The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

November 30, 2020
Emilia Borenstein

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Class of 2024

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You drink a can of soda; you leave the can on the floor, the wind blows it away to a lake, it flows from the lake to the ocean. Unfortunately, it is not only your bottle but millions more. These and many other litter patches, but I'm going to focus on The Great Pacific Garbage Patch in this article.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific trash vortex, is the most extensive collection of marine debris globally. Located between Hawaii and California,  it measures approximately 1.6 million square kilometers, an area twice the size of Texas or three times France's size. Most debris is plastics. Plastic is not biodegradable; it merely breaks into tinier and tinier pieces, known as microplastics.

Every year, 1.15 to 2.41 million tons of plastic enter the ocean gyre, and they are unlikely to leave—70% of marine debris sink to the bottom of the ocean. About 54 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch debris comes from land-based activities in North America and Asia. Twenty percent of waste comes from boaters, offshore oil rigs, and large cargo ships that dump or lose debris directly into the water.

The consequences are devastating, but because the Pacific Trash Vortex is so far from any country's coastline, no nation will take responsibility or provide the funding to clean it up. Due to its size and color, Marine life confuses plastic for food, causing malnutrition, above other things. For instance, sea turtles caught around the patch can have up to 74% of their diets composed of ocean plastics.

The Great Garbage Patch is only one example that shows the human implications of waste. Think again before you throw your next bottle away, and maybe consider purchasing a reusable one. Every change starts with a small action, so start now before it's too late!

Emilia Borenstein is a BBG from Argentina who is 15 years old and loves history.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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