By Meghan Rice
Much to my surprise, what has been coined as ‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ may actually be a myth, experts say. According to an article for The Telegraph, Oregon State University’s Associate Professor Dr Angelicque White has said: “The use of the phrase ‘garbage patch’ is misleading . I’d go as far as to say that it is a myth and a misconception. It is not visible from space; there are no islands of trash; it is more akin to a diffuse soup of plastic floating in our oceans.”
While this description makes the original conception of an island twice the size of Texas seem misleading, it also points to a new possibility for what we are looking at. A “diffuse soup of plastic” is alluding to the microplastics floating densely in the area. These plastics, due to their small size and harsh chemicals, are said to be even more dangerous than larger chunks of plastics. They are easily digested by marine life and those of us who enjoy seafood, may end up with a toxic meal.
The Ocean Cleanup is the name of the charity that conducted the recent sweep that showed the sparsity of the garbage. It plans by 2020 to implant floating barriers in the area that will utilize ocean currents to funnel the garbage into a reasonable area for collection. While this sounds like a hopeful concept, they seem to be missing the fact that modifying the currents can strip key zones of its plankton, which can then harm the natural balance of the ecosystems. It seems as though we need to rethink how we collect this garbage, and specifically the harmful microplastics, although I applaud and appreciate the efforts The Ocean Cleanup has made.
It is said that naturally, circular ocean currents take trash from the coastlines around the Pacific and gather it in the area of the once-speculated ‘garbage patch.’ However this points to a greater cause of concern: garbage on our coastlines. The source of the problem is the runoff from our cities as well as littering and polluting of our shores. Until we can come up with a massive cleanup project for the garbage patch, let’s start by contributing to any local cleanups we can uch as the ones we offer. Coastal Angels invites anyone who can possibly come clean the Huntington Beach area along the Pacific Ocean coastline, so we can do our part to prevent the accumulation of microplastics and larger pieces of garbage in the middle of our ocean.
Check out photos from our latest beach cleanup on our Facebook Page!