The largest known accumulation of plastic debris is found in the central North Pacific Ocean. It contains primarily floating plastics trapped and concentrated by currents associated with the North Pacific Gyre northeast of the Hawaiian Islands. Estimates of size range from 270,000 square miles to more than 5,800,000 square miles, or twice the size of the United States. No-one is exactly certain of the size and scope of the floating garbage patch as it is constantly changing and much of it is invisible floating just beneath the surface of the water. However the content of the floating debris is certain, large amounts of plastic debris created by the over manufacture, consumption and careless disposal of plastics in our environment.
Why you should care
These long-lasting plastics become part of the marine food chain by ending up in the stomachs of marine fish, birds, turtles and mammals. The most obvious danger from the floating pieces ingested by turtles, birds and mammals is digestive impaction or gastric perforation, killing the animals soon after they eat the debris. The smallest particles of plastics may even be taken up by plankton with the toxic effects of the plastics become concentrated as they move up the food chain resulting in the highest concentrations in the top predators such as large fish, sharks and whales potentially affecting their health and reproduction-termed “bioaccumulation”. In addition to affecting the health of the animals eating the plastics, these top predators such as large fish like tuna may be eaten by people who may then also suffer from poor health associated with plastic toxins.
We propose studying the problem by sampling the plastic debris via research vessels. Once the problem is better understood we then plan to develop specialized boats with special gear similar to a wheat harvester to move through the garbage patch removing marine plastic debris. Our ultimate goal will be to have multiple vessels cleaning up plastic debris with at least one garbage barge to accept the harvested waste such that the clean-up effort will be able to continue uninterrupted.
The activities of OGP will be centered around action and advocacy to study, clean-up and reduce floating plastic debris in the ocean via scientific research and public awareness. We will fund this by soliciting donations through our website, by selling non-plastic consumer goods as a replacement for single use plastics, and by submitting grants. Using scientific methods to identify the key problems and to develop solutions to the problem in addition to educate the public about floating plastic debris we further our organization’s exempt purposes. One hundred percent of Ocean Garbage Patch’s time will be dedicated to the study, clean-up, and reduction of floating plastic debris.
Video courtesy of University of Washington