If the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' is any indication, our planet is heaving under the weight of humanity's bad habits. “I literally saw a fish excreting a piece of plastic when I was in Bali,” says Rich Owen, a Maui-based scuba instructor who formed the Environmental Cleanup Coalition to tackle the problem.
Also referred to as the 'Eastern garbage patch' or 'Pacific trash vortex', it is a space in the North Pacific Ocean where plastic and other litter becomes entrapped in the currents of the North Pacific gyre. This has formed, quite literally, a water-based garbage dump twice the size of Texas. It is located between the 30th and 35th latitudinal parallels — known as the 'horse latitudes' because, in olden times, Spanish merchant ships heading towards the West Indies, would be brought to a stop due to the characteristic 'dead' wind of the region. In an effort to lighten their load, they would make their horses 'walk the gangplank.'
Today, rather than the floating corpses of horses, one is more likely to find plastic bobbing along the patch — a disconcerting amount of it and in all varieties from footballs to kayaks to Lego blocks and carrier bags. It was first discovered in 1997 by Charlie Moore, an American who stumbled across it while taking a shortcut from a Los Angeles to a Hawaii yacht race. The sight was so unsettling that Moore, heir to a family fortune in the oil industry, immediately relinquished a future in the business and became, instead, an environmentalist.
New findings from the Moore-founded Algalita Research Foundation suggest that the area in question might be even larger 'it is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size [of] continental United States'. Texas seems puny in comparison.
It has been a year since Richard Owen founded the ECC but he is still just as horrified “When I look at the earth as a whole I look at the ocean as the earth's blood. It's where life began. Leaving the trash in the ocean is not an option.”
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