7th Conitinent, Floating Garbage Patches
Since the commercial developments in the 1950s, plastic has been a true success story. Having wide range of applications, virtually a miraculous petroleum product. While world production continued exponentially, it increased by 620% in 1975 and reached 288 million tons in 2012. When it comes to the success of plastic, we can list the ease of shaping, low cost, decay resistance, mechanical resistance, practical, almost unlimited usage area, very easy and cheap recycling by human hand, and being an advantageous packaging material.
It is designed to produce plastic, practical, rot-resistant products that serve various purposes. For the environment, this feature becomes a major disadvantage. Depending on its content and resistance to natural factors, the life of a plastic can vary from a few years to several centuries. In the sea, under the influence of sand, gravel, rock, wave wear and solar radiation, plastic is broken into pieces and they also contribute to the pollution in negative respect in a few millimeter sized particles. The seventh continent is like a soup of small pieces of plastic called micro-plastic, its surface concentrations are 200,000 to 600,000 pieces per square kilometer, and this plastic pollution exceeds millions of square kilometers. There are plastic residue sizes from a few centimeters to a micron (a thousandth of a millimeter) and even a nanometer (a millionth of a millimeter).
Speaking of a plastic continent, it is not a land to walk on what we mean. The name of the 7th continent is due to the fact that the plastic pollution accumulation areas are as large as the continents.
Plastic pollution has reached the size of a continent with the title of the world's largest waste landfill, floating at sea. Most of this waste is plastic and a floating pollution between 80 and 120 tons every minute reaches this continent and contributes negatively. The most densed debris accumulates at the bottom of the sea, while the floating debris comes together with various sized lower and circular streams and grows up.
It is estimated that 100 million tons of plastic is produced annually [globally], and about 10% of this plastic is polluting the oceans. It is assumed that there are about 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile of the ocean.
The Pacific rubbish patch, also called the Pacific litter vortex, is an accumulation of floating marine debris particles in the northern central Pacific Ocean. It is roughly between 135 ° W to 155 ° W and 35 ° N to 42 ° N. The patch of plastic and floating garbage are originated from the Pacific Coast, including countries in Asia, North America and South America. These are two enormous masses of constantly growing litter. What is called the "Eastern Trash Patch" lies between Hawaii and California, while the "Western Trash Patch" runs eastward from Japan to the Hawaiian Islands.
An ocean stream of about 6,000 miles in length, called the Subtropical Convergence Zone, depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to identify the affected area, it connects two patches that extend across an indefinite area of the widely varying range. This vortex is characterized by extremely high relative pelagic plastic, chemical mud, wood pulp and other debris concentrations captured by the currents of the North Pacific Cycle.
Despite the common perception of the existing debris as giant floating garbage islands, there is also a low densed part (4 particles per cubic meter) that could not be observed by satellite images or even ordinary boatmen or divers in the area. This is because it is spreaded over a dispersed area, commonly as microscopical plastic at the upper water level. Often known as "nail-sized or smaller pieces of plastic".
Researchers claim that pollution covers 1.6 million square kilometers. It is estimated that the plastic concentration drops to 100 kilograms per square kilometer in the center and 10 kilograms per square kilometer on the outside of the patch. Approximately 87,000 metric tons of plastic are made up of 1.8 trillion pieces. While 92% of the mass comes from objects larger than 0.5 centimeters, 94% of the total objects are represented by microplastics. Some of the plastics it contains are over 50 years old and plastic lighters, toothbrushes, water bottles, pens, baby bottles, mobile phones, plastic bags etc. such items (and their parts).
Research shows that pollution accumulates quickly. A similar floating plastic debris is found in the Atlantic Ocean, called the North Atlantic pile of litter. In addition to these regions, it plays an important role in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, which have high concentrations of plastic garbage.
It is estimated that 80% of the waste in the sea comes from land. This pollution mainly results from poorly abandoned, poorly collected, poorly recycled household waste on land. These waste being left into nature especially or unwillingly, end their journeys in the oceans by being pushed by the wind, drifting through various natural factors and infrastructure channels such as sewers, rivers and streams, rain, flood, tsunami.
The issue, which was first noticed in the 1970s, is estimated to cause 5 to 13 million tons of plastic pollution in the oceans by poor management of domestic waste in 2010. What even more worrying means that this figure is likely to increase tenfold till 2025 or 50 to 130 million tons of plastic that may be poured into the oceans each year. The main reason for this increase can be said as the uncontrolled increase in plastic consumption of developing countries, which have not yet established collection and recycling infrastructures. However, this process, which nature has difficulty in recycling and even has not been successful, is successful and fast and relatively inexpensive when it is managed well by human hands. However, the plastic, which we compliment at the beginning of the article, in case of leaving to nature becomes an insidiously developing enemy that threatens the future of all living things.
The surface pollution of the marine environment is of great interest by the scientific community and the public. There is no special study on the protection of the ecosystem caused by this situation. Plastic pollution begins on the mainland long before the oceans. Pollution of rivers should be studied in more depth, as they are the main means of transporting plastic pollution to the seas.
The most direct effect of this pollution is that creatures get stuck in drift nets of large debris. Then the sea living things either especially or unwillingly swallow this pollution. Take it right or not, a harmful substance unfortunately joins the food chain of the marine ecosystem. Therefore, it becomes responsible for being an important reason of death of all sea living things, mammals, fishes, turtles and birds etc. After swallowing, plastic accumulates in the digestive system, the resistance decreases due to the damage plastik creates in its organism, it feeds less and eventually it dies. A large number of harmful organisms, some of which can be invasive, sticked to plastics, carried over currents for decades, in thousands of kilometers, are a real danger to the balance of ecosystems. Organisms associated with plastic are as diverse as fish, algae, shellfish. Some, as seen with the naked eye, may be microscopic in size, some of which are invisible.
These plastic residues represent chemical pollution for various reasons. They contain compounds that can be chemically transferred to marine organisms if swallowed (they are called bioavailable). Some of these molecules are potentially toxic and can accumulate in the body (biologically accumulate). In addition, the chemical compounds (mostly additives) included in the plastics over time may be released in the environment or when swallowed by organisms.
Plastics are also vectors of persistent organic pollutants. Some plastics have the ability to concentrate the pollutants in the environment when they stay in rivers, streams and oceans for a long time. Thus, plastics can multiply the initial concentration of these molecules by a factor of up to 100,000. These molecules can also accumulate biologically in living organisms, that is, can concentrate along the food chain.
Pollution of ecosystems with plastics is a very complex issue, and scientists have not yet fully assessed its consequences on ecosystem balance and consumer health. Social and economic effects are also precise and meaningful. Public officials should carefully improve the management of national waste. The awareness of all humanity, adherence to rules and practices is important.
In addition to all this, it is believed that the small fibers of wood pulp found throughout this pollution come in thousands of tons. More than half a century of toilet paper has been poured into the oceans every year for years.
It is believed that this insidious disaster has increased 10 times every decade since 1945.