The North Atlantic Garbage Patch
The pattern of ocean currents in the North Atlantic Ocean, along with the region’s prevailing winds, helped facilitate centuries of trade and colonization between western Europe and North America. Nowadays, these natural forces play a different, more sinister role: acting as a gyre that concentrates trash, garbage and waste. Since 1986, the Sea Education Association (SEA) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, has been documenting oceanic plastic in the western North Atlantic Ocean while other researchers have examined marine life in the area for any deleterious effects. The photo above (c/o National Geographic) shows a dead Triggerfish found in the Atlantic Ocean which had 47 pieces of plastic debris in its stomach.
Lake Erie Garbage Patch
(images via: Inhabitat)
If you thought giant garbage patches were someone else’s problem, look a little closer to home – that is, if your home is near one of North America’s Great Lakes. These immense stores of fresh water have become increasingly polluted over the decades to the point where they are developing “garbage patches” similar to those in the world’s oceans.
(image via: Fry12/Birmingham)
In another ominous similarity to oceanic garbage patches, those found in the Great Lakes – Lake Erie especially – so-called “microplastic” has been found in concentrations up to 650,000 bits of plastic per square kilometer. These plastic bits are not strictly biodegradable but they DO degrade, being worn down to smaller and smaller pieces that all the while exude resins and other toxins into the lakes’ supposed fresh water. If you live in a Great Lakes state or province, you might want to consider this the next time you bathe, shower or pour a cold glass of water from the tap.