Between North America and Asia in the located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N to 42°N exists a large gyre referred to as Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Pacific Trash Vortex. This is an area of ocean littered with debris mainly in the forms of small plastic particles that have broken down under the sunlight suspended at or just below the ocean surface. Estimates of size range from 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) to more than 15,000,000 square kilometres (5,800,000 sq mi) (0.41% to 8.1% of the size of the Pacific Ocean), or, in some media reports, up to "twice the size of the continental United States". There are up to 11 gyres like this in oceans around the world.
To find out more check out this video of Dianna Cohen on TED.com:
Apart from being unattractive, this rubbish that has been carelessly discarded has a devastating effect on already fragile ecosystems battling oil and contamination spills, increasing human traffic, commerical over fishing and rising sea temperatures. The rubbish can be ingested by marine animals causing sickness and death. Furthermore as the plastic degrades it releases toxins including PCBs, DDT, and PAHs. Not only does this effect the marine life interrupting their endocrine system and hormone levels but this toxic matter then makes it's way back to us when we eat seafood.
Where does this rubbish come from? About 80% of this garbage comes from land based sources. But this weekend you can do something about it.
Since 1994 the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup has been Canada’s largest contributor to the International Coastal Cleanup, a global effort to remove harmful litter and aquatic debris from shorelines before it makes it's way into the oceans. In just a few hours this weekend you can help clean our oceans plus make sure your local coastline is looking immaculate.
To give you an idea of how much rubbish there is to be collected, in the 2010 clean-up volunteers covered 2,235kms and collected 98,071kgs of litter with the top 5 being:
- 227,830 cigarette butts
- 83,660 food wrappers
- 55,880 plastic bags
- 55,443 caps and lids
- 28,755 pieces of disposable cutlery and plates
The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is happening over 17-25th September so this weekend is your chance to make a difference. Click here to find the clean-up closest to you and for more information please visit http://www.shorelinecleaup.ca/ and http://www.wwf.ca/.