Out of sight is not out of mind, especially when it comes to all the plastic debris we generate on land. Everything flows downstream, ultimately into the ocean and then...it just stays there...forever.
That's the short story behind the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area perhaps twice the size of Texas in the North Pacific, where there's more floating plastic per square mile than there is living plankton.
And that's a big, big problem.
Now a scientific expedition uniting the nonprofit Project Kaisei and scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography near San Diego, is heading out to sea to study the Patch. By documenting its size, and the potential for cleaning it up, they hope to shed more light on the magnitude of the problem.
This all builds on good work by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, who first drew attention to the Patch. All this is of interest to us at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, since plastics are a persistent threat to marine wildlife-- including far-ranging albatross like the Laysan albatross, Makana, that visitors can meet here in Monterey.
Fortunately we can all do something, like limiting our own use of disposable plastics and helping clean up plastic trash wherever we see it. (International Coastal Clean-Up day is coming up again on September 19, at a coast or river near you!)