Oceans make up seventy percent of earth’s surface, and are the largest place to sustain and accumulate various species. However, humans’ wastes, such as oil spill, industrial toxic wastewater, and garbage dumping, are becoming the killer to harm the oceanic ecosystem after rapid advancement of industrial and technological development. The most destructive is the plastic waste, which cannot be biodegraded, and becomes the most severe for the health of the oceanic ecosystem. The scientists have already begun to face this problem, and are trying to find a way to resolve it.
The purpose of this research paper is to present the characteristic of plastic pollution in Pacific Ocean. First, the report presents the causes of the great pacific garbage patch. Then, it demonstrates the effects on marine ecosystems and humans. Finally, it will make a recommendation of what humans can do to improve and save the Pacific Ocean.
2. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a giant plastic field in the Northwest Pacific Ocean. This section will discuss the ways of plastic debris enters into the Pacific Ocean, and present the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’s characteristic and discovery.
2.1 Distribution of plastic objects into the Pacific Ocean
The plastic debris is the main element of the garbage patch, so it is necessary to explore how the plastic objects go into the Pacific Ocean. According to the Quantitative Distribution and Characteristics of Neuston Plastic in the North Pacific Ocean (1985), the usual way to find the plastic objects are brought by ships such as lines, nets, and floats. In addition, it is possibly any kind of plastic package or object would be discarded and lost to the sea. Plastic objects would suffer natural division to turn into small fragments. Moreover, the plastics’ density, or trapped gas will lead to plastic fragments float on the ocean and cannot sink.
2.2 The Great Pacific Garbage Patch characteristic
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the massive and immovable region of the North Pacific Ocean bound by the North Pacific Gyre. The gyre’s rotational pattern attracts waste debris across the North Pacific Ocean. Moreover, when the waste debris imprisons in the currents, wind- driven surface currents move floating fragments slowly toward the center, and trapping them in the section.
The garbage patch’s size is still unknown because large and visible waste items are uncommon to see and lots of small fragments are suspended at or just below the surface that they are difficult to measure by aircraft and satellite. Sea Studio Foundation reports that the garbage patch’s is roughly twice the size of Texas, and containing approximately 3.5 million tons of trash.
2.3 The discovery of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
In 1988, the patch was predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States, which on several Alaska researchers that measured the neustonic plastic in the North Pacific Ocean. This research already revealed the high concentrations of marine debris have increased and accumulating. Until 1997, while Charles J. Moore was returning home from Hawaii to Southern California, he and his crew discovered trash floating in the North Pacific Gyre, and then he wrote an article about the extent of garbage and the effects of sea life, which attracted high attention in the media. As he described in Natural History (2003):
“I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic. It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments.”
And then, his colleague named this floating junk yard “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. Although, he was trying to use other names to instead, “Great Pacific” already has stuck.
3. Effects on wildlife
Plastic trash in oceans is killing millions of creatures each year. In this section, the paper will reveal the toxic matters release when the plastic objects break down in oceans and the effects on the whole ecosystem.
3.1 The toxic compounds of plastics
“Most people in the world believe that this plastic is indestructible for a very long time,” said Katsuhiko Saido, a chemist at Nihon University in Chiba, Japan. However, according to a new study, plastic in the ocean will decompose, and release chemical compounds into the water, it might harm and threaten animals and humans. As National Geographic News (2009) reveals that the researchers collected samples in waters from oceans and discovered all the water samples were found to contain derivatives of polystyrene, styrene trimer, and bisphenol A. The polystyrene is a common plastic used in disposable cutlery, Styrofoam, and DVD cases, animals digest system would be damaged if it is mistaken. Bisphenol A has been shown to interfere the reproductive system of animals, while styrene monomer is a suspected carcinogen.
3.2 Plastic with marine birds and animals
“No matter where we go, we find plastic,” said Charles Moore. “The ocean is now the plastic soup, and we just don’t know what that’s doing.” It is not difficult to imagine the plastic debris would be mistaken by marine species. According to the United Nations Environment Program, Plastic kills over a million birds, 100,000 marine mammals and turtles per year. The animals are killed commonly by entanglement, synthetic fishing lines and nets. Furthermore, the plastic derived chemicals are another threat toward marine animals. Through the food chain, Pollutants also become more concentrated as animals eat other contaminated animals. While human is the top of food chain, it could be a potential damage to human health.
4. Examples of reducing the plastic garbage
In regards to retarding the plastic pollution, some scientists and governments already have started actions. There are some effective examples in this section.
4.1 Clean up
In April 2008, Richard Sundance Owen established the Environmental Cleanup Coalition (ECC) to address the issue of North Pacific pollution. ECC cooperates with other groups to identify using tools to safely remove the garbage from the Pacific Ocean. In addition, some people tried to remove plastic waste from the world’s coastlines, for example, there is an annual beach cleanup organized by Judie Neilson, in 2008, the event beckoned more than 70,000 volunteers worked together to collect more than 1,600,000 pounds of trash.
4.2 Law toward solving plastic pollution
In April 1988, the U.S. announced The Plastic Pollution Public Education Program, the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency have to conduct a public outreach program to educate the public that including recreational boaters, fishermen, and other users of the marine environment regarding the harmful effects of plastic pollution, the need to reduce such the pollution and the quantity of plastic debris in the marine environment, recycling plastic materials, and requirement of preventing pollution from ships.
5. Recommendation of reducing plastic pollution
Reducing plastic garbage is not only responsibility by scientists and governments, but also individual person and their family. People can be more careful to use the plastic consumption, indeed practice reusing and recycling, purchase items made of recycling materials, and stop buying and using bottled water. Although at least 650 tons garbage has been removed from the Pacific Ocean since 1995, new garbage is still brought by wind and hurricanes from lands into oceans, so if people would not reduce to use plastic products, the situation will not really improve forever.
As this paper has stated, the Great Plastic Garbage Patch is a significant issue. It does not only affect marine ecosystem, but also human beings. The patch is characterized by the extremely high concentrations of plastic debris which has been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. Moreover, while plastic objects are being broken down in the sea, they can release toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A to imperil oceanic organisms. Furthermore, cleaning the massive and uncountable plastic patches in the Pacific Ocean can become a tough job. Ahead of finding out other better solutions, governments should have more preventive laws to restrain plastic garbage production and disposal. All in all, human behavior changing is the only hope to improve our oceanic environment. If humans do not stop to dump garbage in oceans, more scientists or more remedies cannot prevent oceans going to die.