Underreported: Ocean Garbage Patch

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In the Central North Pacific, plastic outweighs surface zooplankton 6 to 1. Find out why the problem of garbage and plastic floating around in our oceans could be one of the most pressing environmental disasters we face now. Dr. Marcus Eriksen of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation sailed from California to Hawaii this past summer on a raft, JUNK, made out of 15,000 plastic bottles.


Dr. Marcus Eriksen

Comments [14]

jillian from brooklyn

Check out the video, Toxic: Garbage Island.

Jan. 27 2009 04:32 PM
pete friedrich from Mount Kisco, NY

You can't see the patch on Google Earth because the particles are too small.

I've found, as a recent parent, a phenomenal amount of plastic used in the raising of our kids. To address this, I've created an educational comic book that tells an imaginative story and also provides factual information for our younger audience (grades 5-7 ideally). If you're interested you can find it at


Jan. 27 2009 01:08 PM
Katherine from Los Angeles

Mr. Struber,

Yes, plastic does degrade from sunlight and exposure to the elements. Plastic photo degrades, and that's precisely the problem!

Plastic breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, until they're millimeters small. But it never biodegrades, or goes back into the earth — it's synthetic after all!

What happens then is that these small plastic particles end up in the ocean, where fish eat them, birds eat them, up and up along the food chain until it reaches us humans.

Plastic never goes away, it never biodegrades! That's precisely how this garbage patch formed in the first place, and how it's becoming a problem for our planet.

For more info on how you can reduce plastic waste, please visit

Jan. 23 2009 02:25 PM
Victor R Struber from NYC

Dr Eriksen made the specious comment that "plastics are designed to last forever".
My experience as a consulting chemical engineer who spent over 50 years in the plastics industry trying to extend the useful life of particular plastics,is to the contrary. I would like to offer the fact that most plastics are prone to degration from sunlight and exposure to the elements at sea.
Most "disposible" plastic items are made of polyethylene, (found in grocery bags). These items can be manufactured to degrade into a powder within a few months, if carelessly disposed of.

Jan. 22 2009 02:29 PM
christopher allen yager from park slope brooklyn

Leonard's final question was baited. I've known of this patch for some time now. To create awareness is all fine and good, though i'd like to here a real answer, as in a clean up plan. I myself have been on both sides of the plastic industry, working at a heinz catchup bottle factory for a summer, along with a recycling plant as well. As far as i see it there must be a way to clean our culture as well as the resulting factor. Could we build a rig similar to oils great giants at the root of the problem. I'm all for cultural change but come on people a message in the bottle sounds like junk to me.

Jan. 22 2009 02:17 PM
Chris Wade from Upper West Side

I aplaud you for bringing light to this undereported catastrophy. I hope you'll let your listeners know that if they wish to take local action against the great problem of plastics in our ocean that they should consult our web site. I represent the NYC-Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group dedicated to the protection of the world's oceans, beaches, and waves." Our chapter has been and is currently working on plastic issues and New Yorkers who are interested in helping should visit our web-site at . There they will find Surfrider's "Rise Above Plastics Pledge," and information on how they can support our effort to promote passage of NYS Bigger Better Bottle Bill, a key peice of anti-plastic, pro-recycling legislation that we have been working on for years and that is on the cusp of passing in this February's legislative sesion.
Chris Wade
Chair, NYC-Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation

Jan. 22 2009 01:56 PM
Regina Eichenberger from Chappaqua, NY

How can we remove what junk is there in this ocean garbage patch?

Jan. 22 2009 01:55 PM
jamie from brooklyn

Can he speak to the ability to separate the plastic from the water? Is this possible or are they forever bound together? Are there any attempts to remove the plastic?

Jan. 22 2009 01:54 PM
Benita from Brooklyn

It's spelled "gyre"

Jan. 22 2009 01:50 PM
Alexander Gorlizki from East Village

The following link is just about plastic bags. You can scroll down the pictures and text on the right.

Jan. 22 2009 01:46 PM
Noah from Brooklyn

How do you spell "gire"?

Jan. 22 2009 01:46 PM
John Weber from Bradley Beach, NJ

Fantastic you are covering this. The "patch" is not solid, it is just an area where the plastics are more concentrated. More info at the blog and website

Jan. 22 2009 01:43 PM
shaun from astoria

can we see this plastic patch on Google Maps or somewhere else?

Jan. 22 2009 01:40 PM
Peter Knutson from Crown heights

Can Dr. Eriksen also speak to the problem (or potential problem) of microscopic plastic particles in the oceans.

Jan. 22 2009 01:39 PM

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