The Pacific's Floating "Plastic Continents" Will Soon Wash Up On Our Shorelines

It's coming back... tigristiara/Shutterstock

Discovering these exit doors is a welcome addition to our oceanographic knowledge, but as the researchers point out, “more modelling, more observations of currents… are required to understand better the ocean surface currents and, eventually, to develop marine debris collection strategies at the scale of these [plastic] convergence zones.”

Due to a combination of winds and the Coriolis Effect (the “force” that oceanic and atmospheric currents experience due to the Earth’s rotation), massive vortexes exist in the North and South Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and across the entire Indian Ocean. Thanks to these vortexes, our plastic – a buoyant, poorly degradable material – gets stuck at these five spots, and for long periods of time remain there, out of sight and out of mind.

This research indicates that these vortexes are hiding currents that are beginning to send our own rubbish back to us. Clearly, he take-home message from this study is that we must act now to stop producing so much plastic.

As useful as it is, most of it is currently biodegradable on a timeline of decades to centuries. This is bad news for the environment. As a marker of how quickly we are destroying the environment, geologists have confirmed that a new “rock” type made of sediments and plastic – so-called “plastiglomerates” – now exists.

Even if the current plastic continents are left unseen by most, their effects on our health are becoming increasingly clear. Fish are starting to eat some of this plastic and we, of course, eat these fish. This means we’re eating plastic.

They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.

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