90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Thursday, August 28, 2014

‘Enormous’ Growth Of Ocean Garbage Patch

Capt. Moore reads a magazine on the plastic “island” of aquaculture debris he found on his most recent trip to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. (Algalita Marine Research and Education)

Capt. Moore reads a magazine on the plastic “island” of aquaculture debris he found on his most recent trip to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. (Algalita Marine Research and Education)

The oceanographer who in 1997 discovered the huge collection of floating garbage between Hawaii and California that’s become known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” has just returned from his tenth trip to the area and says he’s “shocked” by the growth in the amount of plastic refuse now there.

Charles J. Moore says much of the plastic that’s there has been pulverized by ocean waves, then eaten by ocean creatures that larger fish eat, and the effect on the food chain is causing lasting harm. In 2001, when his research team published its first survey of the area, there was six times more plastic than plankton in the area. By 2009, it was up to about 36 times more.

“Now I’m afraid it’s going to be in the hundreds,” Moore told Here & Now’s Robin Young. “It was just incredible to sail through trash that you could net from the bow of the boat for hundreds of miles.”

It’s not just American waste causing the issue — Moore reported finding Japanese and Chinese garbage as well — but he says changing the situation will take extreme action on the part of American companies.

“It’s not practical to truly clean up these enormous ocean gyres,” he explained, “but at least the manufacturers of these plastics should have some sort of a fund where they research the problem, they get out there, they get this stuff up, they start making a list of the ‘Dirty Dozen,’ and start trying to change. Because unless we begin the struggle to change the way we produce and consume plastics, we’ll never get to where we want to go.”

Related Stories:
View some of the researchers' photos of the patch:

Guest


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

October 28 Comment

Cooking With The Fruit Of Fall

Apples are abundant, but so are pears, pomegranates, persimmons and figs. Our resident chef shares six recipes.

October 28 2 Comments

The Mystery Of Michael Rockefeller’s Disappearance

A new book attempts to piece together what happened to the 23-year-old heir, who went missing in Dutch New Guinea in 1961.

October 27 Comment

Documentary Charts The Rise Of James Brown

The filmmaker, along with a trombonist and an ethnomusicologist, join us to discuss the late "godfather of soul."

October 27 18 Comments

What Happens When A School Pays Teachers $125,000 A Year

Higher teacher salaries may help students do better in school, according to a study that looked at a New York City charter school.