Garbage, garbage everywhere

NOAA

The currents created by the North Pacific Gyre gather garbage from all over the North Pacific Ocean and trap it in the Garbage Patch. The area may contain more than 100 million tons of debris.

You’ve probably heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—a huge swath of the North Pacific Ocean that's polluted with litter. But you’ve probably never seen a photo of it. That’s because it’s made up mostly of tiny pieces of plastic—almost invisible to the naked eye—that float on the top or just below the surface of the ocean.

Scientists have been sampling and studying the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and they’ve seen at least three effects:

  1. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade. Marine birds and animals get tangled in debris or mistake floating plastic objects as food.
  2. When plastic does break down, it just disintegrates into ever-smaller pieces of plastic. Eventually, the plastic bits are small enough for aquatic organisms to eat, and plastic enters the food web. What's worse, the amount of plastic marine debris is on the rise.
  3. And the floating plastic particles absorb organic pollutants from the water and act as platforms for bacteria and other organisms to grow on.