North Pacific Gyre: Human Waste Disposal

The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the four oceans on planet earth, making it home to over hundreds of marine species.  The Pacific Ocean is also home to the North Pacific Gyre otherwise known as the great pacific garbage patch.  The North Pacific Gyre consists of four large currents that rotate in a clockwise manner, which is what causes debris to cluster and build up in this area (Marine Debris).  Not only is the ocean affected by this colossal build up of trash but also near by islands and beaches.  The islands of Hawaii are a perfect example with some beaches now buried under five to ten feet of trash (Silverman, 2011).

North pacific gyre: human waste disposal - 300px-north_pacific_subtropical_convergence_zone.jpg image #0


Four large, rotating currents form the North Pacific Gyre.  The movement of each and convergence zone is illustrated in the picture.


In contrast to what many people think, 80% of ocean trash actually originates from land sources (Lopez, 2007).  Trash ranging anywhere from Pepsi bottles to Starbucks plastic cups can be found in this massive garbage pit.  A calculation done by a group of researchers in the North Pacific determined that there are approximately six pounds of plastic trash floating in the gyre for every pound of zooplankton (Moore, 2003).  This means that there is six times more trash in the gyre than there is zooplankton.  A world where plastic is outnumbering one of the main providers to the rest of the food web should never occur.  Statistics such as these show that the environmental state of the gyre is in deep trouble.

North pacific gyre: human waste disposal - ocean-trash.jpg image #1One of the many garbage “islands” that can be found in the North Pacific Gyre.   It is home to any kind of trash from volleyballs to plastic McDonald’s and Wendy’s cups.
From a recent case study conducted examining plastic debris from the North Pacific Gyre scientists determined that over 50% of the samples contained measurable amounts of PCBS and over 75% contained PAH’s, both chemical toxins that are non-water-soluble (Rios et al., 2010).  This illustrates that plastic particles in the ocean accumulate pollutants out of the water, making it easily accessible for marine life to ingest not only the plastic waste, but also the toxic pollutants.  With the ingestion of these pollutants, beginning from the bottom of food web and up, all marine life is at risk for being affected by these dangerous toxins.  Another recent study conducted in 2008 found that out of the 671 fish they examined from the North Pacific Gyre, 35% had ingested plastic particles in their stomach (Wasted Waves).  Studies and facts such as these should illustrate to people the severity of waste in the ocean, and that action should be taken immediately to find ways to reduce the amount of trash in our world’s oceans.



Lopez, 2007, We will be known by the junk we throw away:


Moore, Charles, 2003, Trashed: Across the pacific ocean, plastics, plastics, everywhere,

Natural History, v.112.

Rios et al., 2010, Quantitation of persistent organic pollutants adsorbed on plastic debris

from the northern pacific gyre’s “eastern garbage patch”, Journal of

Environmental Monitoring, v.12, p.2189-2312.

Silverman, Jacob, Why is the world’s biggest landfill in the pacific ocean?:

pacific-garbage-patch1.htm  (accessed April 2012).

Marine Debris: (accessed April 2012).

Wasted Waves: Surveying the plastic adrift in the world’s oceans: (accessed April 2012).