cycle is compromised. We need to address it on all levels and to the exclusion of any and all priorities that may compete for our attention and resources. Is there nobody in charge? How could such a situation have ever been allowed to become manifest? There is no leadership, only rhetoric and greed.

  23. [...] day! | Tags: Self-Referential |   Sorry for this totally bragging post, but Miriam’s 2007 post on why it’s difficult to photograph the North Pacific Gyre and why it will be difficult to [...]

  24. personal responsibility says:

    Timmy, from April 14,

    You’re right. It’s VERY fucked up. But rather than sit back & say “do something, someone”, take a second and realize that someone is you. It’s all of us.

    If everyone was diligent in recycling as much as they could, including collecting #3 – #6 plastics at your home & taking them to a recycling center, the difference would be astounding. Also, you can’t recycle #7 plastics. Stop using products that package in #7 and let the company know that’s why you’re no longer purchasing their product. If enough people do it, they’ll change. They might not care about sea life, but they sure care about company revenues. There’s a wonderful iced tea product sold in gallon jugs, and I recently learned they were #7 plastic containers. That night, I sat down and wrote the letter (Dear ‘company named after a state in the southwest that starts with an A’) and they no longer have my business.

    It’s clear that our government isn’t going to lead the charge toward environmental responsibility. It’s truly on us all as individuals to make a herculean effort to change our consumption and disposal habits, but also to spread the word. So many people simply have no idea about the rapidly declining planet, no concept of their impact on the environment or what that means in the long run.

    If you want to make a difference, spend some time researching the products you use. What do they use for packaging? What goes into their products, and how bad is that for the environment? For example – hybrid cars save gas, but do you know how much energy is used to create the batteries or how toxic the “ingredients” and by-products are? Check it out.

    – Recycle batteries. Don’t throw them out.
    – Recycle light bulbs. IKEA takes them
    – Recycle plastic grocery bags. Most large grocery stores take them back
    – Buy “green” products for your house, such as bamboo flooring & furniture. It can look great and is practically renewable overnight
    – BUY AMERICAN-MADE PRODUCTS! Aside from all of our money pouring into the Chinese economy, think of the amount of fuel it takes to send a cargo ship across the ocean. I was in a Dollar Store & saw a bag of polished stones – made in China. ROCKS! Shipped across the sea & sold for $1. And why the HELL are my everyday produce choices shifting to those grown in China? It takes a month to get across the ocean. Yeah, nice and fresh. PLUS – HELLO – THEY DON’T CARE IF IT’S SAFE TO EAT.

    – Recycling one beer can saves enough energy to run a home computer for 3 hours.

    I could rave for hours about this stuff, but the point is it’s up to YOU and YOU and YOU and YOU x 6 billion and ME. That’s the bottom line. The government won’t make companies change their ways, but the consumers sure can! Don’t try to change everything at once, but start somewhere – like finding out where the closest recycling center is & seeing what they take. You’ll be very surprised at what you end up saving to recycle (and more so the amount of trash you generate).

    It’s up to us – it really is. If our generations don’t make the changes, we run a substantial risk of mother nature closing up shop for a long, long time.

    SPREAD THE WORD!

  25. matt says:

    Well said Timmy!

    Btw, aren’t there door collections in your area for recycling?

  26. Alex says:

    Someone asked why this is even a problem. Lets not forget that the amount of plastics in circulation will forever INCREASE because of simple laws of exponential growth in population. Even an increase in recycling and concurrent reduction in present consumption rates (admirable, necessary goal) won’t completely help, unless it were an unprecedentedly massive paradigm shift in living style–the oft-reviled powerdown. One can only hope that peak oil and related resource extraction crashes will save us from a materialistic suicide.

  27. newton says:

    “floating pieces which are not on the surface” You lost some credibility with that.

  28. Newton – different kinds of plastic have different densities, and encrusting growth can also make them more dense. Thus, pieces of plastic can be suspended beneath the surface. I suppose they are not technically floating, but neither are they sinking.

  29. Brian says:

    Floating certainly does not mean the plastic has to be on top of the sea’s surface! Don’t balloons float “IN” the atmosphere? Plastic can floatatany depth in the water column and if it goes down it is sinking and if it goes up it is rising. If it stays at the same depth it is floating!

  30. [...] does the Great Pacific Garbage Patch look like? Plastic soup. Miriam Goldsten from the Oyster’s Garter wrote a great explanation [...]

  31. [...] bag measurements Great blog article refering to the misconception that it’s an island, Why There Are No Pictures of the North Pacific Trash Gyre by Miriam Goldstein. Why blogging is great- she takes it on with good references and thoughtful, [...]

  32. [...] 6, 2008 by Dr Benway From the Oyster’s Garter: The most common misconception is that the trash pile is like an island… It’s not packed in [...]

  33. Kate says:

    where are the fricken asshole pictures????????

  34. polythenepam says:

    I have been boycotting “disposable” plastic products for 18 months. Started cos I hated what it was doing to environmnet but as I find out more, worry about what it might be doing for me. I think it is very foolish to make throw away stuff from a product that lasts for ever. Plastic is great but not for one use stuff. I have sourced lots of plastic free alternatives. You might find them useful. go to http://www.plasticisrubbish.wordpress.com

  35. [...] Why are there no photos? Oysters garter has the best answer [...]

  36. Joe says:

    I doubt there is no visual sign of the gyre on google earth because they amp the seas and oceans with a different technique, you can tell by the way they look, you can’t see the surface, or waves, or ships – only around and nearer land where there is more conventional photo mapping. It takes a lot of money to map an ocean with a sattelite, they prioritise it to the land. But I’m sure there will be an shot somewhere for scientific reasons.

    Check out http://www.morsbags.com for ways to reduce your p[lastic bag usage.

  37. Donna says:

    Janet made a comment back in Jan. 08 about plastic bags in emerging economies like China and India and the fear that they will make the same mistakes that we have in the industrialized world.

    There is an excellent 1 hour documentary about plastic bags and unfortunately I don’t know the exact title. It may even have been a CBC production. Perhaps some of you who are more savy than I am could find it out there on the web.

    Anyway, one bit that I remember about India was that they have put restrictions on the weight of plastic bags that can be used, thereby attempting to eliminate the flimsy, single use bags that we are being fed at our stores. They actually have a special police unit whose ONLY job is to go to the markets and fine or arrest merchants who are using bags that cannot be reused.

    Also, I just heard something interesting from a friend who is ordering (wholesale for the Green Party – Ontario) re-useable bags made from recyled plastic . The cost of that recyled plastic material to make the bags (which is only available FROM China, by the way) has just jumped 25% literally overnight because China has banned plastic bags.

    I think we will find that the emerging economies will only make SOME of the same mistakes we did (and are still making) because they will actually learn from our poor example. Also the speed that they are going through the growth/learning curve is greatly excellerated. Their scientists already know what our scientists took decades to figure out ie that plastic doesn’t biodegrade. That even when it becomes nearly invisible, it’s still there!!! Their economists know that they will implode under the weight of the environmental impact of their growth if they do not handle it AS THEY GROW. They all know that they have been the environmental dumping ground of the West for the last few decades and so, not only do they have to clean up their messes, they have to clean up a good portion of our crap too. Our great leaders simply downloaded most of our toxic materials into the emerging economies rather than go to the trouble and expense of cleaning up after ourselves. (Watch the excellent documentary, “Manufactured Landscapes” or search out info on what the world does with it’s decommissioned ocean freighters.)

    Another factor that comes into play is the relative level of democracy or lack thereof. A dictatorship can change the rules very, very quickly and enforce the change with terrible power. Democracies (which are wonderful and far preferred, of course) are incredibly slow to change. The speed of change for us has increased a bit with the advent of the internet but it’s still very slow. I believe that vast amounts of important data are being suppressed, watered down and camiflauged because it’s politically unpopular and near impossible to sell to the mainstream West.

    While these two examples of change are only a drop in the ‘Solution Bucket’ (and there’s so much more to it than grocery bags!!), it shows an early awareness and political will that is light years ahead of us in the WEST.

    The mainstream of the West will not change more than the window dressings (ie grocery bags) until it hits them in the money!!! That’s when ‘the environmental issues’ become real. I predict that the skyrocketing price of oil will do more to change our lifestyles in the next couple of years than all the protests, treehugging, letter writing, blogging etc. has done in the last 40 years put together. Harsh, I know. And I certainly don’t want to take any glory away from the early enviro-warriors. They blazed a trail against incredible odds… literally voices in the wilderness, and we get to walk comfortably along their path in our organic, unbleached cotton T’s… that don’t cost any much than regular T’s because they’re made in Honduras by slave labourers while their children scavenge in the dumps.

    But that’s another rant! Sorry.

  38. matt says:

    Just to add a little progress update on something here in the UK. A grocery chain called M&S has had a bag surcharge of 5 pence for 6 weeks now and reports a drop in their use of 80%! Charging for them works. ‘Life-time’ bags are sold for 10 pence but were given away for free at first as a part of their promotion.

  39. Dr. Samson says:

    If there really are these underwater islands of thrash, of which I still havent seen a solid picture of yet, just a bunch of loosely scattered trash not unlike my teenagers room, Than there is no doubt that we need to “dredge” all this stuff up. We cant simply stick our heads in the sand abvout this and pretend its not there… we do enough of that and ignorance is onyl bliss for the short term… we need to help mother nature clean herself up… after all we were the ones to dirty her up in the first place…We are having the same debate about the Hudson river in Upstate NY, and to ignore these problems is to our detriment

  40. [...] The Oyster´s Garter, Oceanographic Research Vessel Alguita, Wikipedia, L.A. Times, Best Life. Tags: [...]

  41. ernie says:

    i guess when the time comes that we can see a photo highlighting this, or google earth shows the magnitude of such a catastrophe, it’ll be too late for any damage control..

    sad, but then again, nature always wins..

  42. [...] to keep them healthy and beautiful.  Trash is an unbelievably big problem in the ocean (think the size of Texas big) and its critters (like the Laysan albatross).  But you can help – check out this video about what [...]

  43. Nate says:

    First off thanks a lot for posting this article. It cleared up some questions I had about this problem. From previous articles I had envisioned some sort of floating island of bottles. It would be interesting to have divers take pictures of the high concentration of plastics just below the surface.
    The second part of my response deals with the trawling debate. I think trawling should be considered as a viable way to clean up this area. Trawling nets can be outfitted with turtle and other large by-catch excluders. It would be an expensive and massive project, but I believe it needs to be done. Also funding needs to go into research to keep this from happening again.

  44. Janis says:

    Your idea of doing nothing other than leaving it and working to stop it from getting larger, is frankly not good enough. While the plastic breaks away and deteriorates, the sea and airlife that is further endangered just increases. The numbers of life that would be targeted should we try to destroy this garbage heap would recover, and while I am not normally in favor of random destruction, I think that in this case there is not enough sea life being supported by this garbage pit to justify leaving it alone.

  45. SF Steve says:

    paper shopping bags are 7 times more polluting than plastic ones (see entire supply chain (reports at Ilog)). Please let’s be a little more German, and bring our canvas and recycled bags, and used glass bottles and crates to the supermarket, and STOP creating a market for any single use plastic packaging. I do, it’s not that hard. I like ecosystems too, Miriam. They are bigger and more imporatant than I am.

    Hell, if you love Soda, get a SodaClub soda maker and the syrups. http://www.sodaclub.com/sodaclub.html
    I have one- we all love it, and our friends are buying them now too (this is SF…). It’s way better for my kids too, who want the status with their friends of drinking soda, but I control the syrup type and amounts, and no longer buy the single use plastic bottles that eventually go to the gyre.

  46. chemical_carlos says:

    Well, this explanation makes my solution to the problem a bit more challenging. I have this concept — the POWPAP (Pacific Ocean Waste Plastics Abatement Project) that involves somehow collecting the plastic waste in the Gyre and using Thermal Depolymerization (TDP) on-site to convert it into fuel oil, which can be used to power the TDP processing, with any surplus being shipped to buyers. I suppose some sort of filter system needs to be devised — one which will only entrap plastic particles and spare the life of larger aquatic creatures. It is said that cleaning up the GPGP would be the equivalent of vacuuming the entire United States. Yet I believe that a clever-enough filter system can be engineered whereby a dent can be made in the GPGP, reducing its size by perhaps 10% over the course of 3 years. However, this is a job for an engineer, not a dreamer like myself. Preventing the source of the plastic pollution is crucial to such a plan actually working, I believe.

  47. JeffroDH says:

    I’ve got a few questions…
    Isn’t plastic a petroleum based polymer? And hasn’t there been successful research in developing a bacterium that consumes crude oil?
    Why don’t we take it a step further and design one that will infect and consume this plastic nonsense… after the plastic is gone, there’s not much chance of it spreading to the mainland…, so there is minimal environmental impact.
    I suppose heat generated by massive bacterial colonies might be a factor, but not a very important one.

  48. Linda Mermaid says:

    Every time I go scuba diving, I come back with pockets full of garbage. I just returned from Thailand where the beaches are covered in trash. The locals don’t always clean them up because more will wash up on the next tide. I can only imagine what the gyre looks like. We’re the only species that fouls our home so badly it will eventually kill us. I’ll have a video on You Tube (under LindaMermaid) shortly showing just one short stretch of beach I saw.

    We need to make ALL plastics recyclable and make it a crime not to do so (oh boy, more government!) If it were more profitable to recycle, this wouldn’t be an issue, would it? People would be fighting over all those lost flip-flops!

    Hey Stephen King, how ’bout a story about scientists developing a plastic eating bacteria that mutates and eats people too?

  49. doomedplanet says:

    Charles Moore was interviewed once on PBS, and the reporter said, “Why can’t we just go out and scoop up all the trash in the gyre?” And Moore said, “And put it where?” He pointed out that, at that time, the trash “island” was approximately twice the size of Texas and up to 100 feet deep.
    So even if he’s overestimating the size of island and it’s only the size of one Texas, and we can somehow compress to so it’s only one foot deep … where do we stash it? Even if we have a technology that can convert it to something else, we would have to store it somewhere until it gets fed into the transmogrifier. And then there are all the other, as-yet-unresearched gyres around the globe. Moore says 40% of the world’s oceans are classified as gyres, and are therefore also collecting trash.
    Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, Ph.D., an expert on marine debris, in an interview with The Seattle Times, said, “If you could fast-forward 10,000 years and do an archaeological dig…you’d find a little line of plastic. What happened to those people? Well, they ate their own plastic and disrupted their genetic structure and weren’t able to reproduce. They didn’t last very long because they killed themselves.”

  50. If you’ve read all of these comments, I think you’re ready for some fun! Here’s a great 10-min kids video about the gyre: http://www.greengorilla.com/video-post/great-pacific-garbage-patch

    Enjoy!

  51. David Levin says:

    Even after reading your article I’m still suprised there aren’t more photos of the phenomenon, even some kind of thermal scan or representation of how the plastics collect over time.

  52. Dick says:

    This makes a person want to cry because I have been in that area in the mid 60’s and at that time it was pristine. In fact it was awesome, as as far as the eye could see it was teeming with jelly fish that had little sails like portugese man of war. The sea was flat and glassy. It was like being somewhere where man had not yet been, but now, it seems we are making our imprint everywhere, and not for the better. That was only 40 years ago when I was out there so what will it be like in another 40 years. It is madness.

  53. James says:

    This problem gets worse and worse by the year, and the answer is not simple. Here’s what I’ve learned so far, some of this has already been mentioned:

    Plastics don’t biodegrade, but they photodegrade and break down by things like wave action. This makes plastics available in all sizes to all sorts of sea animals and birds. Turtles mistake shopping bags for jellyfish, for example. Birds feed themselves and their young with plastic, filling their stomachs until there is no room for real food, killing them.

    Plastics absorb toxic chemicals, which goes up the food chain. Animals higher in the food chain have the highest concentrations (they live longer than what they eat). Plastics also release endocrine(hormone) disrupting chemicals and are feminizing populations of animals (including humans) and causing other changes to our bodies.

    Remember, our plastic producing history is a short one, 60-70 years at the most. This problem did not exist in the 1800s or even the early 1900s. I have heard accounts of the garbage patch being anywhere between the size of Texas to twice the size of the continental US, measuring 10 feet to 30 metres deep, of high plastic concentrations (5:1 plastic to plankton ratio). This will get exponentially worse as more and more countries become affluent and increase the demand for plastics.

    Another thing to consider is that the majority of the plastic in the oceans sinks to the bottom, so it is potentially a greater problem for bottom dwellers.

    The reason why the concentration of plastic is so much higher in gyres, and specifically the north and south pacific gyres is because a gyre is basically a giant whirlpool of converging currents. To say that the North Pacific gyre doesn’t have a lot of life in it to begin with is missing the point: Where plastic collects, biomatter used to. Lots of animals have been feeding in the gyre since time immemorial, presumably.

    I personally can’t figure out a way to even make a dent in this problem, considering the fact that

    A) we still use plastics voraciously (BTW, if India and China aren’t on board, nothing anyone here does will make any difference.)

    B)any attempt to clean up the area will cause untold destruction of animal life from the bottom on up. There aren’t filters that can discern little bits of plastic from plankton or any other more complex life form.

    Any attempt to introduce a “plastic eating bacteria” into the environment may irreversibly make the problem worse (try getting bacteria to follow orders or stop multiplying/modifying)

    I have been reading about “liquid wood” which could possibly replace plastics and are recyclable/biodegradable, can be injection moulded, etc. but that may put further strain on our forests.

    I think we can safely say that we live in the most uncertain times in human history, having threatened the entire global ecosystem.

  54. polo says:

    The thing I don’t understand is if this is so bad for sea lifethen wy dosn’t the goverment do anything about it.

  55. Having just recently sailed across the Pacific- (#7 over the last 35 years) I am curious about the extent of this ‘plastic planet’ that seem so be covering a massive part of the eastern/central Pacific. I don’t dispute the presence of unacceptable amounts of trash in our oceans, especially plastic, but from what I have read, most of this plastic is in suspension below the surface and therefore not visible. For this process to occur there must be stages of denigration where a plastic bottle, for example, starts to break down and goes through stages of decomposition. This would, by my pedestrian logic, require a very visible progenitor floating at the surface and showing all the visible signs of progressive decomposition. In over 100,000 miles of blue water sailing I have yet to see this on a massive scale. My concern is that if these claims of ocean pollution are too overstated people will dismiss even the most verifiable evidence. On our most recent passage from Seattle to Hawaii we were amazed to find huge communities of marine life a thousand miles from land and in the deepest parts of the Pacific. On more than one occasion we were surrounded by pods of whales and dolphins, schools of Mahi Mahi, flying fish and sea birds. I hope this is an indication of the oceans resilience and regenerative qualities.

  56. Captain Crunch,

    It very much depends on where you sailed and what time of year you were there. The bulk of the trash is reported to be in the center of the North Pacific Gyre, which is close to the high pressure zone northeast of HI. You probably weren’t there because it’s the doldrums. And if you were there in the winter, storms could have mixed the debris below the surface. There’s no scientific work yet on exactly how those little bits of plastic get into the ocean (are they broken up on land? by riding the currents on the way to the Gyre?) but there’s a reasonable amount of evidence that they are indeed there. Watch this blog for further developments! And I’m glad you’ve seen such glorious ocean life!

  57. James says:

    polo: Whose government? This is an international problem, unless someone now owns the pacific ocean and I’m unawares.

    Everyone, check out the Vice (the magazine) television videos on the North Pacific Garbage Patch. Be warned, it’s Vice so there is some salty language, but the most disturbing thing to me is the images:

    http://www.vbs.tv/search.php?search=garbage

  58. James says:

    Miriam: The plastic photodegrades, so by sunlight, wave action and other processes break down the plastic.

    Captain Crunch: I appreciate you have seen a lot of water, but just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there and affecting the ecosystem. Most of the plastic actually falls to the bottom, so what is on the surface is really a fraction of the total anyway.

  59. Trevor says:

    Where does all the trash end up, really all the cruise ships dump their trash at night so the pasngrs don’t see it. Every time I’m at the river I see plastic bottles floTing there should be a visible stain onthe sea! What sucks is that trash can legally be dumped at sea a nummber ? of miles out. Not plastic, but other trash. And who’s gonna seperate their trash on a boat? People can’t even do that at their home! Oh and I think most plastic floats forever! Can we have a video of guy skimming the water with an aeroplane?

  60. [...] is transparent and does not reflect much light, the tiny bits of trash in the North Pacific Gyre cannot currently be seen by [...]

  61. Kathy says:

    There were pictures that I saw a few years ago and believe me it was huge and not photo-shopped. I tried searching for photos and have not found any that looked anything like what I saw.Everything was on the surface and the photos were taken from the air. Does anyone know what happened to them? They were from reliable sources- environmental groups.

  62. AJB says:

    There are two types of resources that we at the top of the food chain have to share or hoarde when it comes to the organisms and/or environments that we will always conquer: financial, and humanitarian. It is too bad that those who likely have the potential to contriburte at least one of these two types of resources mindlessly and thoughtlessly live inconsiderate lives totally aloof about their potential. And it’s sad that some people could really care less (in the first place) that someday, future generations will pay the price for our ignorance and be burdened with the pain of our inconsideration…but its good to know that some people aren’t afraid to have a discussion.
    As a student and part-time worker, I am willing to admit that I currently don’t have the necessary financial resources to give to make a worthwhile effect of such a problem. But rest assured if my planet needs my help and he/she who holds the financial resources decides that they want to make a difference (and all they need is to find some of those people like me who will help them to make it happen), then count me in.
    Its good to see that people out there work to keep the discourse going…it’s the only way for each of us to both realize the lack of concern that clearly still resides throughout the rest of the world, and make statements about how we can all make a difference.

  63. Facing Facts says:

    Whose government? We have enough trash in Washington that needs to be disposed of. Where are the pictures? Who put it there? I didn’t, why should I pay a dime towards this scam? Follow the money since it would be easier to see than the supposed island twice the size of Texas.

  64. Bman says:

    I think it’s safe to say we have a very large amount of man-made materials floating in our oceans, either on the surface or suspended, that pose a threat to a multitude of organisms. To debate this is absurd.

    Let’s move on to potential solutions.

    Maybe the gyre areas are calm enough for floating structures that could accommodate research activities, eco-tourism, and housing. These “aqua-pods” would be connected to unique oceanic waste harvesting devices designed to recover waste throughout the gyre. Chances are, this idea would require a revolutionary system for filtering biomass and synthetic materials. Assuming a machine could be designed, the sorted materials could then be used for powering the various facilities (along with solar and wave power generation).

    This isn’t impossible by any means, but requires the cooperation of many nations and peoples.

    One world… one race… the human race.

    Let’s work together and put all the bullshit aside.

    How about an international organization (U.N. style) that strictly focuses on environmental remediation and research.

  65. jamesr says:

    i was in tangier,morocco 4 years ago, the beach had at its high tide line a pile of garbage about 3 feet high and 6 feet wide running the entire length of the beach…what must have been a few miles at least…there was lots of plastic,garbage, even a dead dog…it was astonishing in its size and filth. there was tons of recyclable materials…no effort at cleanup at all.

  66. TYNK says:

    So what. It causes no harm and whgo cares anyway. I am 65 and by the time it may be hazardous I’ll be dead. I toss trash like tires etc in the ocean all the time I also urinate and poo in it the same as the fish and mammals and other humans do. The human race will never work together so get over it.

  67. Jay says:

    TYNK: If you’re actually 65 (because it sounds like you are no older then 20) then do yourself and everyone on earth a favour and kill yourself. Just end it now man, you’re nothing more then a plague, a disgusting product of ignorant society. I hope you choke on a small piece of plastic and die.

  68. [...] more like a soup, constantly moving just below the surface of the water. This is why there are no real pictures of the island and you can’t see it on Google Earth, or in satellite images. Without pictures of a so called [...]

  69. Jack says:

    Between anti-conformist clowns like TYNK and enviro-whack Jobs like Al Gore, I can’t take anyone seriously on environmental issues any longer. There is too much drama, provocation and disinformation.

    Saint Al’s carbon hysteria is getting in the way of solving real problems like water pollution and nothing interferes with the solution of genuine environmental issues like the religiosity of these alarmists. Their nonsense has even interfered with the production of solar panels and has driven industry to heavily polluting countries with hideous human rights records.

    Awareness has been raised, hippies and no one is interested in your geo-fascist interference. If there is a real threat to the people and the planet, you are as big a threat as any filthy coal plant, which incidentally, is where a lot of the electricity that will run all those electric cars will come from.

    “The more prohibitions there are . .
    The poorer the people will be. . .
    The more laws are promulgated,
    The more thieves and bandits there will be.”

    Lao Tzu

  70. N says:

    Miriam,

    A bongo net and a manta trawl have entirely different functions, beyond having just a “differently shaped net”. The bongo trawl is designed so that it can sample at various depths, whereas the structure of the manta locks it into surface sampling only.

  71. sarah says:

    this just sinks in 10 years it is going to be as big as the U.S.A

  72. ten to one says:

    Plastics are so prevalent for a good reason: sanitation. Using plastics keeps food fresher longer, therefore keeping us healthier and allowing us to live far longer than we would otherwise. It has similar longevity effects on other products, detergents, etc making them cheaper and more effectively utilized. So the biggest problem for cutting down plastic use is finding a replacement that is an equivelant from a sanitation/efficiency standpoint.

    It’s very hard to get people to reduce their standard of living/health. How many people kept their sweaters on and thermostats lower as Pres. Carter suggested once the oil crisis passed?

    This has the smell of Brazilian rain forests burning and the ozone layer, etc.

    Facts stated need to be verified to support your . Plenty of people that have appropriate concern with these issues can suffer from innumeracy. See 10 to 1 below.

    Also, saying there is no picture because it can’t be taken is bunk.

    Visible light isn’t the only bandwidth that satellite imagery uses. UV/IR/radar. Why doesn’t it show on any of NOAA’s alternative spectrum imagery? Plastic is probably not reflective at the same bandwidths as water. It would also heat/cool the water as it absorbs/reflects the sun’s rays.

    Even if it is micro-particulate, a research vessel could easily be equipped with a filtration system to study the floating plastic continent.

    Hard, verified data is always good to have when championing causes such as this one.

    Information problems noted:

    Great Pacific Garbage Patch – wikipedia

    “Moore, returning home through the North Pacific Gyre after competing in the Transpac sailing race, came upon an enormous stretch of floating debris.” This quote should be referenced but isn’t. Anyone?

    If he saw “an enormous stretch of floating debris” why is it now no longer on the surface, but just below the surface and micro-particles? (Moore’s current position)

    If there were 300 million tons of floating plastic(energy) available, don’t you think that someone would attempt to harvest it? That’s easier energy to recover than using deep sea oil rigs.

    Is this an argument for burning our trash so that we get some good use out of plastics and avoid drilling for more oil? The source of the raw materials for most plastics if I’m correct. Why are we burying energy in landfills?

    10 to 1 ratio of killed to caught?

    If shrimpers are that effective at killing those other sea dwellers, why aren’t those capitalist fishermen gathering and selling those dead creatures as well. They would be forgoing alot of commercial value just to get the shrimp.

    They would also have to take the time/money to sort out all of that ‘trash’. It would be a significant amount even if only ten percent was caught in the nets. As much ‘trash’ as shrimp to sort out if my math is correct.

    Toxins in plastics. Where are plastics in the ‘likely causes of death’ ladder? Drowning in plastic pails by toddlers is thousands if not millions times more likely than poisoning by microwaved plastic dishware. If you’re worried about the clorides in plastic, do you use Clorox? Do you know that it isn’t used where you work/shop/travel etc. If you use something to clean, a chemical reaction has to occur. Soap doesn’t clean by abrasion. Are plastics any more toxic that common soaps?

    A comedy shop in the 70’s had a sketch were a scientist was contemplating causes of death and says offhand “We’re beginning to suspect Oxygen”.

    Please make sure your numbers pass a reasonability test. I’ll help your fight against mild skeptics if nothing else.

    And is you ‘education’ just ‘indoctrination’? Without facts and verifiable studies it is, whether you are right or not.

  73. [...] Via: It’s not packed in as tight as that – it’s more like a dense collection of tiny floating pieces of plastic, most of which are not on the surface. A big container ship or naval vessel going through there would probably not notice much out of the ordinary – after all, there is some degree of plastic trash floating on the surface all over the world. [...]

  74. yt says:

    Thank you very much for this post. I have been searching for just such a photo as you discuss, and have been unable to find it. However. I have seen samples of actual trash removed from this area, including lawn chairs and shampoo bottles ( http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2009/09/great-pacific-garbage-patch-video ), though I understand that very likely, the vast majority of the waste is too small to create a garbage patch visible to satellites.

  75. Mfarrell says:

    I am an avid waterman, my whole life since I could swim. Dive, surf, fish, spearfish, sail, wind surf etc. The ocean is THE source of life on this planet, land based and other. There is no doubt the Pacific Trash Gyre (and others) is real, most reliable and honest news sources verify that. Just the fact that nets are picking up tiny particles of plastic hundreds of miles out to sea is disturbing; a trash “island” the size of the U.S. floating out there where no one sees it even more so! Skeptics can argue all they want, they make excellent lawyers. But reality trumps argument every time (except in the OJ Simpson trial). I just heard about this on the Bill Handel show yesterday and am blown away!! There is a ton of data backing this up. People need to speak honestly for sure; the whole shrimp by-catch thing is pretty ridiculous, I wonder how much time Miriam spent on a commercial trawler to back her claim. Ten pounds of by-catch to one pound shrimp? Come on… Keep it real; people do care but are weary of being lied to by idealogues. Solutions and awareness people!

  76. Mfarrell – The 10:1 figure is from the Food and Agriculture Organization. You can read the report for yourself here. So yep, that would be keeping it real.

  77. Josh says:

    “for some reason they didn’t want drowned turtles next to Tom Hank’s angelic self”

    Turtles are yummy.

  78. Savannah says:

    if anyone knows anything about a spearfish please email me! i am working on a project in marine biology and cant find anything about it! please help! StarburstzRoc13@yahoo.com

  79. [...] science conducted on marine debris by checking out the SEAPLEX expedition page for more info.  Miriam at the Oyster’s Garter also has many great posts on this subject if you want to learn [...]

  80. Hannah says:

    Such a complex problem . . . You can’t remove it because the fish are living there and yet the fish are dying because of it. Leaving it there kills sea life, removing it would kill sea life, and everyone who knows/cares about it doesn’t want to deal with it. Hence the no pictures thing. Such a catch 22.

  81. BS says:

    I call BULLSHIT!!!

  82. David says:

    I have only just found out about this shocking thing that is happening to our sea creatures, it must surely be better to kill a few cleaning this man made floating garbage tip up rather than allow it to kill many over a long period and become much worse, I am an Australian and have been on this planet for 69 years now, it would be so much better if the animals of this planet could take over for awhile as they don’t stuff it up like we do and the so called dominate race can crawl back under the logs where we belong,…..IT IS NO LONGER A BEAUTIFUL PLANET.

  83. Reader says:

    It is more like plastic soup than an island.

  84. SailorGil says:

    Q: How did this garbage get there in the first place ?

    A: Careless people not disposing of their garbage properly ! Any plastics that get tossed in or on a stream, river or coastline, end up being carried by tides and storms out to sea, where they eventually degrade from UV rays into the tiny pieces that are floating in the NP Gyre and all the world’s oceans.

    To prevent the problem from getting worse, people all over the world must start being very diligent about plastics disposal !!!

    More photos of marine debris littering the seas are at my Flickr Gallery:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7437991@N08/galleries/72157622644737508/

  85. [...] headline-grabbing voyage on a yacht made of reclaimed plastic bottles, taking in the North Pacific Gyre on a route from San Francisco to Sydney (a project delayed partly by the extremely ambitious task [...]

  86. [...] right through the Patch, the water itself probably wouldn’t look too remarkable, unless you scooped some up and looked at it closely. So cleaning up this part of the ocean isn’t as simple as you might [...]

  87. [...] Now, contrast this with the results of a trawl from the North Pacific Gyre. Here’s the bongo net being hauled up – see how the ocean looks normal? But the contents – plastic, plastic, and more plastic.* (Credit: Algalita Marine Research Foundation).  When all that plastic collects somewhere, you get beaches like this one in the NW Hawaiian Islands. LINK. [...]

  88. Jumbo Shrimp says:

    It shocks me that people have not done anything about this yet! There is plastic and human debris in the ocean! Yes it can be dangerous to the animals and yes it can be an advantage to some, but its also a hazard as it can cause health problems to animals and humans. I dont know about you but I dont want to gut a fish I caught to find human debris! Talk about gross. It would be hard to remove seeing as how fish do tend to swim near it and some live there but I think we should still clean it up. The health risks for both animals and humans really outweighs the “We would be destroying a newly accquired habitat for some really cool looking fish.” Besides its a fact that nature survives even after being displaced and its our fault that fish have been harmed by this. We have to take responsibility for our actions some time in our lives. I feel that we could come up with a way to clean it without killing animals by accident. All we have to do is use the brains that we all have. If people actually thought about what they were doing things would be a little bit better. Anywhose thats my opinion on the subject and I plan on doing something about this.

  89. Suzanne says:

    I’ve been worried about this problem for years. My father purchased and remediated garbage landfill properties for a living so got to learn a lot about about garbage, and contaminated land from gas stations, etc. My father hated it when Safeway started providing plastic bags back in the late 1970’s, and knew this was a big mistake – we’ve never accepted plastic bags anywhere we shop. When we lived and worked in Europe many decades ago for a few years, everyone was already using reusable bags, and you had to pay if needed a paper bag. However, plastic cigarette butts littered many of the towns in Europe, and many if not most of these cigarette butts flowed out to the oceans eventually. I’m not sure this is happening in Europe still these days, hope not.

    I live next to the ocean, never go without a bag to collect garbage. We go to the beach often and it’s awful to see all the purple and green hues of oils atop the water now, from drilling, ships, farm run-off, garbage and plastics. On my last trip to Santa Cruz beach, there was so much garbage, 1.75 liter coke bottles, that I ran out of room in my garbage bag, even after I had my kids stom and flatten the bottles. This was just a small section of beach directly in front of the arcade area of the Santa Cruz boardwalk. I was appalled no one cared that all these plastic bottles littering the beach were all to be in the ocean by the next day. When visiting Venice Italy, saw all the soap suds from a washing machine going straight into the canal – poor Mediterranean Sea.

    My ideas:
    1) Ban cigarettes that use plastic filters. I sweep cigarette butts up in front of the building I manage in San Francisco every week, even though I have a “NO SMOKING” policy for the building. During storms, the cigarette butts go straight into storm drain that drains straight out into the pacific ocean if I don’t get to them first, as our building is just a few blocks from the ocean.

    2) Ban plastic shopping bags and charge $1 a bag for recycled paper if customer forgets to bring their own bag. They’ve made a little effort here in San Francisco recently, but why taking so long? Most retailers are still not in compliance. There isn’t enough regulation and no paid staffing in place to enforce. If police can fine for litter $1000, then lets start fines to retailers that provide plastic bags, and have the police stop by more often to enforce. If the plastic bags were reusable for garbage, then wouldn’t be so bad, but they all come with a hole in bottom, so found it doesn’t work well for all garbage.

    3) Ban plastic beverage containers! This is by far the most wasteful thing I’ve seen to buy a plastic bottle for a few sips of water or sugar water. Sorry, but how stupid can people get? I’ve used the same REI Nalgene bottle for 7 years now and refill the bottle before I go out for the day using filtered water from tap. I never drink soda – my father taught me that soda was invented to make the manufacturer very rich and just rot teeth of children. We need to go back to aluminum and glass only, but that requires putting pressure on the manufacturers. Places like Disney World, I read they are offering the sale of reusable refill mugs – again made of plastic though, but wish they would go a step further – ban the one-time use beverage containers altogether, and require that you buy reusable drink container (or bring your own – better), and use drink dispenser machines around the park for a fee for each refill. Or offer paper cups for those that forget their reusable bottle, also charging a fee for the paper cup. Everyone profits this way, and the environment will have less bottles to recycle or accidently float to sea. Juices should be sold in glass containers with metal lids, like old days again – Snapple for example. Even better, what I do is carry 3oz bottle of juice concentrate even though airport security, and don’t have to buy juice out anywhere. Saves money, saves the environment.

    4) Eliminate plastic packaging – require recycled paper or cardboard packaging instead if necessary. Milk cartons without the plastic cap, the way they used to make them for 1/2 gallons, quarts, and pints are the only ones in my opinion that should be made to sell milk. Eliminate plastic gallons altogether, and eliminate the plastic caps as well.

    5) Styrofoam packaging – the pellets are used shipping everything, and fly away into our oceans as fast as lightning. Oh, how I hate that stuff but it prevents breakage, so shippers swear by it. What is a viable replacement – reusable foam perhaps?

    6) Stop overnight cruise ships – OMG, does anyone know how much crap these cruise ships dump directly into the ocean? Sure they take the trash and recycling to shore. But guess what happens with all the water on-board? Some partially treat the sewage, but all sewage is dumped at sea. All the waste water is also dumped at see – this includes all the sunscreen from the many showers people take onboard, the swimming pool water, tons of cleansers, detergents, waste water from salons and kitchens, food debri, etc. I will never take a cruise after I learned how they handle their waste water. Don’t let them fool you into believing all their wastewater is pumped off-shore. It all goes into the ocean, some partially treated but not adequately, and most not treated at all! These ships are getting wildly popular, and are now moving to sizes that carry over 5,000 people – a city at sea polluting our oceans. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the various cruise ships belonging to each cruise ship company, and am again, appalled.

    If more people don’t wake up and start protecting their planet, then we will see our demise very soon. Things can change quickly. All the frogs and turtles I used to play with when I was little, are now gone from our local streams.

    Does anyone know of good organizations to join to save our oceans that fund environmental lawyers, politicians, and public speakers to provide consumer awareness and to initiate legislation against plastic manufacturing and packaging? It’s up to the consumer to stop this pattern of environmental destruction. Manufacturers and beverage producers – very few care about our environment, only bottom line and their profit lined pockets. We as consumers are the fools ruining the environment by buying these products. Legislation need to happen to curb the destruction that these manufacturers are causing. It’s all about good habits – reuse and keep your reusable drink container on you at all times and never buy one-time-use plastic contained beverages, keep your reusable shopping bags with you at all times, buy products that do not have plastic packaging, pick up after yourself everywhere you go, etc. These are habits I’ve had for over 25 years now. People complain about not having enough money – eliminate buying plastic products, bottled water, etc, and calculate your savings, you could be rich today if invested that money into something else. Save for your future and future of our planet, don’t buy plastic.

  90. Suzanne says:

    It’s nothing new that we’ve been using our oceans as a garbage dump for years, Many 3rd world countries still haul their garbage off to dump in the ocean. Even in San Francisco, we hauled our garbage south of town and dumped it into the bay for years, then finally a highway was built to separate the garbage dump from the bay that opens out into the Pacific (city of Brisbane, CA now). But now that we have been adding plastics to the ocean garbage dump for almost a century now, we are running into another environmental disaster, perhaps could be the worst of all.

    Here’s a good real video of the actual plastic found in the Pacific gyre. Another was just discovered in Atlantic Bermuda: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxNqzAHGXvs

  91. Divebum121 says:

    And there you have it folks, Rammer represents the majority and that’s why we are F’d. Rammer and his/her kin will rammer the earth right in the a$$ as long as they want. Hey rammer why don’t you do a little research on the effects of plastics in the sea and whets happens when they break down. Oh yea but you don’t care.

  92. Divebum121 says:

    yes I spelled what very very wrong sorry.

  93. ocean 4 life says:

    Wish there was less (rammer) in the world, we wouldn’t be in such a mess! At least pick up your chew tins please

  94. ocean 4 life says:

    FU Rammer

  95. Pat Kelley says:

    I was born and raised over 70 years ago in Hawaii and lived through the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the resulting military law we had for the duration of WWII, plus haves sailed a bit throughout Hawaiian waters and personally piloted my own small plane throughout the Hawaiian Islands so I have seen a lot of Hawaii and it’s oceans. Unused to think the military was the hardest on our beaches and marine environment for they had no conception of what they dumped (oil, gas, trash, metal, etc etc) would harm the islands but also they did not care for the Pacific was so vast and deep it was hard to believe it would cause harm. When sailing in the Pacific doldrums I saw seaweed catch and hold trash until it seemed you could walk on it. No one seemed to care about it when I tried to report it. Now we have destroyed Hawaii’s environment and no one in the US mainland cares. If it happened on a New Jersey or Maryland Beach or a Florida Beach there would be shouts from the TV pundits and newsmakers. So sad to see Hawaii overwhelmed by this problem and our beautiful Pacific Ocean end up like the dirty sea between Japan and China. I sailed there and have watched it become a toxic soup. We are one ocean world wide and what happens in the Pacific will be what the future holds for the rest of the world. Keep up talking about the problem– get CNN out there to cover the Pacific Gyre– call up the East Coast and wake them up to knowing it will be in the Atlantic. Aloha from a place of paradise, Hawaii.

  96. Someone tell me why there isn’t a few thermodepolymerazation machines on the bag of many large boats to take care of the garbage patch problem. (the north pacific trash gyre .). . I thought anything could be fed into those machines, and out comes gas, oil, water, and minerals . As far as plastics are concerned plastics makes a lot of oil when fed to this machine anything can be put in there except nuclear waste. The machines are usually fairly large but can be a made small enough to fit on the back of a flatbed truck. I think when they boil stuff it only gives off gas , not smoke which is then used to run the machine…. ditto the water which comes from out of the trash We could be cleaning up the ocean, turning trash into good stuff and creating jobs. What is stopping us? we would rather whine? I thought I read that the government is backing this trash -to- treasure garbage- to- gold effort so they wouldn’t stand in the way of this .. Is all this already happening out in the ocean and I don’t know about it ? technology creates problems , and pleasures ..Let it create solutions, to those problems .

  97. I meant to say, back, not bag …

  98. [...] headline-grabbing voyage on a yacht made of reclaimed plastic bottles, taking in the North Pacific Gyre on a route from San Francisco to Sydney (a project delayed partly by the extremely ambitious task [...]

  99. [...] The reason why there is not a lot of good photos of the North Pacific Gyre is that most of the garbage is just underwater and is somewhat spread out as explained in theoystersgarter.com. [...]

  100. KEG says:

    Why can’t the trash vortex be found using infrared photography. If they can find oil and related items underground. Why can’t they locate an Island the size of Texas. And how can they find the size of the area in question if you can’t see it in the first place.

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  102. [...] like a plastic soup, constantly moving just below the surface of the water. This is why there are no real pictures of the island and you can’t see it on Google Earth, or in satellite images. Without pictures of a so called [...]

  103. [...] like a plastic soup, constantly moving just below the surface of the water. This is why there are no real pictures of the island and you can’t see it on Google Earth, or in satellite images. Without pictures of a so called [...]

  104. [...] like a plastic soup, constantly moving just below the surface of the water. This is why there are no real pictures of the island and you can’t see it on Google Earth, or in satellite images. Without pictures of a so called [...]

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    Informative and helpful. I’ve taken the liberty of quoting you in my Greens for America blog in a post on the advantages of using biodegradable plastics wherever possible, especially in “throw-away” products. Thanks!

  106. [...] the most pressing questions about its existance is: if it’s so big, why are there no photos? The Oyster Garter (no I’m not making it up) blog provides a good analysis ( all links are courtesy of The Oyster [...]

  107. Rob says:

    It is very interesting, thank you, but now, what could we do to make disapear ? Have a good day :-)

  108. Rhonda Leah Pierson Davies says:

    I believe the answer is to find a philanthropist to buy a depolymerazation (sp? )machine for us , ( a couple of million dollars ) & put it on the back of a boat /ship out into the gyre . we would feed the plastic and other trash to the machine which would then turn it into gas. oil .water. fertilizer Sure ,it would be a drop in the bucket , and the oil companies would find out & screaming and crying ,and trying to kill us , and /or insisting that these machines don’t exist, or will blow up the world or some such nonsense . , I guess we would have to be sneaky about it., or offer the oil for free, or for a good price, to the oil companies ( to keep them calm ).. .. lol. but also very serious arelle

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