Home Science Exploring the 5 Notorious Garbage Islands of the World

Exploring the 5 Notorious Garbage Islands of the World

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What are the 5 garbage islands that exist on the planet, where are they located, and how did they originate?

The accumulation of waste in the oceans poses a significant threat to both marine ecosystems and all life on the planet. The consequences of the development of these “garbage islands” can be disastrous.

Poor waste management worldwide has a negative impact on entire ecosystems. According to the United Nations, “Each year, 2 billion tons of urban solid waste are generated worldwide, of which 45% is not properly managed.” This not only results in large open-air landfills, such as in the Atacama Desert in Chile, but some also flows into the ocean, where it accumulates.

The formation of the so-called garbage islands is produced not only by the waste found in water deposits but also by the movement of ocean currents that create underwater whirlpools, causing waste to accumulate in specific areas.

These ocean currents occur in the North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian oceans and are responsible for the circulation of ocean water, the regulation of temperature, and the accumulation of pollutants that flow through them and are deposited in the center, where the current is static.

Experts from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explain that these places are “led in the middle of the ocean, where humans almost never set foot. Because it is so far away, research can be difficult.”

However, the negative impact of garbage patches on the environment is becoming a reality, as marine species that feed on waste in these vast areas are poisoned and thousands of animals die from it every year. It can also have a negative impact on humans because microplastics remain in marine animals and can be ingested by eating fish or shellfish.

To clean the islands of garbage, it is not enough to send ships to collect all the garbage, because most of these islands are made of microplastics, which are very difficult to eliminate because they are invisible to the naked eye and can reach the bottom of the sea. They are formed by the erosion of containers, by the action of air, sea water, and the sun.

The best option to prevent these patches is to reduce or preferably eliminate the use of non-biodegradable materials on a large scale. “By taking steps to prevent marine debris from entering the ocean, we can prevent this problem from growing,” commented NOAA.

There are 5 known garbage islands that coincide with the central zone of the aforementioned ocean currents. This means that large areas of waste appear in all parts of the world and are not only a threat to regional ecosystems but also a global problem.

The largest garbage island is located in the North Pacific Ocean, discovered in 1997 by American oceanographer Charles Moore. At that time, the island was so large that it took seven days to cross it by boat, and it has continued to grow ever since. The island covers an area of approximately 1.6 million square kilometers and includes around 80,000 tons of plastic, 94% of which are microplastics.

Other garbage islands exist in the North Atlantic, South Pacific, South Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. The island in the North Atlantic Ocean is relatively smaller, but still covers an area of hundreds of kilometers. It is formed by the action of the North Atlantic Ocean Current, known as AMOC, which regulates the temperature of the east coast of North America and the European peninsula. The island in the South Pacific is the largest of the four, covering an area of approximately 2.6 million square kilometers.

Finally, the smallest garbage island is located in the South Atlantic Ocean, with an area of approximately 0.7 million square kilometers.

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