To a lot of people, the garbage thrown into the ocean seems to be a miniscule concern considering the vast waters surrounding it. However, new surveys have shown a threat growing bigger than previously anticipated.
Big chunks of waste that include plastic bottles and bags get sucked in currents and interweave with other forms of rubbish materials to grow into huge floating patches. This is the reality that the Great Pacific Garbage is about. Since the ocean area is too far and too wide to navigated, taking notice is truly difficult. However, the problem has been there for years, steadily increasing its coverage under the radar.
High concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical elements and other debris have been found trapped along the North Pacific sphere. Since the suspended materials are tiny and the density is a low 4-particle per cubic meter, the patch floats unnoticed even for divers or passing sea vessels. Satellite imagery cannot find it even with its advance visual capability.
When a partly Dutch government-funded organization named Ocean Cleanup heads off to the location to check, high concentration of plastic materials has been observed. Huge masses of rubbish are seen between Hawaii and California. Laser scanners and multispectral camera technology have been used to investigate the patch.
Boyan Slat, the group founder, quips that seeing a lot of garbage in a pristine ocean was bizarre.
Past surveys have showed the patch coverage to be 1 million sq. km. or 386,000 sq. miles with its periphery extending to 1,351,000 sq. miles or 3.5 million sq. km. However, surges in ocean currents will widen the size as more and more rubbish materials will be carried to the expanding layer. In the UK for instance, a mere 24 percent of the 5 million tons of plastic used annually are recycled. It is highly likely that the remaining 3.8 million tons end up into the ocean.
Although the usual waste consisted of smaller broken-up plastics, Ocean Cleanup has been astounded by discovering larger pieces of garbage which will swell the patch size once the transition to micro plastics happens in the future.
In the course of two and a half hours, more than a thousand half a meter-sized materials have been counted by the group. By 2020, Ocean Cleanup hopes to deploy a 100-km or 62-mile V-shaped sweeping operation to take in waste from the patch.