When drinking a bottle of water, it is difficult to imagine that it could end up floating in the Pacific garbage patch, a polluted area of ocean located one thousand miles off the California coast.
Florida A&M University’s Green Coalition is conscious of the growing pollution issue on the west coast and is making an effort to make sure others on campus know what is going on.
According to the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, pollution in the Pacific coast is becoming a global problem. The amount of pollution is estimated to weigh 3.5 million tons.
The plastic pieces range from microscopic plastic pellets called nurdles, larger items such as nets and plastic bottles.
In the Pacific region where the trash buildup is heaviest, the ocean basin and strong winds fuel currents, causing a whirlpool effect that traps the plastic. The plastic buildup originates from years of river and land runoff in California, Hawaiian Islands, and Japan. Littering ships have also increased to the area’s size over time.
“A big problem in our country is waste control. This plastic pollution will be very detrimental to our food supply,” said co-chairman of FAMU’s Green Coalition, Jomar Floyd, a senior healthcare management student from Jackson, Miss. “Educating the masses about global issues is the first step.”
Charles Moore, researcher and founder of AMRF, first discovered this plastic vortex in 2005 while Captain of the ship Alguita, in the Los Angeles to Hawaii sail race the Transpac.
“I don’t know of any government group that is doing a cleanup of the microscopic plastic pieces. They are only cleaning up fishing nets and other larger debris because they are still lacking research from the entire zone,” said Marieta Francis, executive director of AMRF.
“The area looks similar to confetti, and cannot be seen from air because of the size of the particles.”
One of the first cleanup operations of its kind is Project Kaisei, lead by the Scripps Institute in San Diego, Calif. It is an innovative team of ocean conservationists and entrepreneurs dedicated to determining how to correctly capture the debris safely, and without harming the marine wildlife in the Pacific.
The team is currently studying the chemical effect of plastic on the marine life. Using new technology, the project is studying the possibility of detoxifying the plastic and then converting it into diesel fuel.
Katsuhiko Saido, a chemist from Nihon University, recently published a study explaining the harms of plastic when it breaks down. “I believe our government should be taking more responsibility in cleaning the polluted area.
FAMU’s Green Coalition is hosting the Green Summit on September 11 and 12 to help spread awareness for global issues like recycling and living green.
“Cleanup is a possibility,” Moore said. “But everyone has to actively take steps to make throwaway living a thing of the past.”
Due to the popularity and convenience of plastic containers, the world’s population likely has some hard work to do. To find out more or to get more involved, visit www.algalita.org