Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Trash island -- 'plastic soup' as big as a continent

I wish there was some sort of picture because I don't believe it myself, but apparently there is a massive "trash vortex" -- twice as big as the continental United States -- 10 meters thick and packed with everything from footballs to kayaks to Lego pieces and other garbage thrown overboard or elsewhere that is swirling around the Pacific Ocean about 500 nautical miles off the California coast stretching almost as far as Japan.

Go to the link to read more and to see a graphic. There's no picture because since much of the waste is translucent, satellite images can't detect it. I'll just leave you with this vivid (written) image:

Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer and leading authority on flotsam, has tracked the build-up of plastics in the seas for more than 15 years and compares the trash vortex to a living entity: "It moves around like a big animal without a leash." When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian archipelago, the results are dramatic. "The garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic," he added.

(This originally appeared on this date at the old address, which is no longer accessible)