A New Land on earth... Made of Plastic

Have you ever wondered the consequences of society's terrible ways? Do you believe that innocent marine life such as sea otters, turtles, and seals should be saved from an awful death?  Then this is a perfect example.

By Sarah Carliner et Scarlett Chen 6C

The Seventh Continent is a 3.43 million square kilometer “continent” made up entirely of 30-meter deep floating trash and plastic. The location of “The Traveling Continent”  extends along the entire North Pacific coast of China, Korea, and Japan, to Russia and Alaska and as far as Canada and California. Its size is equal to a third of the United States.

 

(Enviromentproblemsandsolutions.blogspot.com) How pollution affects animals.


 

Discovery

The floating island of debris was found by an expert in marine pollution, Charles J. Moore in 1999.  He was not a scientist, so was accused of exaggerating what the patch of garbage looked like. It was soon named the “Eastern Garbage Patch”. Now, it is said to be an “exceptional example of marine pollution”. However, there is more than we can see. The term “patch” makes people imagine a solid piece of combined trash floating in the midst of the ocean. However, the patch consists of microscopic plastic particles that are invisible to the naked eye. Most of the time, the naked eye can’t see these particles. It won’t see little pieces of trash in the water, but it will see  cloudy, dirty water. The ocean floor underneath the Seventh Continent is also full of litter. Oceanographers, scientists, ecologists, and experts in marine pollution have recently found out that 70% of the debris sinks to the bottom of the ocean. This is the reason why the actual amount of trash in the patch is unknown. The denser trash that falls lower makes the amount impossible to know.

Charles J. Moore going against marine pollution (pravaha.org)

 

Cause

The cause of this new land started in the fifties when pollution and marine debris became a serious problem. As cities grew bigger and bigger, the amount of neglected rubbish started to grow larger and larger. People initially dumped toxic waste into rivers and lakes but then moved on to the ocean in the 1940s. Even though there were specific laws put up to avoid problematic issues such as “The Seventh Continent” people continued. So, you can only imagine how poisonous and large fifty years of trash look like. The trash sources are mainly Asia and the United States, where there are some of the largest cities in the world. Also, without enough organizations at the time, there wasn’t a lot of help to stop the formation. Therefore, it became worse and worse over the years.

A boat distributing poisonous waste. (seagrasswatch.org)

Formation

How did this “continent” even form? Well, there can be trash found in the different oceans all over the world but the main reason for this, is because of the ocean currents. Once trash is moved out to sea, there are certain currents that allow the trash to dwell and float in one area. It is basically like getting stuck in a tidepool. The rotation patterns of the ocean cause it to collect trash from the coasts of Japan and North America. It is said that 80% of the trash comes from a land source and 20% from ships and marine transportation. It takes six years for currents to carry trash from the west coast to the “Garbage Patch” but only one year from Asia or the east coast.

 

 General Marine Pollution

    However, there is more. Almost the exact same forms of floating trash can be found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is called the “North Atlantic Garbage Patch”. There is also a smaller form in the Indian Ocean. Combined together, the trash-filled islands contain 7 tons of toxic waste and trash. The size of the marine junkyard in the North Pacific is estimated to be able to cover the entire surface of Europe in 20 years.

People working to clear marine pollution (oceanconservancy.org)

 

Solution for Pollution

If you would like to stop marine pollution, you can do the following…

1. Reduce the amount of plastic and trash you throw away

2. Use fewer plastic products

3. Help take care of the beach

4. Don't purchase items that destroy marine life

5. Support organizations working to protect the ocean

6. Influence change in your community

7. Travel the ocean responsibly

8. Educate yourself about oceans and marine life


 

If you would like to know further details on the subject go to the following sites:

 

National Geographic, Marine Pollution

Plastic Garbage Project, Plastic Garbage Gyre

The Global Oyster, Pacific Trash Vortex

What a Green Life, The Seventh Continent

Living Circular, The Seventh Continent

 

Sarah Carliner et Scarlett Chen 6C


 

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