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12. Pacific Garbage Dump—Did You Really Think Your Plastic Was Being Recycled?

Many people do not realize that there is a swirling mass of plastic in the middle of the Pacific ocean that qualify as the planet’s largest garbage dump.  The 5 Gyres Project estimates that there are 315 billion pounds of plastic in the ocean right now. Much of the world’s trash has accumulated in part of the Pacific Ocean (roughly 135° to 155°W and 35° to 42°N), based on the movement of ocean currents.

Not all plastic in the recycling bin gets recycled and people carelessly toss plastics away. Plastic litter often ends up in the waterways and currents carry it out into the ocean. These pieces of plastic have a dire effect on marine life. Turtles confuse plastic bags for jellyfish and birds confuse bottle caps for food. They ingest them but can’t digest them, so their stomachs fill with plastic and they starve to death.

At the moment there is no easy way to clean up this major trash accumulation. However, we can stop it from getting worse by following the Ocean Conservancy’s list of 10 things you can do… living by the concept of less is more: Don’t buy stuff you don’t need and choose items that use less packaging. Other actions at oceanconservancy.org.

 

Sources:

“The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Is Bigger Than the Continental US: Here’s What We Can Do About It,” Jaymi  Heimbuch, Alternet, July 13, 2010. http://www.alternet.org/water/147528/the_great_pacific_garbage_patch_is_bigger_than_the_continental_us%3A_here’s_what_we_can_do_about_it/?page=1

Student Researcher: Allison Holt, San Francisco State University

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows, San Francisco State University

  • jane_weed October 24, 2011

    This summary implies that rather than recycle plastic, it is dumped into the ocean by people in the recycling industry.  In reality, the gyre has been caused by billions of humans carelessly littering the planet with plastic trash over the past few decades. Why is the recycling industry indicted as a cause of this? There is no substantiation for this in the linked article.

    • Machinists_Mate February 9, 2012

      Just because a recycling company picks up your “recyclables” in your special container, it doesn’t mean it’s going to get recycled. To my understanding, they’re not forced to recycle everything. That, and of course few plastics are actually recycled. There are far more trash cans than there are recycling bins or centers, and the tri-arrow on the bottom, means nothing, it’s only the number in the middle that has any significance, yet people aren’t aware of this.

      • jane_weed February 9, 2012

         How do you know? You provide no information, just guesses. The point was that nothing in the text supports the headline.

      • Lucid7x March 12, 2012

         i know for a fact it gets recycled as my city gets money to recycle em and says screw off were not giving you guys in breaks in your bills lol

        • Expand your Mind sometimes June 6, 2012

          Just because they take your money, doesnt mean it gets recycled. it’s this kind of thinking that allows the deception to continue.

    • damspam September 30, 2012

      Sorry to bereak the news, but either you are a dimwit or need glasses. The article does NOT imply or state that recycling companies toss plastic into the ocean.

  • Anonymous October 24, 2011

    This summary implies that rather than recycle plastic, it is dumped into the ocean by people in the recycling industry.  In reality, the gyre has been caused by billions of humans carelessly littering the planet with plastic trash over the past few decades. Why is the recycling industry indicted as a cause of this? There is no substantiation for this in the linked article.

    • Anonymous February 9, 2012

      Just because a recycling company picks up your “recyclables” in your special container, it doesn’t mean it’s going to get recycled. To my understanding, they’re not forced to recycle everything. That, and of course few plastics are actually recycled. There are far more trash cans than there are recycling bins or centers, and the tri-arrow on the bottom, means nothing, it’s only the number in the middle that has any significance, yet people aren’t aware of this.

      • Anonymous February 9, 2012

         How do you know? You provide no information, just guesses. The point was that nothing in the text supports the headline.

      • Lucid7x March 12, 2012

         i know for a fact it gets recycled as my city gets money to recycle em and says screw off were not giving you guys in breaks in your bills lol

        • Expand your Mind sometimes June 6, 2012

          Just because they take your money, doesnt mean it gets recycled. it’s this kind of thinking that allows the deception to continue.

    • Dam Spahn September 30, 2012

      Sorry to bereak the news, but either you are a dimwit or need glasses. The article does NOT imply or state that recycling companies toss plastic into the ocean.

  • Tomsherenow2003 December 30, 2011

    we used to break our necks as teens scrounging up glass pop bottles to return for the cash for candy and pop

  • Tomsherenow2003 December 30, 2011

    we used to break our necks as teens scrounging up glass pop bottles to return for the cash for candy and pop

  • Tomsherenow2003 December 30, 2011

    all electronics such as a new modem from your internet provider  .the cardboard boxes they come in, are considerably thicker than cereal boxes

  • Tomsherenow2003 December 30, 2011

    all electronics such as a new modem from your internet provider  .the cardboard boxes they come in, are considerably thicker than cereal boxes

  • Puffer April 6, 2012

    An Oregon University scientist released a report about this patch last year. Two of your top stories I spent five minutes researching and they turn out to be bogus. News releases and articles in National Geographic do not constitute scientific research. The only censoring going on is the actual truth.

    White has pored over published literature and participated in one of the few expeditions solely aimed at understanding the abundance of plastic debris and the associated impact of plastic on microbial communities. That expedition was part of research funded by the National Science Foundation through C-MORE, the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education.The studies have shown is that if you look at the actual area of the plastic itself, rather than the entire North Pacific subtropical gyre, the hypothetically “cohesive” plastic patch is actually less than 1 percent of the geographic size of Texas.

  • Puffer April 6, 2012

    An Oregon University scientist released a report about this patch last year. Two of your top stories I spent five minutes researching and they turn out to be bogus. News releases and articles in National Geographic do not constitute scientific research. The only censoring going on is the actual truth.

    White has pored over published literature and participated in one of the few expeditions solely aimed at understanding the abundance of plastic debris and the associated impact of plastic on microbial communities. That expedition was part of research funded by the National Science Foundation through C-MORE, the Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education.The studies have shown is that if you look at the actual area of the plastic itself, rather than the entire North Pacific subtropical gyre, the hypothetically “cohesive” plastic patch is actually less than 1 percent of the geographic size of Texas.

  • Walter Weyerman October 12, 2012

    Absolutely refuse to accept a plastic bag when you purchase items at a store. Get in the habit of carrying a bag with you, stuff it in your purse or backpack before you leave the house. (Check list: keys, phone, money, bag…) If you forget just put the stuff in your pockets or just carry it if you have to. Also stop buying drinks served in plastic cups, or water in plastic bottles. Make the decision, live with conviction.

  • Walter Weyerman October 12, 2012

    Absolutely refuse to accept a plastic bag when you purchase items at a store. Get in the habit of carrying a bag with you, stuff it in your purse or backpack before you leave the house. (Check list: keys, phone, money, bag…) If you forget just put the stuff in your pockets or just carry it if you have to. Also stop buying drinks served in plastic cups, or water in plastic bottles. Make the decision, live with conviction.

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