Earth Science

Human Impacts on the Earth Environment

Ocean Garbage Patch

Study Tip
The largest collection of trash is in the Pacific Ocean, called the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch.

Composition of Trash

  • Around 80% of the trash found at sea is from land
  • A majority of the ocean’s trash comes from landfills leaking toxic runoff and people dumping trash directly into the ocean.
Connections
The largest collection of trash is in the Pacific Ocean, called the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch.
  • Most of the ocean’s trash is made of plastic. Most plastics do not biodegrade so the trash accumulates in the ocean.
  • Plastics contain chemicals such as Bisphenol A and Pesticide DDT
  • Photodegradation happens when sunlight breaks down floating plastic in the ocean, thus breaking chemicals down and releasing toxins into the ocean and the food chain.

Impacts on Wildlife

  • Through entanglement, animals get caught in the fishing nets and floating plastics.
  • Because there are millions of tiny pieces of plastic, marine animals mistakenly consume small surface debris and other hazardous particles that end up in their bodies.
  • Zooplankton may accidentally consume plastic waste
  • Larger wastes can accumulate within larger organisms that prey on zooplankton
  • Humans are also in danger because fish that humans eat may prey on zooplankton that contains plastic wastes.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

  • Trash from the North Pacific land areas converges in curents.
  • Currents bring the trash into the center of the North Pacific Gyre.
  • Trash concentration increases towards the center of the gyre.
North Pacific Gyre
Trash is moved along and collected in the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.
Concept Check
  • How severe is the problem of pollution in our oceans? What causes it?
  • How do plastic products in the ocean affect the environment?