The biggest dumping grounds in the world, real open-air dumps for which we are all responsible, are far from your eyes!
The continent of plastic?
Photo copyright: Pikist
Is in fact a gigantic vortex of more than 80,000 tons of waste, located in the northeast of the Pacific Ocean. This agglomeration of floating deposits is carried by converging currents and accumulates in subtropical oceanic gyres (spin) caused by the Coriolis force.
This "plastic soup", is not a solid mass but rather an area where the sea is saturated with plastic waste, located of the coasts between the islands of Hawaii and North America.
When was it discovered?
The first signs of plastic pollution at sea date back to the 1970s. But the phenomenon in the North Pacific was officially discovered in 1997 by Captain Charles Moore. The discovery of this continent, also known as the 7th continent, was undoubtedly one of the most important triggers leading us to finally realize the extent of the dangers from mass production of plastic.
How big it is?
Photo copyright: Wikipedia Commons
It occupies at least 1.6 million km ², or 750,000 debris per km ². It’s said that the thickness in some places could be up to 30 meters and that the depth of ¾ of the plastic continent would exceed 5 cm. A study published in 2018 in the journal Scientific Reports gives shivers down your spine: this monstrous mass is getting bigger every day. It could cover an area the size of Europe within 20 years.
What is it made of?
Of course, 90% is plastic but there are also a lot of fishing nets also made of plastic. This is another debate, but data noted in the recent Seaspiracy documentary mentions that the 7th continent is made up of 46% fishing nets, a terrible "predator" for marine life.
Of this plastic, 80% comes from household waste, poorly collected, poorly recycled or abandoned! Then transported via rivers, mostly on the ten largest rivers in the world.
What are microbeads?
Photo copyright: Pixnio
And what about those 200,000 to 600,000 pieces of microbeads per km² (or 1,800 billion pieces of plastic) found in this vortex of waste?
What are the causes?
The recklessness of business and human beings and the increase in the use of plastic packaging seems to be the root cause. Finally, we must also mention natural disasters for example floods and tsunamis.
Who is affected?
Almost 300 marine species are directly affected, too often being trapping in driftnets or large debris. It’s a major cause of mortality for marine mammals as well as sea birds: the first victims. Animals will ingest the plastic, deceptively plankton-like plastic! It builds up in their digestive system and they end up dying.
We humans will find on our plates the fish and seafood that have consumed all this plastic. In addition, the bacteria that thrive on plastics in gyres have been shown to be different, and potentially pathogenic, from natural bacteria in the marine environment.
What efforts are in place?
According to François Lambert, president of the 7th Continent Expedition association: "it is impossible to envisage cleaning up the oceans definitively. On the other hand, stemming this flow is absolutely possible and quite credible in the short term. It requires education and requires the involvement of all". But here are some players:
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Trained lawyer turned to 170 feet freediver. But also author, speaker, chef, sustainable seafood advocate and professional spearfisherwoman.
A non-profit conservation organization with the vision to restore our oceans to their natural, flourishing state, by among other things, supporting our farmers who grow algae and molluscs, to help develop this industry and the regenerative impacts it can have on the St. Lawrence river.
Ocean Cleanup: Incredible initiative to clean up the oceans, but which seems to have shown its limits.
Also read the book Empreinte by Guillaume Beaudoin.
Tara Expeditions: NGO that has been traveling the seas since 2003, taking samples and carrying out analyzes dedicated to the protection of the ecology of the oceans.
4 Ocean: NGO that wants to stop the influx of plastic by changing consumption habits. This initiative was born out of a mission to clean up the beaches of Bali.
Mission 100 tonnes: Founded by Jimmy Vigneux and Lyne Morissette, it took only 75 days to collect 10 tons of waste. Quickly upgraded to Mission 100 tonnes, this initiative is now on its next 1000 tonnes challenge. Among other things, it won the "Demain le Québec" grand prize awarded by the David Suzuki Foundation for the "greenest and most committed" project of 2019.
How can you make a difference today?
Photo copyright: Jimmy Vigneux / Mission 100 tonnes
Read the following articles:
What concrete actions do you take on a daily basis to end plastic?
Be sure to watch the hard-hitting Seaspiracy documentary on Netflix to completely rethink your consumption of the sea and its products.