You’ve probably heard of the “Pacific garbage patch,” also called the “trash vortex.”
It’s a region of the North Pacific ocean where the northern jet stream and the southern trade winds, moving opposite directions, create a vast, gently circling region of water called the North Pacific Gyre — and at its center, there are tons of plastic garbage. You may even have seen this picture of the garbage patch, above — right? Wrong.
That image, widely mislabeled as a shot of the Pacific garbage patch, is actually from Manila harbor. And it’s just one of many misconceptions the public has about what’s really happening to plastics in the ocean. Scripps Institution marine biologist Miriam Goldstein, who has just completed a study of how plastic is changing the ecosystem in the North Pacific Gyre, was recently interviewed about the myths and realities of the Pacific garbage patch.
Some of the myths dispelled include:
- There is a giant island of solid garbage floating in the Pacific.
- All this plastic is killing animals.
- The plastisphere is killing the ocean.