Today is World Environment Day, first designated by the United Nations in 1974 to bring about awareness and to inspire people to take action to protect the environment. This year’s theme is plastic, so let’s talk a little about that.
Halfway between California and Hawaii, and floating just under the surface of the ocean is a soupy mix of trash and debris that has grown to more than twice the size of Texas. Known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, most of this mass of trash is made up of plastic water bottles and plastic shopping bags, and such things as toothbrushes, printer ink cartridges, syringes, and children’s toys. Most of this trash is generated onshore when discarded items find their way into sewers and storm drains and then are picked up by ocean currents that sweep it into the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. This trash has been collecting there in a slowly swirling, ever-growing mass since the 1950s.