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Scientists in the South Pacific make a terrible discovery
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Scientists have made a terrible discovery in the South Pacific between South America and Easter Island. The South Pacific is home to a massive, swirling garbage patch that is one-and-a-half times the size of Texas.
Imagine this, as far as the eye can see, covering an area larger than the state of Texas.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) -- A team of scientists has confirmed the existence of a massive garbage patch in the South Pacific. The patch appears to be the opposite of one found in the North Pacific in the 1980s.
The North Pacific patch, between California and Hawaii, was discovered by Charles Moore by accident as he sailed a racing yacht across the Pacific. He was stunned to find tiny pieces of plastic floating in the ocean, much farther than the eye could see.
Moore recently led a team of volunteer researchers to the South Pacific on a hunch that the ocean would also have a garbage patch. They were not disappointed.
The oceans are filled with plastics.
The southern garbage patch is different in one way, the pieces of plastic are remarkably tiny, many the size of a grain or rice or smaller. However, they are plentiful. They cover an area at least as wide as a million square kilometers, about one-and-a-half times the size of Texas. It is also deep, although nobody is sure just how deep.
The plastic pollution in both patches accumulates over the years as the ocean currents circulate. The mechanism is the same as how something floating on the surface of a drink will gather at the center if the liquid is stirred.
The remains of sea bird, killed by plastic ingestion.
The plastic is a serious problem. Not only does it serve as a rough measure of how polluted our planet is, it kills wildlife. Seabirds in particular are vulnerable to plastic pollution, sometimes swallowing the bits of plastic because they confuse them for food. Fish also do the same.
The plastic accumulates in the animals' stomachs, and becomes trapped in their bodies. Eventually, the animal dies from all the plastic stuck in their digestive tract. Smaller animals that swallow plastic are also eaten by larger animals which then get the plastic stuck in their stomachs.
Plastic bottles piled on the beach. These are just a fraction that of the bottles that end up in the ocean from one beach, in the course of a day. Globally, the situation has reached crisis levels.
Plastic is cheap to produce and easy to mold. It is usually durable, so it can last in the environment for centuries. Plastic does not biodegrade. Instead, it breaks into smaller pieces over time, becoming fine like grains of sand. However, this process can take decades to hundreds of years, at a minimum. In the meantime, it can be ingested by animals and kill them.
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Plastic is recyclable, but it is rarely collected. It is usually cheaper to produce new plastic than to recycle the old.
The plastic in the ocean is difficult, even impractical to remove. No plan has yet been developed to clean up the oceans. However, it is easier to prevent plastic pollution than to clean it up in the environment.
Plastic kills sea life, by strangling, choking, and blocking the consumption and digestion of food. Each day thousands of birds and fish starve to death due to plastic.
Plastic production should be curtailed and possibly phased out. Plastics should be designed to biodegrade in shorter periods of time. It should be thrown away separately and recycled. Otherwise, it should be banned in favor of more biodegradable substances.
Scientists now believe similar garbage patches should exist in the other oceans as well.
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