Images & video from the North Pacific gyre.

Below are images from NORTH PACIFIC GYRE trips completed on Captain Moore’s Algalita Marine Research Foundation yacht. Thanks to Amphibious Productions for these shots and to Marieta Francis, Director of Operations, Algalita Marine Research Foundation for directing to their site.

 

 

And a video on youtube from Algalita Marine Research Foundation;

For more information go to http://www.algalita.org

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68 Responses to Images & video from the North Pacific gyre.

  1. Pingback: Nightmare on halloween. « The Coffee House

  2. janet says:

    Let’s do it. Talk to your family and friends. Make a personal commitment to reduce and reuse and recycle. Just a faddish phrase, but make it real for yourself. That’s what I plan to do.

  3. Tarja says:

    I am using this information to educate others now. My next Toastmasters speech is devoted to recycling and reducing the use of plastics. We have alternatives, lets use them. If we do use plastic, let us use it wisely. Make it our mission to clean the world for our generation to enjoy too.

  4. matt says:

    Janet & Tarja,

    Your efforts are to be commended. We must do whatever we can.

    Yesterday the UK government finally decided to threaten a tax on plastic bags. I believe the new Australian government is doing the same. When Ireland introduced a plastic bag tax the use of such bags dropped by 80%!

    Of course plastics are everywhere within so many products so a lot of new ways of managing their use need to be introduced.

  5. matt says:

    Update: see BBC David Shukman’s diary of a visit to the remote Pacific island of Midway. Plastic pollution is everywhere.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7312777.stm

  6. Laure says:

    My middle school math students have voted to make this their cause. They have been writing letters, speaking to other classes, and recycling plastics here on campus and at home. Our city does not have curbside recycling, so it is a big job for this small handful of kids, but they have been doing a wonderful job educating others, and doing their part to recycle and reduce the use of plastics. Of course, these students have learned so much more than math… they have increased their knowledge of geography, ecology, biology, history, politics , current events, writing, and public speaking. They are even talking about making a video to show to other classes after they have left our school. If just one class at every school across the country took on this issue, imagine what a difference it would make for our future.

  7. matt says:

    Hi Laure

    Excellent! That is very inspiring. Can you please say ‘hi’ to them all for us here at The Coffee House website. If they do make their video I’ll be happy to post it on this site.

    What age group are they and which city do they come from?

  8. tony says:

    surely its not just down to recycling plastics. the vast majority of this plastic pollution in our oceans comes from careless our ignorant peolpe dropping and dumping their litter without thinking about where it ends up. i think more education is needed about the devastating effects of litter on the land and sea.do we really need all this plastic anyway?.

  9. matt says:

    Reduce Reuse Recycle , that’s the modern mantra.

  10. Please have a look at this website: peopleclearinglitter.co.uk
    Its a start that WILL lead to a new global awareness that we can take control. Spreading this message would lead to everyone taking care of their own locality and uniting to combat global issues. Most of us have an inner belief that mankind will somehow come up with a solution to all our global problems, after all. we are clever! We expect that at the final hour our brainiest scientists will make it all better, its not up to us lesser mortals, what can we do? Firstly…stop buying new, throw-away stuff. Demand that manufacturers produce quality, long lasting, REPAIRABLE goods. Stop trying to impress others by flaunting the latest gadgets. It won’t make you a better person and will more than likely lead to resentment and jealousy than admiration. Also, you will instantly be richer if you hang on to your money and avoid impulse buying! Grab a refuse bag and go out and clean up your hometown. Bully friends and family to join you. It can actually be fun and the results are so gratifying. Teach your kids, so they don’t allow the same mistakes to threaten another generation’s future. It will soon become an accepted part of daily life. This is what we must do….and its something we really CAN do. After all …. we’re clever! Spread the word, change has started. Ever felt that there must be a reason for you being here? This is it. Big Love!

  11. matt says:

    Thanks Moira. Good initiative.

    I dearly wish manufacturers would be forced to produce quality goods again but even with the WEEE directive (manufacturers pay towards recycling) it appears rubbish is still being produced, kettles being a classic one.

  12. Joanne says:

    When switching from plastic to biodegradable materials, consider that in many countries, each load into a landfill is packed down so tightly that paper, wood, cloth, food scraps, etc. NEVER decompose due to lack of oxygen. It all might as well be plastic, in terms of taking up space in a landfill forever. Landfills that are packed less tightly do have decomposition occurring, but the end result is unrecoverable and contaminated by other garbage.

    The solution to waste in the ocean starts with a reduction in the amount of garbage generated by each person, and then by making sure every bit of recyclable material IS recycled. A load of paper and cloth dumped into a landfill is no better than a load of plastic.

  13. matt says:

    Good point Joanne regards landfill. It really is an archaic method of dealing with rubbish.
    It is the easiest way to contain waste however, rather than pushing it down a side street like some poorer nations are prone to do because of their lack of money to invest in systems and infrastructure to deal with it.

    Wealthier nations on the other hand have no excuse as the technology is now available to deal with waste in other ways.

    As you say though, reducing the amount of waste we each produce is a much better way forward. Laws dealing with excessive packaging are I think one of the ways forward and campaigns using consumer choice.

  14. The-Swain says:

    I can’t believe so much is used, and I’m trying to get my friends to stop using plastic heavy products. I’m especially amazed after seeing the damage caused from the human footprint.

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  16. Mandy says:

    You can also visit this website for a 12 part documentary of a trip to the gyre. As of today part 7 has been posted, and a new one is posted per day. Warning, language is strong.

    Interesting so far though.

  17. Pingback: Bioenergetic Spectrum Science Circle » Blog Archive » Earth Day Remembers North Pacific Trash Gyre

  18. Bev says:

    I’m doing a science report on the North Pacific Gyre and i was wondering what we can do to fix this problem and why it has occured. I also wanted to know all the information on the North Pacific Gyre

  19. matt says:

    Bev, you can start with visiting http://www.plasticdebris.org/

    There’s a lot of info linking out from this wiki entry; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch

    Good luck!

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  21. Razanarchista says:

    Most North Americans are force-fed the most trite forms of pragmatism and extreme individualism, all of which keeps them in a perpetual state of dysconsciousness and socio-ecological fragmentation–thus they lack a sense of phenomenology and cannot conceive of a hoilistic future vision in a shared ecosystem.
    –Razanarchsita

    my email is:
    razanarchista@lycos.com

    • Larry says:

      I agree raz…at least I think I do. I will have to look up all those big words first to see what they mean. I’ll get back to you. ;)

  22. Chris says:

    I’m curious as to why someone hasn’t gone out to this gyre and started ‘sweeping’ up all this crud and started recycling it… Isn’t there $$$ in recycling of plastics? Is it just too enormous a task for a corporation or country to take on? I have no idea the engineering behind doing something like this but we went to the moon, why can’t we clean up our home?

    I haven’t found any articles on the recycling side of this. Any ideas?

    • Gwen says:

      I am certain you all have given these same thought some consideration however I haven’t seen this addressed on these comment pages…………….
      I do not have a clue about what weight a cargo ship would carry however wouldn’t you think that each country would call upon every company that operates in their jurisdiction to send at least four, six or even twelve boats a year out to scoop up a full load of plastic. Now I realize that would not effect what has been contaminating the floor of our ocean but possibly it could make an impact of some sort.
      An even better thought would be to act like a fleet of fishing boats that use their nets. Have a global cooperation where 100 boats attach and in some way lasso and collect this debris. Give these companies some sort of global tax break or incentive. Have a conversation and see if they would play a huge game. Give global coverage of their efforts. More coverage than Michael Jackson’s death or a walk on the moon.
      My other question is where is the genius out there who can take this plastic and use it for auto and plane fuel? I know you are out there…………..come on.

      • Rob says:

        One of the troubles with cleaning this stuff up is the state of the pieces of plastic. There are some larger pieces, and these larger pieces can choke animals, or plug their digestive systems so that they starve to death. However the bigger problem is the tiny bits of plastic.

        We’re not talking about visible bits of plastic that you could scoop out easily with nets. Much of this plastic is fragmented and in various stages of decomposition. It’s found not only on the surface, but at all levels of the ocean from the surface to the bottom. If you look at how they describe this mass of plastic, it’s not something that you can see from satellites, or even see in person, (of course there are larger clumps like in the pictures above), most of the bits of plastic are really tiny.

        Why these small bits so troublesome? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard of bis-phenol-A, the chemical that’s found in a lot of plastics that slowly releases a chemical that acts like a hormone on the body. Thus, as filter feeders eat this garbage, then the fish eat the filter feeders, then larger fish, birds and mammals get bits of plastic into them that release these hormone like chemicals, which can reduce fertility in these animals.

  23. matt says:

    I’ve seen some discussion on this but it didn’t involve engineers or shipping companies, let alone government agencies. The stuff is apparently scattered so widely it’s hard to know how it could be dealt with.

    The moon; wonder why they never went back …. :)

  24. chuck kottke says:

    Perhaps large fleets of robotic boats could be constructed to ply the oceans, constantly and selectively removing the pieces of plastic, and then transferring their “catch” to a massive vessel once full – it could take decades, but then the problem is enormous, so I cannot see a quick fix. Maybe buoyed floating rope loops could be used to “corral” large clusters of the debris first, so as to concentrate it in areas manageable by trash-picking machines. But hey, as the commercial goes, “Take another look at plastic”!

  25. chuck kottke says:

    Another view – why do we produce so much virtually indestructible plastic?? Shouldn’t most things be engineered to decompose in time & in a reasonably harmless manner?? It’s a good idea from a resources standpoint to recycle, & to buy lasting quality goods first.. Perhaps not every item can be made ideally, but many can be made much better, and be designed to be recycled – I am left with the memory of what my uncle, a chemist who invented some of our modern plastics, had told me: “All these years we were trying to make plastics that would hold up forever, and yet we should have been doing the exact opposite – making plastics that would decompose. “

  26. matt says:

    Hi Chuck

    I notice quite a lot of plastics become brittle over time as a result of exposure to the elements & the sun. Plastic garden tables & chairs are a good example. I agree that packaging should particularly be designed to do this quickly.

    As to cleaning plasitcs up from our enviroment, I think that’s incredibly difficult. Packaging is the main problem. Using more cardboard, glass & metals should be encouraged for packaging solutions. Reuse systems that used to be common such as for milk and fizzy drinks should be required again. They’re still used in some countries. Requirements for reduced packaging should also take hold. Some forward thinking companies are already doing this. They save money after all. See this post; http://blog.environmentsolutions.co.uk/?p=62

  27. Nick Matthiessen says:

    I was just watching this video and was amazed at how much individuals were blamed for the amount of rubbish thrown out. To me it seems like production is much more of a problem. The fact that our garbage only represents a small fraction of the waste produced is something worth addressing. Without control over this production process, or how things are produced (like planned obsolescence for example) our efforts will be reduced to chasing around piles of garbage instead of ensuring that those piles of garbage are never created.
    I encourage everyone to read this article by Heather Rodgers “The Conquest of Garbage”

    http://www.isreview.org/issues/53/garbage.shtml

  28. matt says:

    I completely agree with you Nick, especially regards planned obsolescence which I regard as a crime. Nothing annoys me more than such waste. It true that households actually produce a small percentage of total waste. Most is commercial.

    Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out.

  29. christina says:

    I would sign up to help clean this up, it is affecting our whole circle of life, starting with what we need… water! Maybe if we were to put an effort into cleaning this up and use plastixs way way less, maybe our environment will heal the damages that we have caused. Gotta start somewhere! why cant ships take a load or two from the clean up crew if they were to pass by? What about military vessels? Any ship able to transport while a crew cleans out the water? These poor animals who dont know any better are feeding on the plastic and we are just allowing it!! I always see trash on the beaches and pick it up! These beaches need regulatory clean up crews to stop the pollution further!! And if we have to put a safetynet to catch trash before it hits the ocean then that is what needs to be done…. We dont have a lot of time, there are more plastics being made as we read this and there are some plastics melting into our oceans as we speak, while birds and fish eat the little plastic pellets that they see… thinking that was a good catch!! When it was just plastic..HELP THEM AND HELP US PLEASE!!! if you need volunteers please contact me !!! I will work in the pacific a whole year to help if i need to !!!

  30. christina says:

    what beach is that anyway with all the trash??????????????? that is foul to even have a beach with such a problem that can easily be avoided by holding your trash until you see a trashbin!! Malama ka aina!!!

  31. matt says:

    Hi Christina

    There are programmes out there to volunteer for as far as cleaning up trash/rubbish from beaches is concerned (e.g. California Coastal Clean Up Day).

    As to attempting to clean up what’s out there already in the oceans; whoever comes up with a viable solution to tackling this should win a Nobel Prize for the environment (if such a thing exists).

  32. T. G.Vanini says:

    For a disturbing and entertaining music video on The 7 Deadly Plastics, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IP-oC-0hOC0 .

  33. moira says:

    Maybe some enterprising supertanker owner could introduce eco-trawling holidays criss-crossing the area. The collected debri could be compacted into dense masses and safely sunk or utilised in the construction industry. Smaller bits could be formed into paperweight mementos and conversation pieces for the passengers…they could become highly prized “objects d’art”!

  34. matt says:

    Going on the shite that comes out of The Turner Prize you could well be onto something. :)

  35. Max says:

    Plastic bottles are a growing problem in our landfills and oceans. We felt that something needed to be done……and now.

    We knew that there wasn’t going to be one “fix it all” answer and began to wonder if anything was ever going to be done. The problem was growing every day, more bottles were being manufactured and more bottles were accumulating in places where we didn’t need them.

    We were wondering if “Earth Friendly Bottles” would ever be available?

    That’s why decided to do our part and started ENSO Bottles. We are partnering with other companies to offer a PET plastic bottle that will biodegrade, compost or recycle.
    Our plastic bottles can enter the normal recycling stream with regular PET plastic bottles.

    ENSO’s goal is to achieve sustainability with our plastic bottles. WE feel that ENSO plastic bottles can provide a useful service and have a positive impact on our environment.

    We all need to do our part and support recycling programs, construction of bio-reactor landfills and continue developing technology that will make plastics “Earth Friendly.”
    We’re doing those things at ENSO, we offer a plastic bottle that is earth friendly…it’s just one step in the right direction. If we all take just one step toward improving our planet….we will make a difference.

    Max
    Ensobottles.com

  36. matt says:

    Max,

    As your own website says;

    In 2006 more than 60 billion PET bottles were used for beverages.

    That’s way too many. Bottled water for example is a nonsense. Watercoolers connected into mains water with users preferably using re-usable cups is sensible.

    As to the ‘drinks on the move’ market, tell me what’s wrong with glass? It’s not that long ago that retailers were also the recyclers. A deposit is built into the price with (often kids) getting a little money for the return of the bottles. Those glass bottles got reused and therefore far less energy involved.

    More complex technology is not always the answer.

  37. Stephan says:

    I’ve seen a LCA on non-returnable glass bottles versus PET, and the CO2 emissions for glass are twice that for the plastics. Glass with 10 returns produces 40% of the emissions of non-returnable plastics. However, I’m not sure I would want to be carrying around a heavy glass bottle for my ‘drinks on the move’

    Stephan

  38. Max says:

    I agree, however, the reality is that many people with immune deficiencies can’t drink any water from the city as it contains chlorine…etc.
    There are a lot of people, in other less developed countries that don’t have the luxury of having the water systems available in the U.S.
    Yes there are a lot of bottles…that’s why we took the reality approach and have developed a product that is more earth friendly, our bottles can be recycled but as you know only around 20-30 percent are actually being recycled. Realizing that most bottles aren’t recycled, we felt that a better approach is to have a product that will biodegrade into biogases that can be captured and used to produce energy and the remaining by product is harmless humus.
    Hopefully, the efforts of us all can produce a system where clean water is available for everyone and will come in a container that is not harming our environment.
    We feel that ENSO is taking a step in the right direction.
    Thanks for checking out our web site.
    Also, I recently visited a recycling center and was amazed to find out that there isn’t a market for recycling glass, and ther isn’t a market for styrofoam. Recycling is a good thing but as recyclers will tellyou they aren’t interested in recycling a product if they don’t have a market for it.

    Max

  39. the Grit says:

    Hi Max,

    I saw a funny bit along this line today. As it turns out, there is a company in New York City that markets bottled water under the name, TAP, or some such, for $1.50 a bottle. It’s very popular and their business is booming. The catch is that they are selling straight New York tap water!

    the Grit

  40. matt says:

    Hi Max

    I’m talking reuse rather than recycle.

    Which companies are using recycled PET material (such as your bottles) for biogas energy plants?

    Matt

    • Max says:

      There are a few landfills that are capturing biogases and using them to produce clean energy. ENSO Bottles is an environmental company looking for solutions to our environmental problems and the solution to any pollution problem isn’t one easy answer.

      We need our (all) landfills to be designed as bioreactor landfills. Bioreactor (http://www.bioreactor.org/) landfills are designed to encourage materials in the landfill to decompose and the bioreactor is designed to capture and use the gases produced. We realize that our bottles aren’t the final answer…reuse, recycle and when the plastic ends up in a landfill (most will) have it biodegrade into something we can use.

      Biodegradable plastics are important. Plastics are not going away so in my opinion they need to be more sustainable.

      Great blog. Some very good discussion taking place!

      Max

      http:///www.ensobottles.com

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  42. S. Sharp says:

    Did anyone else notice how this debris is heavily colonized by living things. To me it is evidence that the news is not all bad. People have the unfortunate habit of playing good guy vs bad guy with everything. Nature is much more impartial.

  43. matt says:

    Yes good point but other creatures die from ingesting our rubbish, such as plastic bags and plastic pellets. Life isn’t so black & white, it’s more shades of.

  44. Loren Taylor says:

    Great posts, every single one of them. Special thanks to Joanne for comment on landfills- never thought about it that way before.

    Had a interesting conversation with a friend who’s organizing eco-conscious people at the local level. She feels there’s not much an individual can do besides pressure governments & institutions to take action. I will share this info with her to show we CAN take action, even if only as consumers.

    “Keep talkin’ ’bout The President & wanna stop air pollution/
    Put ya hand on your mouth when ya cough, that’ll help the solution!”
    – from “Re:Respect Yourself”, The Staple Singers

  45. Donn Cottom says:

    I would gladly pay more than $1 per plastic bag in tax….for EVERY type of plastic bag….grocery, retail, food, even sandwich bags. We know this has proven effective in reducing consumption of plastic bags. We are less sure about what is replacing the consumption or those effects. We know still less what governments are using those taxes for…clean-ups? The resources to clean-up and recycle exist. Only public awareness and willingness to act seems likely to spur a response.

  46. Corey says:

    I was watching a show on Discovery channel called Life After People, and it mentioned the pacific trash vortex. I had never even heard of it before. I live in central US maybe thats why, and I have talked to a few others about it, they had never heard of it either. But my question is, I have a firepit, Can these plastic bottles and other items that aren’t normally collected to be recycled (plastic bags) be burned? or does this affect the atmosphere?

    • Matt says:

      The Pacific Trash Vortex is a false urban myth perpetuated by environmentalists.

      http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4132

      I was quite surprised that a show (Life After People) atttempting to be factual threw that curveball in there. On the show, which did quite a bit of traveling around the world, they claimed it was the size of Texas, but of course all we saw were some bottles floating in 5 feet of water. I began to wonder if the next episode would focus on whether BigFoot would begin to repopulate the North American Continent.

      Remember as a scientist one should always be skeptical of claims, even if they support your cause.

  47. the Grit says:

    Hi Matt,

    Sort of related is the recent news that the North Atlantic Current is more complex than was earlier thought. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090513130942.htm

    the Grit

  48. naartjie says:

    the biggest problem with plastic (and most other) recycling is that the term recycle is misleading. each time plastic is “recycled” a product of inferior quality is produced, up to a point where the plastic is so thin and of such poor quality that it can no longer be recycled and ends up on the dump. the process is actually DOWN-CYCLING, and all that happens is the path from finished plastic article to the dump is made longer. the only solution is to STOP USING PLASTIC. it’s killing the planet.

    max @ ensobottles – sorry, but i’m very skeptical about your biodegradable PET bottles – there is no such thing as truly biodegradable plastic. you claims your bottles break down into bio-gases and bio-mass, but what real long-term effect on the environment do the toxins contained in plastics have?

  49. It’s too bad that people use phrases like ‘the public’ or ‘our society’ when referring to whom trash is generated by.

    If you’re going to be recorded on video to be seen by ‘the public’, they should rephrases this as, ‘If you’re viewing this, it’s quite likely YOU who is generating this waste.’

    It is you and me and we have to STOP.

  50. matt says:

    Absolutely Jeremy, every human being on earth is responsible for their rubbish/trash. Less and organic is the way forward …. where the planet can only really cope with recycling systems, not dead ends.

  51. John Linback says:

    I’m only here for a short time. I’m not going to be inconvenienced by having to worry about what I’m throwing away. I’m going to enjoy life and worry about me and me alone. Screw the world.

  52. matt says:

    Screw the world.

    John, you’re obviously an intelligent fella. Here’s your prize.

  53. Ken Adams says:

    This is just another way for the eco terrorists to make money. Everything they try to terrify the innocent people with is THEORY. There is no definitive proof of this so called garbage island. It is a theory only. Money, money money is all they care about. How many billions of dollars are wasted each year on “green” items? The Earth is warming, true, but it is natural. We make no difference in the world. The Earth has been around for 5 billions years. The average temperature of the planet is warmer than it is now. Because it is inconvenient to us, it MUST be some horrible man made phenomenon. It’s all about money.

    • Kurt Pyrch says:

      The gyre and the garbage are real and you are an idiot. We are dealing with physical fact and reality here, not the bullshit that gets trotted out by Al Gore and his Climate Change zealots. If there is any one single cause worth getting involved in, it’s the clean up and maintenance of our oceans. If the oceans die, we die. The garbage patch is real and so is our responsibility to do something about it.

      Don’t waste your time and money or even your thoughts on global warming, or cooling or whatever the so called experts want to call it today. But do take the oceanic garbage seriously. This is the cause of the age.

      • matt says:

        Well said Kurt! People need to open their eyes WIDE. We’re all in this together. We need to implement the solutions together too.

  54. Pingback: “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” Links | Climate of Our Future

  55. TimesThree says:

    Thanks for putting this up!

  56. matt says:

    For all here who have mentioned ‘skimming’ as an idea the recent BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico saw such an idea put forward; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10502957

  57. Jo says:

    Reading comments here and thanks for the link to the wiki garbage patch site. You know, if we all used biodegradable corn polymer based cups and dishes instead of styrofoam containers it would make a big difference. There are some really great industrial supplies coming out for businesses now. In the states, the biggest help is going to come from the consumers, manufacturers and fast food establishments.

  58. Kat says:

    this stuff makes me waana cry :'(

  59. matt says:

    Don’t do that Kat; spread the word. The more people that know the better. Critical mass in public opinion brings change, eventually. Smart people make the right changes first. The rest follow.

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