In the Interest of Garbage Fairness

I’ve made mention of the garbage island out in the North Pacific before.  In what isn’t a big surprise, there’s a comparable assemblage of refuse in the North Atlantic.  Wired Science has the details, including a computer model that appears to suggest that comparable gatherings of trash might be found in the southern regions of both the Atlantic and Pacific, as well as the southern Indian Ocean.  That’s based on measurements of ocean currents.  Science has the full study (abstract only, subscription required for full paper).  It should be noted that most of the debris is composed of individual particles too small to be easily detected by sight, requiring the researchers to measure by using nets.

Of some interest is the observation that the Atlantic patch has remained relatively stable over the last 22 years.  At the same time there has been a dramatic increase in the production (and discarding) of plastic.  There are many possible explanations from that, including the possibility that the trash eventually sinks.

While I’d love to see these patches disappear, I recognize the cleanup process could cause as much disruption as it might disperse.  Getting at these patches will probably require greater emphasis on reducing how much of this stuff gets thrown out and discarded in ways that reach rivers, streams, and then the ocean.


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