It is an immense plate of waste floating in the North of the Pacific Ocean, the size of 6 times France. The image of a gigantic compact cluster of plastic bags, toys, bottles, nets and other cans is immediately formed …
The problem of ocean pollution is enormous: imagine a giant siphon that would draw millions of tons of waste into one place. Except that here they are not evacuated like in a sink. They regroup and form a “plastic continent”: the seventh. Its consequences on the marine ecosystem are disastrous.
In fact, this frightening phenomenon, looks more like a “plastic soup” consisting of a few macro waste scattered, but mostly a myriad of small fragments. “The image of a continent serves to educate the general public, but does not reflect the reality, says François Galgani, oceanographer and researcher specialized in waste at the French Research Institute for the exploitation of the sea (Ifremer ). It is rather a multitude of micro-plastics, with a diameter of less than 5 mm, suspended on the surface or up to 30 meters deep, difficult to see from a distance. But when you draw in the water, you go back an impressive amount. What is confirmed in this video by Isabelle Taupier-Letage, scientific leader of the Tara Oceans expedition:
Unfortunately, this is not a chimera: 3.43 million km2 of detritus, divided into two plates, float off the Pacific and form the “Great plate of waste Pacific”. Worse, this plaque is just one of the five ocean gyres of waste on the planet. By comparison, the Pacific Ocean covers an area of more than 166 billion km2, about one-third of the Earth’s total surface area.
Ocean pollution is made of plastic waste in microparticles
We know their existence for almost 15 years. The gyres of waste are witnesses of our excesses: in the Pacific, 3.43 million km2 of heaps of small pieces of plastic (whose depth can in some places go up to 30 meters) pollute the waters. By shortening the scale, there are close to 750,000 waste per km2, including 5 kg of plastic for only 1kg of plankton.
Figures, reported by “the expedition seventh continent”, which give the tournis and a statement that deeply influenced Patrick Deixonne, the initiative of the mission. Navigator, Patrick Deixonne meets one of the five gyres of waste during an attempt to cross the Atlantic by paddle: “For example we crossed bumpers car in the middle of the ocean,” he says disillusioned .
269,000 tonnes of waste floating off the Pacific
Patrick Deixonne is today the mission leader of the “7th continent expedition”, an operation that was born thanks to the partnership between CNES, NASA and NOAA and aims to “bring back a testimony […] this new ecological catastrophe […] directly related to the behavior of the man. “
If it is not strictly a scientific mission, the operation will still aim to better understand these gyres: “in collaboration with research laboratories, we will take advantage of our trip to collect data and make samples that will improve the knowledge of the phenomenon, “reads the official website of the project.
But how are the waste plates formed? Under the influence of ocean gyres, waste from around the world is accumulating in five major parts of the world, including the spectacularLarge plate of Pacific waste.
“Like a powerful siphon sailor , the vortex would attract all the residues of our society to him,” the website vulgarizes With disastrous consequences for the ecosystems present: “in this area most pieces of plastic are very small . […] In fact they are the same size as the plankton that fish eat . “
Pollution of the oceans is colossal: a real “seventh continent” of 3.43 million km2 of waste floating off the Pacific
So what are their impacts? Effects on the species present in these waters, but not only: the plastic acts like a sponge, fixing many toxins including persistent organic pollutants (POPs), known for their harmfulness and their volatility. “Thus, Bisphenol A, phthalates, DDT and PCB are found in these pieces of plastic at concentrations up to 1 million times higher than normal,” continues to read on
A sad fact that calls for another, even more disturbing: “the cleaning of this ocean of waste seems insurmountable, the area to cover is too large and the costs would be huge. According to Marcus Eriksen, director of research and education at the Algalita Marine Research Foundation: there is nothing we can do now, except to do no more harm, “reports
A team of French scientists has explored what is called the 7th continent, which is visible from space.