The Eighth Continent: Searching for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch


32 Responses to “The Eighth Continent: Searching for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch”

    • Jonathan Roberts says:

      I worked on a ship about ten years ago. We fairly rigorously applied the marine waste disposal regulations ( ), but there were plenty of ships out there that didn’t. Even so, I imagine there was a considerable amount of rubbish from our ship that could have caused damage before disintegrating. The statistic they give that a fifth of the waste in the gyre is thrown from boats doesn’t surprise me, even given the huge amount that would come from land.

  1. SomeGuyNamedMark says:

    We are running out of places to dump our trash.

    • ChicagoD says:

      Really? Drive from Chicago to Denver.

      We need to manage our trash better, produce less of it, and recycle what we are able to, but there are plenty of places to put it.

      • SomeGuyNamedMark says:

         Correction then, we are running out of places to hide it.  Now we are wading through it.

        Yes, less in the first place would be nice.  Making less plastic doo-dads and consumer crap would be nice too.

  2. Lobster says:

    I thought that the whole deal with the garbage patch was that it’s not solid, and that the deniers always say, “if there’s so much trash out there, show it to me.”  Calling it a “continent” when it’s just a plastic slurry only gives credit to their accusations of alarmism and their refusal to believe in anything they can’t see (unless it’s a higher power).

  3. asterios9 says:

    If the stuff is particulate and floating on the surface, it would seem possible to engineer some filtration  device that could collect it without capturing too many living things.  Giant ocean roomba?

  4. Christopher Hill says:

    A ton of the plastic is flying around inside the birds.  When they decay its just a pile of plastic bottle caps and disposable lighters.  Tax the shit out of those two things. Tax em right out of existence. Those that hold to their shit habits can pay for the cleanup. 

  5. greenberger says:

    Every time people report about this garbage patch, it’s always the same frustrating conclusion of giving no conclusion at all. The point of this piece is what, exactly? Here’s the actual problem:
    Because of the way water runs on this planet, a lot of plastic ends up in this area of the world. It doesn’t look like a giant mountain of trash, but it is, just an invisible one. Whether this trash were spread out all over the globe or collected here, the problem remains the same- it’s not a problem of space, it’s a problem of us generating a ton of shit that we have no way of removing. Not only that, all this plastic is causing problems for everyone. Yes, birds choke on it- but also, the plastic breaks down into tiny pellets, which sea creatures eat, which fish eat, which we eat. Plastic acts like a magnet for toxins. Start thinking about the food chain and realize how fucked up this all is- especially if you understand how vital our oceans are for our entire planet to function. Here’s a comic on all of this if you are interested:

    the solution? STOP USING FUCKING PLASTIC. Can you eliminate it 100% from your life? Probably not. Can you reduce it by half? Easily. And that in itself will help a lot. Trying to reduce plastic has led me to making my own shampoo (baking soda + water) which works better than any shampoo I ever used. By vastly reducing the amount of  plastic bags I receive, I think about what I purchase more, and purchase less. I carry things in backpacks and on the back of my bike (and have ended up biking more because of it.) Just trying to eliminate plastic, in other words, has rippled into big lifestyle changes that have made me healthier, know how do to more shit, and feel less guilty about what I’m doing to this planet- which is helpful when your kids get older and ask you “what the fuck have you done to this place?”

    • Funk Daddy says:

      By half, yes, easily. 3/4 reduction, can do, harder. I find that after that it gets pretty hard. Product packaging is the biggest culprit, and hard to do battle with without money coming into serious play.

      But even if you can afford to shop with packaging as a major consideration you find you still have to get inventive if you want some consumer product but not the package. I guess I saw this most vividly when I picked up a bar of solid shampoo and a bar of solid conditioner, wrapped them in nothing and took them to the counter for purchase. You want shampoo? You want conditioner? But no plastic bottle? Just try.

      But thing is, shampoo and conditioner need no bottles at all. That’s the truth. And it’s true of many products. Grocery store displays can make you loathe yourself, your people, your culture and you future if you let them. Smug and pretentious is no better answer, fucking hard to find peace in the handbasket.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        You want conditioner? But no plastic bottle? Just try.

        Aren’t there stores anymore that sell things like that in bulk? You just bring your own bottle and weigh it at the register.

        • Jonathan Roberts says:

          Can you do that? I just buy in bulk and at least save some of the plastic. With some containers, it’s more likely that I’ll be able to use it for something else if it’s large enough.

        • RevelryByNight says:

           Yep, but it’s usually a class issue. Whole Foods does this, sure, but it’ll cost you. Same with just “making your own” of anything. If you’re working two jobs and raising kids, making your own anything seems pretty trivial.

    • Ken says:

       Actually, your kids will be asking you, “Where the fuck are my plastic toys??”

  6. What, no suggestions of engineered short-lived nanomachines that metabolize plastic?

    • GawainLavers says:

      What we need to do is engineer a short-lived nanobot that can metabolize plastic.

      It will then assemble the metabolized plastic into a short-lived nanobot that metabolizes the remains of short-lived nanobots that metabolize plastic.

      • Anarcissie says:

        I was thinking of bacteria genetically engineered to eat plastic.  After they cleaned up the Pacific they could invade the land, devouring plastic spoons and styrofoam cups.  After this source of food began to run out, they would evolve into large fast-rolling blobs that would get after the plastic at its source.

        • GawainLavers says:

          Optionally they could go the toxoplasma route and have a developmental stage where they infect the brains of another organism and modify it’s behavior so that it compulsively creates plastic items, then in a second stage it would infect seagull intestines…


          • Anarcissie says:

             Yes, things may have progressed.  Remember that in weight, numbers, and antiquity, bacteria are the most successful life form on earth, and as far as they’re concerned humans may be just a blip in the scope, to be metabolized completely in the near future.

        • Marios P. says:

          then they start eat our TVs and PCs and cars and chairs and washing machines and everything else. And assuming we have a fair amount of plastic in our bodies us too! har har har 

    • Marios P. says:

      we need nanobots that metabolize humans randomly and self-destruct at a predetermined goal. Say 1% of current population? 

  7. Cefeida says:


    …sorry. I like that ship.

  8. Alan says:

    ‘… picking up one tiny, tiny bit of sand,” … Do you mean a grain of sand?

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