A Floating Island of Garbage Twice the Size of Texas?

I had no idea that there is a 3.5 million ton island of plastic and garbage floating in the Pacific ocean between Hawaii and San Francisco.  I found this out last night when I was marveling at the ridiculous petroleum-based packaging that housed my Oscar Meyer Center Cut Bacon. Not only was the plastic container over the top, but the shrink wrapped bacon inside was “freshness overkill.” I made the comment about just another example of our dependence on oil and petroleum products when my daughter asked me if I had heard about garbage island?

So I did some digging.  What I found is that “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” or the “Trash Vortex,” has been around since the 1950s. Circular wind and ocean currents in the North Pacific Gyre have collected trash that originates onshore and has made its way into the Pacific.  Greenpeace has a nice animation on how the gyre works.

The garbage island has been growing tenfold every decade and is now twice the size of Texas.  Plastic makes up 80% of the waste, the majority of which is non-recyclable and highly toxic Bisphenol A.  The world produces 7 billion pounds of Bisphenol A per year for hard, clear plastic called polycarbonate.

I’m pretty sure we can find better ways to save our collective bacon than continuing to use polycarbonates in our packaging, and to think twice about how we dispose of the non-recyclable plastics that are thrust into our lives.

Here is the first in a several episode series on garbage island from VBS-TV.

34 Comments On This Topic
  1. Jon Hrach posted
    December 28, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I’ve always been annoyed at excesses plastic packaging by its difficulty to open as well as its environmental impact. I’ve noticed products sold at Costco are especially bad about this.

  2. Jesse Kumm posted
    December 28, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Thank you for sharing the info on the VBS documentary. I’m watching it now! I think I’m going to be sick. =-\

  3. Park posted
    December 29, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Yah, it’s pretty disturbing to say the least. And I’m surprised how few people know about garbage island. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Alan Perkel posted
    January 5, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Thanks for sharing, this is awful, if it continues to grow at some point we will be able to walk to Hawaii and Japan

  5. Park posted
    January 5, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Alan. Yah, it’s pretty disgusting stuff, and I’m surprised at how few people, including myself, knew about this crud. Unreal.

  6. Kathryn posted
    April 4, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Easily one of the most distressing things I have seen.

    It makes me wonder about something even scarier. If this is just errant trash that has accumulated to such a size, how much plastic that is actually disposed of (I assume the majority) is in the ground????

  7. Park posted
    April 5, 2009 at 7:41 am

    Good question, Kathryn, and one I hate to even ponder.

  8. Bob posted
    July 2, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Maybe we should start using dead fetus skins for wrappers and bottles… This plastic stuff is obviously the worst thing that has ever happened to the planet ever, ever.

  9. C.S. Trombley posted
    August 6, 2009 at 11:31 am

    has anyone seen a photo or google earth view of this?

  10. Apple to clean up Chicago el station - Fruzsina Eordogh - Subcultured Chicago - True/Slant posted
    December 4, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    [...] “T- Mobile buys 100 computers for inner city school” or “Coca-Cola cleans up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch“.  Would there be a downside to [...]

  11. Jason posted
    February 17, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Is this a joke? Do you environmentalists exaggerate much? I kept hearing phrases like “giant floating trash island the size of texas”, yet I can’t seem to find any pictures of it. And these fools go out in the ocean for a week and collect a couple armfuls of trash…incredible. That’s just profound right there. Pretty much what I’d expect from some altruistic naive college boy eloquent enough to use the word “f***ing” 3 times in a sentence.

  12. Neva posted
    March 27, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I too am appalled by the floating island of garbage and appreciate you spreading the word. But it does make me wonder how someone so into “green” can still be eating meat. Does your “greenness” stop at your plate then? I could be wrong here and look forward to hearing you explain how factory farming has suddenly become a “sustainable” industry. Not to mention how you justify being part of the extreme brutality that these animals suffer on the way to your meal. Check out the documentary “Earthlings”. You can watch it free at their site or rent it from Netflix. If you’re at all interested, even a 7 minute investment of your time watching it’s trailer might be a very powerful experience for you.

  13. Ping Bjornstrom posted
    March 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    There is obviously a lot more to research about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working ,excellent post!

  14. Michael Contreras posted
    April 14, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I really think we have to find a way to to clean, filter,our way out of this mess folks. I know its going to be expensive so why not start an initiative that applies the costs to the companies that make the plastics so it can get cleaned up. Just the thought of the bismol A getting into our food chain is enough to make a woman worry that they can lose unborn children.

  15. Rydaca posted
    April 17, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    All that garbage is disgusting by all means, almost as disgusting as the vegetarians on here who tried to pipe up and convert everyone, tsk tsk

  16. Neva posted
    April 20, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    I agree, Rydaca — how silly to extend sustainability to an activity that effects all life on the entire planet. Tsk Tsk indeed. Don’t you hate it when a simple act like “thinking” makes things so messy? I’m with you! Here’s to compartmentalized thinking — No, better yet — here’s to bacon, clogged arteries and rivers and ocean choked with trash :)

  17. Ari posted
    April 20, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Only in “magical thinking” can we separate important discussions on sustainability and treatment of animals – as if they are mutually exclusive disastrous events. When in fact, they are intertwined. Farming of animals is brutal to other beings we share this planet with and has brutal impacts on the Earth. Rydaca’s comments show what happens when someone lives in magical thinking – rather than becoming part of the solution, they have to attack someone who tries to shed reality on this make believe rationale – Park, talking about sustainability as you look at your bacon wrapping is like saying you’ve joined a car pool in a Hummer. There’s so many more ways we can be part of the solution – thanks, Neva for suggesting this truth. Ari

  18. Green marketing - The Majestic Plastic Bag, sustainability | posted
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  19. David G. Webb posted
    October 10, 2010 at 9:41 am

    the consumer is going to pay one way or the other.. why is it that the glass bottle has a refundable deposit, were all other plastics should also have a bounty on them, a reward refund, people that are not resoncible and litter, someone eles, maybe would take advantage of the litter, and the refund.. stores have huge garbage bins outside them for trash, why not put a value on it.. people would be stealing each others trash for the reward and always the comsumer the end user is going to pay anyway, the bottle of toilet crap water that your drinking now cost you a buck, so, a buck twenty five and you get your quarter back.. dont tell me the brains upstrairs cant figure this out.. since when is there no profit in garbage.. the waters poison, any test will show you that the clorine content alone will kill a gold fish in a day.. then ad the toxic waste by products like methan gases, created from stored water and it ads up to poison.. the bleach bottle doesnt have a skull and cross bones on it because its made by pirates, pure poison.. God didnt create kidney and gual stones, we did, chemically treated water, did.. the government has no intention on helping anyone, intested of building proper purification units that remove chemicals they build new hosital to take care of the infected.. medication is profitable, purification is an expence.. you are on your own..

  20. david morin posted
    October 20, 2010 at 7:51 am

    thanks park…my eyes are open!

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  22. NEV posted
    January 8, 2011 at 1:05 am

    @neva and Ari,
    there are countless in this country who don’t bother to read, research, or even care – much less get involved. Yes, the man is eating bacon; and perhaps he’s not acting as environmentally sustainable as maybe you for example. But he’s opening my eyes for one to the issue, and influencing others to think twice about what they purchase and what they do with their garbage. I think that should be encouraged, not chastised. After all, while his personal decisions affect others, the decisions are still his – and I commend him for the good ones, like bringing this to my attention.

  23. John posted
    March 14, 2011 at 10:26 am

    whaaaaat? come on that’s fake!!! How could that exist and nobody have still seen it? There is no picture of that and it should be twice the size of texas???

    COME ON!!!

  24. Mert posted
    April 7, 2011 at 9:49 am

    It was very interesting, until your person started using the “F” word over and over. I did not bother to going to part 2. Thanks just the same.

  25. Eltayib posted
    July 5, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Really ”greenguys”? If you believe in this trash island so much, then why you still have the nerve to eat fish if the island is twice the size of Texas. I thought they would be contaminated! All these ”green” guys do is go out into the ocean for a couple weeks and get 1 piece of plastic and exaggerate and say there is a whole island of garbage. No wonder nobody goes ”green”, because these ”green” freaks never show real proof, all they show is a little piece of something that nobody cares about since it is so small! Stop the saying ”go green” if you are not going to show us some real proof other than a little piece and show some stupid graphs and have no photos or proof!

  26. Park posted
    July 6, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Thanks for your note, E. Just search images of “Garbage Island”, or click here, and you’ll see what we’re talking about.

  27. Frank posted
    July 31, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Would like to see a real photo for proof. A pic is worth many words.

  28. Nathan Paul Prince posted
    January 24, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    And not one of you have called your Canadian Member of Parliament, or your US House of Representative to tell them to take charge and send a few barges out there and start hauling that garbage out of the ocean?? pathetic… If you see this posting, call Fox News in the US, at least, or CBC in Canada, at least, if you can’t pick up your phone and leave a message with your locally elected official!

  29. AL posted
    February 15, 2013 at 4:47 am

    I’m also considering the effects of tsunamis & other natural/planetary phenomenae.. Plastics aren’t the most environmentally correct substances but not only bacon -food- is packaged in (hygenic) plastic, syringes are made of plastics as is the packaging of a box of meds or vitamins..
    Great idea to get McDonalds or Coca cola to clear all that up.. If I had the money I’d do it in a heartbeat.

  30. Eddie Punch posted
    February 18, 2013 at 10:26 am

    Very interesting and informative but why does the süeaker have to ürefeix his comments with multiple “fuckin’” and “fuckings”. It weakens the argument and hurts my ears. Pity.

  31. Eddie Punch posted
    February 18, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Oooops, that was speaker & prefix.

  32. realist posted
    April 8, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Until human population is decreased or at the very least stops growing, all of this is moot. The real problem is the sheer amount of humanity. No large group of people will ever agree on any major issue, and therefore no “problems” will ever be eradicated completely. With exponential population growth, the amount of people performing actions viewed as irresponsible will also grow along proportionally. No one really ever wants to talk about that, though.

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    [...] Then it’d no longer be a joke. Just 200 lawyers in the sea, with their scuba gear, clearing the plastic island! [...]

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