Floating Plastic Islands!

by Abitha Begam

Have you ever imagined an island made of plastics with a beach, lined with a plastic coastline? Yes! Kudos guys, we have made it. Have you ever thought about where all our plastic wastes are? Where does it go? Where does it gets settled?

It’s yes! Obviously, the answer would be to the ocean. Not all plastics enter the ocean but the majority do. Many of the plastic waste gets escaped from the environment reaches the nearby water bodies or gets dumped nearby and ends in the ocean. Whereas some plastics like microbeads present in the cleansers and toothpaste, intentionally makes a way in ease. All these plastics in combination with the microplastics form garbage patches.

So, now you can ask me a question, how do these large bottles, bigger plastic bags get shredded? Yes, I will explain you. Collectively, the plastic material discharged in the ocean will be left as such, during the season of monsoon, the ocean currents (gyres) formed drift all the garbage present on the surface of the ocean. Among them, some of the garbage when gets stuck into the aggressive ocean currents becomes microplastics and forms a garbage patch area.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Around 8.3 billion tonnes of garbage had been discharged into the oceans all these years. All this garbage mainly plastics forms patches over the oceans, some gets sunk while some float. There are five major offshore plastic accumulation zone namely North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic and the Indian ocean garbage patches among which The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is considered as the largest.

“Do you know how big is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP)? It is three times bigger than France in size”

Source: https://www.iberdrola.com/wcorp/gc/prod/en_US/comunicacion/docs/Infographic_five_plastic_islands.pdf
S.NoName of the garbage patchDiscovered inArea of the patch (Estimated)
 1.North Pacific19971.6 million Sq Km
2.South Pacific20112.6 million Sq Km
3.North Atlantic2009Estimated to be spread over 100 km
4.South Atlantic2017About to be estimated
5.Indian ocean20105 million Sq Km

According to a study made in 2010, it is found that India disposes nearly of 0.6 million tonnes of plastic wastes annually while China topped with 8.82 million wastes per year. These wastes collectively form garbage patches in the ocean.

According to a study led by Mirjam van der Mheen, as there is no direct technique for measuring the plastics present in the ocean, the team has made to retrieve data from 22,000 satellites since 1979, has made a simulation on how the monsoon currents drift the garbage in the ocean.  to their surprise, they have found how the Indian Ocean garbage patch has been missing.

Source: Simulation results of Mirijam van der Mheen study.

Due to the unique physical features of the Asian continent, the Indian ocean does not form a gyre, which obviously never let the garbage patches be present. The fact of the missing garbage patch is due to the monsoons that get created in the ocean. Hence due to the Asian monsoon system, the stronger trade winds push the waste towards the west of the southern Indian ocean making a way towards the south Atlantic Ocean.

These microplastics and the litter ends up in marine pollution and pose a serious threat to marine biodiversity. Some recent reports of South Africa highlighted the baby sea turtle dies due to the consumption of plastics.

So what’s in our hands, as it is a man-made crisis, it is completely possible to solve the problem, which requires some initiative and awareness from our side. Primarily reduction in the production of plastics could be made in control. Secondarily reduction in the usage of plastics can make it possible.

 Even a small change from our end can make bigger differences. Carrying a bag for groceries and purchase, switch over to steel lunch boxes and bottles, avoiding cosmetics consisting of microbeads, taking part in ocean clean-ups and by being minimalistic.,

Even your smaller change matters!

Published by LakesOfIndia

Lakes of India is an E.F.I initiative aimed at sensitizing the larger public on freshwater habitats across the country. A blog platform where one can read about lakes across India. You can become a guest blogger to write about a lake in your hometown and initiate an action to protect that lake.

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