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This is a what?

September 30, 2009

Now that I’ve been to the garbage patch, there are a few misconceptions I’d like to clear up. First, there aren’t many large clumps of trash in the garbage patch except for amassed drift nets and occasional windrows.

Windrows occur when “a strong wind blowing across the sea surface … causes streaks of … surface debris that are seen trailing off in the direction the wind is blowing,” according to “An Introduction to the World’s Oceans.”

From the ship, a windrow looks like a long streak of calm water. If there’s trash in the water column, the windrow will be littered with debris. It’s like one long polluted river amidst the ocean waves. The crew was always excited to see a windrow because it meant they could collect several fragments at once.

I tried deciphering the words on a lid covered with coral, but to no avail

I tried deciphering the words on a lid covered with coral, but to no avail.

Second, the idea of a garbage patch, or any patch at all being separated from the rest of the ocean is a little misleading. The garage patch was given that name to describe a heavy concentration of plastic pollution in the North Pacific Gyre. But the fact is we’ve found plastic throughout the journey.

In fact, some of the biggest pieces of plastic we’ve hauled on board came from outside the “garbage patch,” things like buoys and drift nets. Moore keeps reiterating that the entire ocean contains plastic, and that designating a patch of garbage is a narrow way to look at the problem.

Oh, and what did he say about our generation? Oh right, that we’re entering the Plastocene by covering the entire world with a thin coating of plastic. Now that’s something to think about…

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