The "garbage patch," is an area of marine debris concentration in the North Pacific Ocean. While litter items can be found in this area, along with other debris such as derelict fishing nets, much of the debris these days are small bits of floatable plastic debris. These plastic pieces are quite small and not immediately evident to the naked eye. Much of the debris found here are small bits of floating plastic not easily seen from a boat.
Locations of the Garbage Patches
Eastern Pacific garbage patch
Concentrations of marine debris have been noted in an area midway between Hawai'i and California within the North Pacific Subtropical High, an area between Hawaii and California.Due to limited marine debris samples collected in the Pacific it is still difficult to predict its exact content, size, and location. However, marine debris has been quantified in higher concentrations in the calm center of this high-pressure zone compared to areas outside this zone. It should be noted that the North Pacific Subtropical High is not a stationary area, but one that moves and changes. This area is defined by the NOAA National Weather Service as "a semi-permanent, subtropical area of high pressure in the North Pacific Ocean. It is strongest in the Northern Hemispheric summer and is displaced towards the equator during the winter when the Aleutian Low becomes more dominant. Comparable systems are the Azores High and the Bermuda High." The High is not a stationary area, but one that rotates, moves, and changes.
Western Pacific garbage patch
There is a small "recirculation gyre" south of the Kuroshio current, off the coast of Japan that may concentrate floating marine debris; the so-called western garbage patch. The exact forces that cause this clockwise rotation are still being researched; however it may be caused by winds and ocean eddies (clockwise or counter-clockwise rotating waters). Research is ongoing by academia such as the University of Hawaii and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to further understand the true nature of and forces behind these recirculation gyres.
North Pacific is the Subtropical Convergence Zone (STCZ)
The STCZ is located along the southern edge of an area known as the North Pacific Transition Zone. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has focused on the STCZ because it is an area of high productivity, pelagic species feeding and migration, and documented marine debris concentration – and one of the reasons for marine debris accumulation in Hawaii.
Differences between 'garbage patches' and gyres
A gyre is a large-scale circular feature made up of ocean currents that spiral around a central point, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.Worldwide, there are five major subtropical oceanic gyres: the North and South Pacific Subtropical Gyres, the North and South Atlantic Subtropical Gyres, and the Indian Ocean Subtropical Gyre. The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is the one most notable because of its tendency to collect debris. It is made up of four large, clockwise-rotating currents – North Pacific, California, North Equatorial, and Kuroshio. While a gyre may aggregate debris on a very large scale, debris patches, are actually the result of various smaller-scale oceanographic features such as oceanic eddies and frontal meanders. As energy (wind/currents) hit the front there are undulations and "curvature" which are described as frontal meanders (18).
How does the plastic end up in the ocean
- Between 100 and 200 billion pounds of plastic is manufactured annually
- An estimated 10% of plastic ends up in the oceans every year
- About 20% comes from ships and platforms in the sea
- The remaining 80% comes from the land – garbage that travels through storm drains or watersheds and accumulates in streams, rivers, and bays. Eventually this plastic garbage finds its way to into the oceans. (19)
Plastic Free Life
Top 2 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste
1. Carry reusable shopping bags.
2. Give up bottled water.
Not only does it come in a plastic bottle, but also tremendous resources are used to extract, bottle, and ship it. Get a reusable stainless steel bottle or stainless steel travel mug; fill it up with tap water before leaving the house. Plastic-Free Grocery Shopping (20)
Plastic-Free Grocery Shopping
3. Shop your local farmers market
4. Say no to plastic produce bags.
5. Buy from bulk bins as often as possible.
6. Cut out sodas, juices, and all other plastic-bottled beverages.
7. Buy fresh bread that comes in either paper bags or no bags.
8. Return containers for berries, cherry tomatoes, etc. to the farmer's market to be reused.
9. Bring your own container for meat and prepared foods
10. Choose milk in returnable glass bottles.
11. Buy large wheels of unwrapped cheese.
12. Try to choose only wine bottled in glass with natural cork stoppers.
13. Let go of frozen convenience foods.
14.Give up chewing gum.
Did you know almost all chewing gum is made from plastic? That's right. When you're chewing gum, you're chewing on plastic (21).
Plastic-Free Eating and Drinking on the Go
15. Carry your own containers for take out food and leftovers.
16. Carry a stainless steel travel mug or water bottle at all times for coffee and other drinks while out in the world.
17. Carry reusable utensils and glass drinking straws.
18. When ordering pizza, say no to the little plastic "table" in the middle of the pizza box.
19. Treat yourself to an ice cream cone.
Instead of keeping containers of ice cream in the freezer, go out and get ice cream in a cone. (22)
Plastic-Free Lunches at School or Work
20. Bring plate, bowl, glass, and utensils to keep at the office.
21. Carry lunches in reusable stainless containers or cloth bags.
22. Choose reusable cloth sandwich/snack bags.
Plastic-Free Food Storage & Kitchenware
23. Choose glass/stainless steel food storage containers, and reuse what you have.
24. Store foods without freezing.
25. Avoid non-stick cookware.
26. Choose astainless steel ice cube tray.
If your old plastic ice trays have worn out, consider replacing them with stainless steel.
27. Usestainless steel popsicle molds. (23)
41. Check labels of personal care products!
42. Use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap.
43. Give up shampoo in plastic bottles.
44. Baking soda is the best deodorant EVER.
45. Use soap instead of canned shave cream.
46. Choose lotions and lip balms in plastic-free containers.
47. Switch from a plastic razor to a second hand safety razor.
48. Use less plastic tooth paste/powder, toothbrush, and floss.
49.Choose toilet paper that's not wrapped in plastic.
50.Look into plastic-free sunscreen options.
51.Choose a plastic-free wooden hairbrush.(24)