You know that plastic phone case you can’t find anymore? I know where it is. Drifting slowly, waterlogged, salty, and sun-baked, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. But, rest assured, it’s got plenty of company.
Researchers have just discovered another swirling vortex of garbage in the South Pacific. This one estimated to be a million square miles across. That’s 1.5 times the size of Texas.
Like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific, this new, tropical patch is mostly composed of bits of microplastics, not individual plastic bags and bottles. But those microplastics can be broken-down bits of, say, discarded phone cases, food packaging, you name it.
The patch is in a place in the South Pacific called Henderson Island, which was recently named the most plastic-covered island on earth. Sad, considering how unbelievably remote the place is. Strangely, researchers passed through the zone where the patch is now just six years ago and didn’t see much plastic. Shows how quickly this stuff can congeal into life-choking zones of misery.
What’s there to do? Because the bits are so tiny they’re nearly impossible to clean up. Although, people are working on ways to do it. It’s much, much easier to prevent the plastic from getting in the ocean in the first place, although that requires a massive shift in the way we do just about everything in the industrialized world. Recycle. Buy a re-usable mug. It’s the little things, I guess.