If you’re someone who is environmentally conscious and loves the ocean, its beautiful majesty and its amazing creatures, few man-made ecological disasters could bring you more distress than the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch.  Look it up; it’s a collection of plastic, toxic sludge and other pollutants from human activity roughly the size of Texas.  It was formed by marine currents gathering the trash and garbage that people discard in the ocean.

Impact Of Pacific Trash

Many people think ‘so what? It’s just a bunch of plastic – what can it do?’  As it turns out, it can do plenty – not only to marine life, but also ultimately to human beings.  For one thing, it enters the food chain quite simply.  Plastic is tough to break down, even at the molecular level.  When it does break down it becomes easily consumable by fish.  Sea birds such as albatross have also been severely harmed, with large numbers of their population found with plastics in their stomach. Harmful toxins create hormonal and endocrinological effects in marine life, and in turn, when humans consume seafood, these plastics and toxins have the potential to affect us.

Research has shown that plastic affects 267 species worldwide.  So what’s being done?  Several initiatives have been studying the problem and/or proposing solutions.  Many large scale ways to address the problem have been proposed, including clean-up.  A nineteen year old engineering student, Boyan Slat, has designed a cleanup system employing trawlers that run on solar, wind and ocean currents.  The feasibility of this system is currently still being studied; however, it looks promising and it is predicted that a major cleanup could be completed in five years’ time.Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch

Who Is Involved?

Companies producing plastic products are looking into ways of commercializing the use of recovered plastics from the ocean.  One such company, Method, is currently selling hand soap bottles made of a mix of recycled and recovered oceanic plastic.

However, ultimately the problem starts and ends with us.  What are some things that we can do to help solve oceanic garbage patches?

  • Contribute to or volunteer with environmental organizations dedicated to this issue – a simple Google search reveals entities such as the Plastic Pollution Coalition, the Environmental Cleanup Coalition, and others.
  • Educate and advocate for this problem – at the local level, you can speak with merchants and retailers, talk to them about oceanic garbage patches, and point them to alternatives for their use of plastic.  You can also use your personal social media accounts to discuss it.
  • Recycle, reuse and refuse plastic – very simple; and if your community doesn’t have a recycling program, look into ways that you can bring one to your local school, office or neighborhood.
  • Use alternatives – consume goods that consciously try to offer alternatives to plastic, use biodegradable plastic or use recycled plastic
  • Use your own talents to come up with solutions! – great solutions and innovations don’t always come from brainy bigwigs with a lot of resources.  Boyan Slat was nineteen years old when he devised his ocean cleanup system.  If you have a great idea, run with it!

This problem will never go away if individuals don’t think about it and act.  No clean-up solution will work if we don’t take the initiative to stop the flow of pollutants from land to ocean.

Alex is a writer for Colley & Colley L.L.P., a personal injury law firm based out of Austin, Texas.  Alex is greatly concerned with the environment and his impact on the global climate.  

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