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Twice the size of Texas, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch stretches for hundreds of miles across the North Pacific Ocean and is one of the most frightening examples of just how much human activity is violating the planet.

Spanning from the West Coast of North America to Japan, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made up of the Eastern Garbage Patch, near Japan, and the Western Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California. In other words, it is absolutely colossal. And scarier still as oceanographers and ecologists recently discovered that about 70 percent of marine debris actually sinks to the bottom of the ocean, so what we do know about the amount of waste in the ocean is likely just the very tip of the iceberg.

We are only just beginning to understand the true scale of just how much the planet is suffering as a result of marine debris. The contents of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have been described as a toxic “plastic soup,” for which we have provided all the ingredients. As new research surfaces linking plastic debris to marine species extinction, the consequences of our waste are clearly becoming more and more devastating. But before we delve further into this horror story we must first understand how we created this monster in the first place.

We are Feeding a Cancer in the Ocean

According to the National Geographic about 80 percent of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from land-based activities in North America and Asia and the other 20 percent comes from boats, offshore oil rigs, and large cargo ships. The majority of this 20 percent, about 705,000 tons, is fishing nets.

The trash gets trapped between two main gyres that act as a whirlpool and collect this trash. Greenpeace has published an animation that explains how this all works.


The trash then accumulates because many plastics are non-biodegradable and do not wear down. Instead, they only break into tinier and tinier pieces creating the “plastic soup” mentioned earlier.

For us, the most frightening aspect of all of this is just how quickly this monster has grown in a relatively short period of time.

Plastic was initially mass-produced in the 1940s and in 1957 the single-use plastic bag first appeared in the U.S. with bottled water only entering the mass market in the mid-1980s. So, it seems that in just half a century we have managed to create the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But that is not the scary thing. It is estimated that by the year 2050, we will see yearly plastic production quadruple to a disturbing one hundred million tons. Just how big could the Great Pacific Garbage Patch get? This monster is growing and we are the ones filling its gut.

A Catastrophe for Wildlife

We have watched many wildlife and environmental films that have filled us with sadness, anger, disbelief … but none have shaken us to the core more than a new film, still in production, called “Midway: Message from the Gyre.” And so far we only have the trailer to really go on. The trailer alone is one of the most tragic pieces of film we have ever witnessed and it is with great apprehension that we look forward to when the full length it is finally released. Check out the trailer below.


“The viewer will experience stunning juxtapositions of beauty and horror, destruction and renewal, grief and joy, birth and death, coming out the other side with their heart broken open and their worldview shifted.”

The trailer powerfully shows the scale of the problem and suffering caused to wildlife as a result of marine debris. The albatrosses mistake plastic pellets for fish eggs and feed them to chicks, which die of starvation or ruptured organs. The photography of Chris Jordan shows this better than any words can properly describe. Have you ever seen a more tragic example of our impact on the natural world?

But it is not just birdlife that suffers. Marine debris can be very harmful to all marine life. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish which they then mistakenly eat.

Many marine mammals are especially at risk from “ghost gear” with abandoned fishing gear turning oceans into death traps for sea animals.

plastic-pollution-seal-trappedCoastal Care


World Animal Protection highlight that around 640,000 tons of gear is discarded annually resulting in at least 136,000 seals, sea lions and large whales being killed each year. Animals that fall victim to ghost gear become entangled. Some, the “lucky ones,” may either drown within minutes. The unlucky victims can endure long, slow & painful deaths that can last for months and years, suffering from debilitating wounds, infection and starvation.

Even the smallest creatures in the sea are affected. Microplastics and other trash block sunlight from reaching plankton and algae below the surface. In a previous article, we highlighted the importance of plankton to the ecosystem as an important source of food for other sea creatures but also as ecological sponges for carbon. So it goes without saying that the impacts of the plastic soup can have enormous unseen impacts to the planet.

How You Can Help End This Monstrosity

Every piece of plastic discarded is directly feeding this monster in the ocean which is acting like a cancerous clot determined to destroy every living thing in its path. We have to act to stop this. So what is the chemotherapy for this manmade cancer?

Check out the Sea Change campaign from World Animal Protection and do everything you can to spread to the word and support them. Share the Midway trailer with your friends, family and contacts. Check out this list of ten things you can do to help save the ocean. And most important of all, purge plastic from your life. Click here to learn how.

Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.


Lead image source: Paul Williams/Flickr

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30 comments on “How the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is Destroying the Oceans and the Future for Marine Life”

Click to add comment
1 Years Ago

Why are there no pictures. Something the size of texas should be easy to capture an image of. The only pictures i\'ve seen are about the size of a small yard.

you suck bhonest
12 Oct 2017

butt hole have tried google images

1 Years Ago

would people notice better if we moved it under a bridge cus it does not seem like muc people care these days witch breaks my heart when i think about it

1 Years Ago

As long as we have crony capitalism where the money is in the hands of a few protected by the government in a *scratch my back and I\'ll scratch yours" we will do nothing about this ocean trash becausethere is no incentive to change.

Having a one world government will continue to make things worse because government people can\'t be fired for doing a bad job (Government union protection) unless they commit a serious felony and even then if they are considered important they will go off lightly if they get punished at all.

The media will briefly mention it once and then go back to entertainment mode.

1 Years Ago

Everybody was talking about the Resiliant Ridge *I am not sure how the f-k it\'s spelled* and nobody knows why we had it but I can tell you one thing.

All this trash in the ocean will affect the ocean currents causing them to swirl around the trash and make a lot of areas where the ocean currents are weak/non existent making for a lot of stagnated ocean water which will gradually heat up in areas where the currents get stuck.

This will effect where storms or lowpressure systems go to. Low pressures always take the path of least resistance.

I\'ve been paying attention to PNW weather since 2008 or so when I got interested in blogs and when this trash thing got worse a lot of storms started behaving very weirdly causing weather to be very localized. Usually here in the PNW in most cases weather events are region wide were everybody gets something.

Now in the last couple of years you have scenarios where Portland gets a lot of weather and Seattle doesn\'t or vica versa which didn\'t usually be the case.

The weather models NEED to take account the trash in the ocean and I can guarantee the medium range forecasting will be a lot different then the mess we have today in forecasting. The weather models without this needed data has been like a fish out of water.

One model shows one scenario and the other model shows something else entirely then the event usually doesn\'t happen.

1 Years Ago

whats up with this god dude

luis velazquez
26 Oct 2016

idk man hes mad fucked up leaving his people for over 2000 years nd killing paul walker, paul walker was my shit man

Karen Shaw
2 Years Ago

I cannot believe that someone isn't trying to clean this up...maybe the oil companies need to be required to since petroleum is the base for plastic...The ocean has always been the human dumping ground, but the plastics are just as deadly as the chemicals.

14 Feb 2017

nice that is a correct statement

Stela Maricic
2 Years Ago

What people are capable to do just for dirty money and profit truly disgusted me! Can't believe that human race is so horrible ignorant to not to understand that when Oceans will die, the human population will die too ! Save the Oceans !

Genevieve Dee Wiedenhoeft
2 Years Ago


05 Feb 2017

Unless we have a major reform to bring private industry back and encourage inventions we will have to rob peter to pay paul using quick tax fixes which are band aids on a large wound without treating it properly.

What we need is for somebody to be allowed without being penalized for it to come up with solutions to clear the trash up which they can capitalize on as they will be able to be realistic about supply and demand.

That inventor will be among the famous list of inventors if we have the encouragement of private growth instead of this *government protection* crap of too big to fail.

05 Feb 2017

Edit: I forgot to capitalize the names. We will have to rob Peter to pay Paul using quick tax fixes.

Sholeh Bousheri
2 Years Ago

K, I'll help clean it up. Come get me. I'll need a vegan diet and a place to study on the boat. Or, I'll have to put together a team when I graduate college.

22 May 2017

u suck

Don Ronaldo
2 Years Ago

yes for this i promote to built Eco Blocs with gypsum and woodchips to put PET Bottles inside,,see http://magic-plaster.blogspot.com


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