Have you heard about the gyres in the ocean? A gyre is a fancy word that means whirling or spiraling.
Ocean gyres are places in the ocean where the water swirls naturally because of winds, currents, and the Earth's rotation. There are 5 major gyres: The North Atlantic Ocean Gyre, The North Pacific Ocean Gyre, The South Atlantic Ocean Gyre, The South Pacific Ocean Gyre, and the Indian Ocean Gyre. There are also several smaller gyres. The currents help to move the world's waters around, constantly circulating them.
The problem is that the gyres usually circulate around a calm patch of water. Think about hula hooping. When you hula hoop, you use motion and speed to keep your hula hoop moving. Inside (where you are), the air and the motion are calm. This is similar to how gyres work. So, here's the problem. As the currents whirl around, they collect stuff floating in the ocean and in the currents. And a lot of what collects there is plastic.
Now, we've talked about the problem of plastics in our water before. We know that plastics in our water are bad for the creatures who live there (and bad for us too!). But, last weekend, I got a chance to see some of the problem myself.
Here is some water that was collected in the North Pacific Gyre by an organization called 5 Gyres.
What does this look like to you? Does this look like the kind of blue water you expect to find in the middle of the ocean? Do you think water should look cloudy like this? If you look carefully, you can see small bits of plastic suspended in the water. And, you can see a cloud of sediment--tiny bits of plastic that make this water look like plastic soup! Gross, right?
How big is the problem? Pretty big, unfortunately. Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen founded 5 Gyres study the problem of plastics by collecting water samples like these from the different gyres. They explain more about the problem here on YouTube.
Plastics in our oceans is a problem we can all try to solve together. One way is to begin to understand the extent of the problem. Then, start to think of ways you can limit your use of plastics. Three things I do everyday are: carry a cloth bag in my backpack in case I need to buy something (I don't have to take a plastic bag from the store!); taking my lunch in a cloth sandwich bag that I can wash every night; and carrying a reusable drink container so I don't have to buy bottled anything! What cool ideas can you think of to limit your use of plastics?
Since this is such a big problem, I'll definitely write about this again, but I wanted to share the plastic soup water I saw last weekend so you could see the problem for yourself!