She’s Fantastic. Made of Plastic.

Some time ago some nerd kid I knew told me about a Texas sized piece of trash floating in the ocean. I took his word for it and soon told a friend of mine about it and he refused to believe me, saying that it would be impossible for such to exist without everyone knowing about it. Perplexed as to how I should now feel about it I then took it upon myself to do my own research. 4 years later, and a chapter I read in a book yesterday on the train, I have come to learn that indeed it does exist, and even some more deets about what is commonly referred to as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Basically, how it works is there are currents that flow down the coast of California, across the Pacific, back up Japan into the Pacific, topped by the Alaskan and Oyashio currents that flow east-west, up and then back down, across the Pacific. This creates in the middle a slow-moving clockwise depression correctly known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, and this is where all the garbage, 80% plastic, that flows predominantly from our coasts all ends up. The end result is a 10 million square mile heap of filth almost the size of Africa. It’s mostly made up of “nurdles”, micro sized grains of plastic that were eroded from bigger pieces, but are also the building blocks of plastics, melted down to make bottles and toys and shit. They are also the granules in most exfoliants washing out to sea with every soothing shower massage. Plastics act as magnets for poisons like DDT and PCBs. Because nurdles are so small, they get eaten by plankton thereby putting plastic at the bottom of the food chain. So for all of you vegetarians that still eat fish you might want to cross the chicken of the sea off of your list of snack time decor.

Since plastics haven’t been around long enough for us to really know how long they take to decompose it’s estimated that they’ll be in the seas and everywhere else for 10s of thousands of years. And there are six other major tropical oceanic gyres on the Earth, all whirling with garbage. According to Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us “Plastic Debris…[is] now the most common surface feature of the world’s oceans… [Are] there any benign, less-immortal substitutes that civilization [can] convert to, lest the world be plastic-wrapped evermore?” On the bright side, when Galactus comes to devour the Earth all he has to do is poke a few holes with a fork, set global warming for MEDIUM at 5 1/2 minutes, give it a quarter turn, set it at HIGH for 2 minutes, let cool for 30 seconds, and then enjoy.

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2 Responses to “She’s Fantastic. Made of Plastic.”

  1. This makes me want to plan a vacation to said plastic island. I imagine it would be like the softly agitating whirlpool at Raging Waters but much more exciting. (Watch out for that rusted syringe!)

    On another note, all of you vegetarians that eat fish should be eating vegan anyway. Check out this short, concise, and very intelligent podcast/position statement on why:

    http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/vegetarianism-as-a-gateway-to-veganism/

  2. You should check out this really well done three-part documentary that a bunch of hipsters at VBS did about Garbage Island awhile back (does its name get capitalized since its it’s an actual destination?). http://www.vbs.tv/watch/toxic/toxic-garbage-island-1-of-3 There’s lots of scientific discovery and also some make-out sessions.

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