There is a small island located between Hawaii and California. The island is really quite remarkable but not for the reasons you might expect. It isn't a very populated island — most of the inhabitants are plastics.
This ‘island’ is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is also referred to as the Eastern Garbage Patch and, more bluntly, as “trash island.” The patch developed because of the convergence of ocean currents and wind.
It is not, however, the only trash island. There are other trash islands, such as the Atlantic trash island in the Sargasso Sea.
Have you ever wondered where trash goes after it falls out of your car, or after you drop it in the parking lot? Trash doesn't magically disappear.
A kind person might pick up some of the trash; other pieces of the trash will get blown around by the wind. The wind might blow it into a stream where it pollutes the water.
The stream may then lead to a small river where the trash could get broken up into pieces and get eaten by fish, potentially killing them.
The rest of the trash might get carried to a larger river that then empties out into the ocean. Now that piece of trash that got thrown down in the street has polluted multiple water habitats and is now floating around in the ocean as part of a trash island.
An estimated 90 percent of the trash on trash islands is made up of plastics. Eighty percent of that plastic comes from mainland sources; only 20 percent of the plastic comes from ships at sea.
Some of the plastics on trash islands include water bottles, cups, bottle caps, plastic bags and fish netting. However, Captain Charles Moore who discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, found that the majority of the plastic in the world's oceans is made up of billions of pounds of raw plastic pellets called “nurdles.” These pellets are a byproduct of other plastics manufacturing.
Plastic trash in the ocean is actually a bigger problem than plastic trash on land, according to information published by Matt Rosenburg, a geography guide for About.com. Plastic on land gets heated up easier and breaks down faster, Rosenburg explains. But in the ocean, the plastic is cooled by water and coated with algae, which protect it from the heat of the sun.
That means plastic floating in the ocean will be around for a lot longer than plastic on land.
Research conducted by Capt. Moore, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and other agencies show that the trash islands are continuing to grow.
However, there are still things you can do about it. If you reduce your consumption of plastics, then the plastic manufacturing companies will have less waste because they will be producing less.
Another way to reduce it is to make sure you pick up litter off the ground, even if it isn't yours.
Lastly, instead of using plastic bags when shopping, use reusable bags or reusable plastic containers. And always recycle every piece of plastic you can.
Amanda’s Animal Fact of the Week
Unlike many songbirds, both male and female cardinals sing.
- - -
Amanda Wheeler is a Danville resident who has worked as an educator at the Cincinnati Zoo. She is currently pursuing her master's in zoology.