Why Is There a Trash Vortex Forming in the Pacific?

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What is the Pacific Garbage Patch?

Simply put, it’s a swirling mass of plastic in the middle of the Pacific ocean that is big enough to qualify as the planet’s largest landfill. Roughly located in an area between 135° to 155°W and 35° to 42°N, much of the world’s trash has accumulated into this part of the Pacific Ocean based on the movement of ocean currents.

A rose any other name applies to the Pacific Garbage Patch – you’ll also hear it called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” the “Pacific Trash Gyre,” the “Pacific Trash Vortex,” and the “Oh My…What Have We Done!?” among other names.

How does all that plastic get to the ocean?

The simple answer: Humans + Ocean Currents = Trash Vortex.

People create, consume, and carelessly toss plastics and the litter ends up in the water ways. As the plastic reaches the shoreline, currents carry it out into the ocean and a convergence of currents swirl the plastics into one general area.

No one is guiltless when it comes to the Pacific Garbage Patch – if you consume and discard goods, you are responsible for some portion of the plastic that is ending up in the ocean, even if you live hundreds of miles from the seaside.

To read more about the Pacific Garbage Patch and to watch a great slideshow explaining how trash from the middle of the continent can end up in the middle of the ocean: check out Planet Green.

Editor’s note: Article by Jaymi Heimbuch. Originally published by our friends at Planet Green. Planet Green is an offshoot of Discovery that covers every aspect of green living, from tofu to tattoos. Be sure to visit them and say hi, and follow Planet Green on Twitter, too!

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Image: Kevin Krejci

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