Do you know what is three times the size of France and twice the size of Texas? If you said the Pacific garbage patch, you’re a winner. Seventy-nine thousand tonnes of plastic debris, in the form of 1.8 trillion pieces, is now floating in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, according to Scientific Reports.
The giant garbage patch
Plastic has the tendency to break down when it is exposed to a prolonged period of heat and sunlight. Most of the mass of the garbage was made up of pieces larger than 5 centimetres. While microplastics, which account for about 8% of the mass, made up a bulk of the estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the patch.
A researcher, Laurent Lebreton, said that the garbage has been growing exponentially and it majorly got a boost during the Japanese Tsunami in 2011. “We show that plastic concentration has been increasing exponentially since the 1970s for different reasons,” said Dr Lebreton, an oceanographer at the Ocean Cleanup Foundation in the Netherlands.
“We found about 30% of the identifiable objects were likely coming from Japan.
“We correlated that with our model and we looked at estimates from the Japanese Government in terms of how much they think was washed to sea that day… and we predict that about 10-20 per cent of the materials post-2011 in the larger size class came from the tsunami,” reported ABC News.
The analysis of the Pacific garbage patch took two years and found that it contains almost exclusively plastic. Other things found were mostly discarded fishing nets, a stew of plastic include bottles, plates, buoys, ropes and even a toilet seat.
Plastic, plastic everywhere
Plastic is the biggest threat to the environment. It is extremely harmful to marine life. Plastic in the ocean can choke aquatic animals. Plastic, that disintegrates into smaller pieces, can be eaten by smaller fish, which will end up in our stomach.
“We need a coordinated international effort to rethink and redesign the way we use plastics. The numbers speak for themselves. Things are getting worse and we need to act now,” said Dr Lebreton.
The Logical Indian urges everyone to curb using plastic. Plastic takes up to 20 to 1,000 years to degrade and remains toxic even after breakdown. There is a humongous gap between its use and the amount that is recycled. Strict regulations are necessary to combat the widespread use of this harmful material.