The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized

I never leave the house without my camera. This morning, though, preoccupied by thoughts of how Hurricane Bill might impact my trip to South Beach, I ran out to the bank leaving it on the charger.

Halfway there, I saw two kids let go of a foil balloon that rose, glittering, against the sky. I was tickled for a moment, watching it drift up in a lazy spiral. It seemed a space oddity, like a model in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was digging for the forgotten camera when I remembered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and all the horror and disbelief I felt when I first heard of it.

In case you haven’t, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a vast mass of debris (primarily plastic like bags, six-pack rings, toys, balloons, etc. caught in tangled webs of “ghost”, or lost, fishing nets) swept together by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. A whole new garbage “continent” estimated to be twice the size of Texas. TWICE THE SIZE OF TEXAS!

And if the toxins leaching out of it are not scary enough, a little light reading on the subject of nurdles should get you crying in no time.

We need ground control, Major Tom (and everyone else)! No matter where in the world a plastic bag or bit of packaging, cellophane or bottle cap fall into the street, it eventually finds its way by sewer, river, lake and ocean currents into the Pacific. The smaller the scraps, the more mobile they are. We can all help by bothering to bend and pick up any pieces of plastic, vinyl or mylar you spot and dispose of them carefully. I don’t usually preach but just thinking about the GPGP makes me sick.

I like to discover continents new to me but not if they’ve been formed out of garbage. I’ll be thinking of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – and ordering my mojito without a straw – when I’m on the beach in Miami.

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