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The Pacific Gyre is spiraling out of control, and we are helping it grow December 30, 2009

Posted by WaterWise Consulting in Water Pollution.
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                The Pacific Gyre, a point in the Pacific Ocean where multiple oceanic currents meet, has created a monster.  This monster is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and is quite literally that.  It is a mass approximately the size of the continental United States composed of floating garbage.  This garbage mass is approximately 1,000 miles north of Hawaii, and located between the U.S. and Asia.  As a result, it is quite isolated and it not seen unless people are looking for it.

                This garbage patch is composed of many small pieces of plastic as well as some larger pieces such as plastic chairs or fishing equipment.  These pollutants are not visible from satellite images, or even airplanes because the garbage floats just under the surface where it is seemingly invisible.  However, the garbage is visible from boat.  It was discovered in 1997 and has not had any major cleanup efforts since.

                As a result of the immense size, this garbage patch is thought to be impossible to cleanup.  Scientists argue that the main objective is not to clean up the mass; it is in fact to stop the mass from growing any larger.  This garbage patch has grown so large because it is fed by garbage that is carried to the ocean from streams around the globe.  Since it is where multiple ocean currents meet and swirl together, it effectually corrals the garbage into one immense mass.

                Some potential methods of cleanup are being tested by scientists around the world.  One potential cleanup strategy is to simply scoop it up by using nets.  This method, however, will inevitably kill marine animals by catching them along with the garbage.  Once contained, the garbage would be sent to land to either be placed in a landfill or recycled.  Another possible solution is a process called pyrolysis that breaks down the plastics into useable synthetic oil.  The machinery that processes the plastic is about the size of an average home and could easily be placed on a ship, and process the plastic in the middle of the ocean.  The oil could then be transported to land and sold as a useable product. 

                While these methods have the potential to reduce the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the long-term solution of preventing the pollution still remains.

To read the original article and view pictures of the effect garbage has on the environment, visit Newsweek at: http://www.newsweek.com/id/226308/page/1

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