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The Pacific Ocean’s Filthy Reality

Pollution is one of the most alarming issues our world faces on a daily basis and a clear evidence of its exacerbation would be the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, this large circle of marine debris has immensely expanded since its discovery in the late ‘80s. With Earth Week raising awareness toward protecting our planet, certain efforts have been made to clean up the garbage polluting the area; however, this trash vortex is much worse than people feared.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is comprised of the Western Garbage Patch near Japan and the Eastern Garbage Patch located between Hawaii and California. These two areas of spinning marine debris are linked and continuously moved by the the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, in which warm water from the South Pacific region collides with the much cooler water of the Arctic.

The patch sits near the surface of the ocean and mostly consists of plastic materials. Due to their non-biodegradable nature, plastics do not disintegrate and simply break down into tinier pieces called microplastics. After many years of accumulation, marine life within the Pacific Ocean have become negatively affected.

The collection of debris prevents photosynthetic producers, such as algae and plankton, from receiving sunlight and gathering essential nutrients. If threatened, the downfall of these microorganisms puts the whole food web at risk, from smaller organisms like jellies to top predators including sharks and killer whales.

In addition, animals such as turtles mistakenly consume the plastics floating around the ocean, which endangers the entire marine life tremendously. Discarded fishing nets also make up most of the large debris of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and as a result, mammals like seals become entangled and suffocate until death.

Due to the harmful effects of the trash vortex, several organizations and experts have helped in cleaning up the ocean. In particular, the Dutch foundation called The Ocean Cleanup has implemented many of their plans toward the removal of trash within the Pacific Ocean. The well-recognized group has discovered the magnitude of this problem and thus its staff has consistently worked hard to improve the ocean’s condition.

Boyan Slat, the founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, once stated, “There is this notion… in the environmental scene that every little bit helps, or ‘Think global, act local.’ I disagree with that. I think you have to start with how big the solution needs to be to solve the problem and then reason backward from there”.

By late 2017, The Ocean Cleanup is set to launch its first operational pilot system that would be an integral part of its planned cleanup in 2020. With the use of their advanced technology, the foundation could potentially remove about half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 10 years.

While it may take decades, or even centuries, and billions to trillions of dollars to completely clean up the Pacific Ocean, organizations like The Ocean Cleanup are expediting the process to help our marine life stay afloat. However, improvements on our planet’s bodies of water start with individual efforts, from discarding your trash in the appropriate bins to recycling your plastic items. If we start now, the environmental status of our world, overall, should progress sooner rather than later.

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