Plastic rubbish and other debris in the ocean is an increasing environmental problem and ecological hazard. Unfortunately many of the things we waste often persist in the environment in surprising yet extremely damaging ways. In fact, there is so much plastic and other rubbish in one part of the Pacific Ocean it has been given the name ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch‘. But it isn’t only plastic, wood objects such as timber and beams from houses are also quite common as well as fishing nets and other stranded objects. Plastics though are particularly hazardous as they are consumed by wildlife.
In searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 people have come across large swathes of garbage and other debris that has served as yet another reminder of how the world’s oceans are used as garbage dumps, although if you’ve never traveled to these remote locations, you wouldn’t know it. According to an article posted on National Geographic website, rubbish dropped in the ocean tends to travel to garbage patches in the world’s oceans. A marine scientist sailing in the Indian Ocean spotted a garbage patch there that is ‘at least two million square miles (about five million square kilometers) in size, with no clear boundaries’.
Most of the marine plastic was found to originate from land waste. Disasters also transfer tonnes of rubbish into the ocean. Plastic makes its ways into water ways such as rivers, streams and through tides and currents is taken out to sea. It is particularly toxic to seabirds, marine mammals and turtles. This can be prevented by preventing waste materials from entering storm drains.
There is an interesting story about how a shipping container full of plastic floating ducks was lost at sea in 1992 and continue to be found all over the world. Dubbed the ‘friendly floatees‘, they have been used by oceanographers to track systems of rotating ocean currents called ‘gyres‘ which gather together rubbish in the ocean.