The garbage island in North Pacific Ocean has one of the highest levels of fine particles suspended in the water surface. It is therefore one of the oceanic regions where researchers have studied the effects and impact of plastic photodegradation of floating debris on the layer of water. Unlike biodegradable waste, the photodegradable plastics are disintegrated into smaller pieces that remain in the water. This process continues until a molecular level.
As photodegradable floating plastic waste become increasingly smaller pieces, they concentrate on the top until they disintegrate, and plastic at the end becomes such a small size that can be eaten by marine organisms living close of the ocean surface. Therefore, waste garbage completely enter the food chain.
The garbage island in North Pacific Ocean is not known for being a visible area of floating debris. The process of disintegration means that the most dangerous plastic particles are too small to be seen. Researchers can only estimate the total density of the pollution of the Pacific Ocean just by samples.
In a 2001 study, researchers found that in certain areas of the ocean, plastic concentrations approach 5.1 milligrams per square meter. In many areas of the affected region, plastic concentration was even greater than the concentration of zooplankton. Samples taken at the bottom of the water column showed low levels of plastic waste, confirming the first impressions that said the main concentration of debris was on the surface of the sea.
The floating plastic particles resemble zooplankton, whereby it can be accidentally consumed by the jellyfish. Many long-term waste end up in the stomachs of marine birds and marine animals, including sea turtles and black-footed albatrosses. These particles are a risk to marine life. Besides polluting seawater, these floating waste bring other pollutants which pose toxic effects, when consumed by mistake, cause hormonal problems in animals. The jellyfish eat plastic containing toxins, and in turn, the larger fish eat jellyfish. Many will be fished and eaten by humans, resulting in a human ingestion of toxins. The marine plastic also makes the spread of invasive species that attach to the surface of this floating plastic and travel long distances, colonizing new ecosystems.
Researchers have shown that these plastic waste affect at least 267 species worldwide, of which the majority live in the great garbage island in North Pacific Ocean.
While some species of algae, crustaceans and fish thrive in similar microhabitats to the floating debris, it has not been obtained any information on any species that thrive in the great Pacific garbage island. In fact, species disappear as a result of waste concretized in the islands of garbage.