Pollution has been a major issue worldwide for years. While there are varying opinions on the impact of pollution on our environment, there is no denying garbage has accumulated in various areas on Earth over the years, including our oceans. This has led to the formation of garbage patches, massive accumulations of garbage found in specific locations in the ocean. Located in ocean gyres, which are systems of circular ocean currents, these patches could have a major impact on our planet's future.
Many areas of the world's oceans are littered with plastic and other substances dumped out from equally polluted rivers, eventually accumulating through tides and currents into these large masses of trash hovering on the water's surface. These trash islands can cause environmental issues and have an especially devastating effect on marine life. These effects range, from negative, direct-impact consequences to gradual ones, such as increasing the environment's level of carbon dioxide through plastics being broken down in an organism's metabolism.
The five biggest ocean garbage patches are located across the globe, found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. While the North Pacific patch (or, as it is more widely known, the Great Pacific garbage patch) is the most discussed, explored, and evaluated, the other four patches also contribute to global pollution on a major scale. Scientists and environmentalists are currently at work exploring ways to clean our oceans, often specifically targeting these patches. Below is a list of these five major patches, along with their size, their impact on the environment, and what (if any) efforts are being made to slow their harmful effects and improve ocean health.
The South Atlantic Garbage Patch
Location: South Atlantic Gyre (in the southern portion of the Atlantic Ocean)
Size: The South Atlantic Garbage patch is fairly small in comparison to other patches. This patch covers roughly 276,263 square miles (715,520 square kilometers), has a particular density of 40,000 pieces per kilometer, and contains about 2,860 tons of plastic.
Impact: The projected impact of this patch is difficult to determine; however, many of the same conclusions may be drawn between the larger patches’ environmental effects and what effects may eventually result from this South Atlantic patch, including marine life consumption of plastics and an increase of carbon dioxide output.
Plan for Cleanup: No current plans are in place to clean up this patch specifically, though a Kickstarter campaign was started in 2010 by PhD student Chelsea Rochman to fund an exploration of the South Atlantic and to research solutions to marine pollution; the fundraiser garnered $2,425, surpassing its $2,350 goal.