Plastic waste accumulation in the South Pacific now accounts for an area of at least 2.5 million square kilometers, according to the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. The alert has just been launched by the American explorer Charles J. Moore, returning from an expedition in the South Pacific that took place between November 2016 and June 2017. Like the 7th continent observed in the North Pacific, this new plate of waste has been shaped for some years by ocean gyres, huge eddies of water formed by ocean currents themselves influenced by the rotation of the Earth which concentrate the plastic waste in a single zone.
Collection of samples on the research vessel Algalita. Credits: Algalita Marine Research Foundation
As depressing as the news is, this information is not surprising. According to new research conducted by marine ecotoxicologist Jennifer Lavers of the University of Tasmania in Australia, Henderson Island, one of the most isolated islands in the world located in the South Pacific, has the highest density of debris plastics. It is therefore “naturally” that the biologists of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation continued their research in the region. He discovered huge amounts of plastic, “about the same amount as in the North Pacific ten years ago,” says Charles Moore.
Researchers here sailed around Easter Island and Robinson Crusoe Island using nets to collect samples for analysis. Most of this waste was not represented in the form of water bottles or plastic bags, but “in the form of small confetti, smaller than grains of rice,” they explain. The official results of this survey have not yet been published and further analysis will be needed, but researchers are already reporting on the disaster so that we can start thinking about solving the problem.
In the South Pacific, a large waste plate like 4 times France
Waste collected in the South Pacific. Credits: Algalita Marine Research Foundation
The oceans are now invaded by waste, a real environmental disaster for both the marine ecosystems and the human consumer who continues to draw from the ocean.