garbage islands

Garbage Islands

Garbage islands, also known as plastic islands, are areas of the ocean covered with debris and located in central North Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean. These oceanic landfills are characterized by an exceptional high concentration of suspended plastic and other waste trapped in ocean currents of both oceans. Despite their size and density, garbage islands are difficult to see even through photographs taken by satellite or radar.

The existence of the garbage island in North Pacific Ocean was predicted in 1988. The prediction was based on the results obtained in many laboratories in Alaska between 1985 and 1988, which measured the floating plastic in the North Pacific Ocean. These laboratories found high concentrations of marine debris accumulated in a particular topography and ocean current areas.

Extrapolating these results with those obtained in the Sea of Japan, the researchers concluded that under similar conditions, these garbage islands could occur in other parts of the ocean where the prevailing currents facilitate the creation of stable bodies of water. Specifically they indicated the North Pacific Ocean vortex. In 2009 the garbage island in North Atlantic Ocean was discovered.

The existence of garbage islands received wide public and also scientific attention after they were documented in many articles by Charles Moore, a Californian ocean researcher. Moore returned home from North Pacific Ocean vortex with a huge amount of floating debris.
Like other areas of the oceans where marine debris concentrates, the garbage island in North Pacific Ocean has been gradually formed in recent times as a result of marine pollution by the action of ocean currents. The ocean garbage patch occupies a large area and is relatively fixed in North Pacific Ocean in a very remote area. The size of the affected area is unknown, although it is estimated ranging from 700,000 square kilometers to more than 15 million square kilometers (0.41% to 8.1% of the size of the Pacific Ocean). The area may contain about 100 million tons of waste. It has also been suggested that the stain could be constituted by two garbage zones linked.
It has been estimated that 80% of the garbage comes from land areas and 20% from vessels in the sea. The currents carry debris from the west coast of North America to the North Pacific Ocean vortex in about 5 years, and debris from the east coast of Asia in one year or less.
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.
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