Breaking News: Atlantic Ocean Has Large Garbage Patch, Too.

Increased recycling efforts are needed to help curb ocean garbage.
Mar 5, 2010 8:50 AM ET

Atlantic Ocean Has Large Garbage Patch, Too.

Increased recycling efforts are needed to help curb ocean garbage.

A newly discovered ocean gyre exists in the Atlantic, according to a National Geographic report.

The Atlantic Garbage Patch sits several hundred miles off North America and covers a patch roughly equivalent to the distance between Cuba and Virginia. That’s more than 1000 miles.

Much of the debris floating within the garbage patch consists of tiny bits of post-consumer plastic and trash, most of it weighting less than a paper clip. Much of this waste could have been recycled instead of ending up in the ocean.

Just as with the Pacific gyre, a Texas-sized floating garbage patch, plastic has circulated in the Atlantic Ocean for decades. The floating garbage pile poses serious health risks to fish, seabirds, and marine mammals that accidentally stray into the bog.

"Many people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch," said Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association (SEA) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. " But this issue has essentially been ignored in the Atlantic."

Research conducted using floating satellite tags, called drifters, help track currents that carry the trash to the Atlantic and Pacific garbage patches. Important information considering that deep waves often carry the battered plastic as far as 65 feet below the surface - and out as far as the Hawaiian Islands - before eventually returning to the gyre.

The Atlantic gyre is currently made up of about 500,000 plastic and trash bits per square mile, but is expected to continue growing. A disturbing fact, considering the 1.9 million bits per square mile contained within the Pacific gyre.

The best way to help prevent these gyres from growing is to faithfully recycle plastics. But first our attitude toward plastic must change. If we understand that plastic is a reusable resource, rather than garbage, we can begin to lessen our impact on the oceans and the planet as a whole. is dedicated to our users. We focus our attention on changing the world through recycling, waste-to-energy and conservation. We reward our users for their sustainable behaviors on our website, through our Greenopolis Tracking Stations and with curbside recycling programs.


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