Garbage Patches Threaten Oceanic Life

A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States. In 1997, the oceanographer Charles Moore discovered this garbage patch. Ninety percent of these sea wastes are plastics. This study focuses on the impact of plastics to marine life and specifically to the albatross colony of Alaska.


A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States. In 1997, the oceanographer Charles Moore discovered this garbage patch. Ninety percent of these sea wastes are plastics. This study focuses on the impact of plastics to marine life and specifically to the albatross colony of Alaska. In June 2006, the United Nation Environment (UNE) found about 18,500 plastic wastes per square mile. There have been 5 other garbage patches recorded to date. Over 100,000 marine mammals die each year because they get tangled in discarded plastic fishing nets” (Kapchinske, 2007). The world’s garbage affects at least 267 species, 86 % of sea turtles, 44 % of seabirds, and 43% of marine mammals per report of the Marine Mammal Commission. Plastics in the ocean have two distinct chemical dangers—they both secrete and absorb toxic substances. They also pose physical dangers. Pieces of plastic of all sizes can be ingested by animals and can cause their death. Animals like fish and turtles eat plastic pieces. Birds not only ingest pieces of trash, they also try to feed them to their chicks. Up to a million sea birds are killed every year from encounters with eating plastic or becoming entangled in it. Zooplanktons can also be killed by choking on the smallest pieces of plastic. Studies on endangered short-tailed albatross of Alaska have identified plastic ingestion as a major factor in its population decline. Short-tailed albatrosses forage widely across the temperate and subarctic North Pacific, can be seen in the Gulf of Alaska, along the Aleutian Islands, and in the Bering Sea. Thus, working out on present and new management ways to combat the dangerous impact of plastic wastes is imperative for the overall health of oceanic life, and on the albatross colony in particular.

1. Introduction

1.1 Seven Big Problems of the Oceans

Evidences that the oceans have suffered at the hands of mankind for millennia as far b have been discovered. Recent studies show that degradation, particularly of shoreline areas, has accelerated dramatically in the past three centuries as industrial discharge and runoff from farms and coastal cities have increased. Common man-made pollutants that reach the ocean include pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, detergents, oil, sewage, plastics, and other solids. Many of these pollutants collect at the ocean’s depths, where they are consumed by small marine organisms and introduced into the global food chain. (Heimbuch, 2009).

Our life on earth depends for resources largely from the oceans, yet they are our biggest dumping grounds. We seem to think we can get all goodies out and throw the trash to the environment and let flow into the ocean, where it affects the species thriving there, then expecting that the garbage disposal into the environment with cause no harm. Most people are unaware how much one piece of plastic can harm the living things in the ocean. The oceans are undergoing 7 major problems as follows (Heimbuch, 2009).

1. Over fishing is having a serious issue on our oceans. Not only does it wipe out a species, but other species are depending on those fish for survival.

2. The oceans’ most important predators are being killed, but only for their fins. It is a common human practice to catch sharks, cut off their fins, throw them back into the ocean, and left to die. Shark fins are usually used as in ingredient for soup and many other foods. Sharks are at the top of the food chain as predators, which mean that their reproduction rate is very low.

3. Ocean acidification is sending us back by 35 million years. The oceans absorb CO2 through natural processes, but at the rate at which we are pumping it into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels, the oceans’ pH balance is dropping to the point where life within the ocean is having trouble coping. At some point in time, there is the oceans become too acidic to support life. Many species are going to be wiped out, from shellfish to corals and the fish that depend on them.

4. Dying corals reefs represent a scary downward spiral. Coral reefs support a huge amount of small sea life, which in turn supports both larger sea life and people, not only for immediate food needs but also economically. Global warming is a primary cause of coral bleaching, but there are other causes as well.

5. Ocean dead zones are everywhere and are growing. Dead zones are swaths of ocean that do not support life due to a lack of oxygen. The number of dead zones is growing at an alarming rate, over 400 are known to exist, and are increasing.

6. Mercury pollution is going from coal to oceans to fish on our dinner table.

Pollution is running rampant in the oceans but one of the scariest pollutants is mercury because it ends up on the dinner table. The worst part is mercury levels in the oceans are predicted to rise. Coal-fired power plants are the largest industrial source of mercury in the country.

7. The plastic garbage patch is getting bigger. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is getting a lot of attention from eco-organizations including Project Kaisei, which is launching the first clean-up effort and experimentation. (Figure 1)

1.2 Episodes of Wastes Dumped into the Oceans

“According to the Marine Mammal Commission, garbage in the world’s oceans affects at least 267 species, including 86 percent of sea turtles, 44 percent of seabirds, and 43 percent of marine mammals. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that well over 100,000 marine mammals die each year because they get tangled in discarded plastic fishing nets” (Kapchinske, 2007).

Episode 1: The “Nike Shoe Spill”

On May 27, 1990, the freighter Hansa Carrier, en route from Korea to the U.S., encountered a severe North Pacific storm. During the storm, a large wave washed twenty- one shipping containers overboard. Five of these 20-meter containers held a shipment of approximately 80,000 Nike shoes ranging from children’s shoes to large hiking boots. It has been estimated that four of the five containers opened into the stormy waters, releasing over 60,000 shoes into the Pacific Ocean. The shoes washed ashore one at a time but were wearable after a scrub-down to remove barnacles, algae, and tar. Beachcombers held swap meets to find matched pairs. They were spread out by wind- driven ocean currents (Figure 2). These are shoes that washed up on the shore after the Nike shoes spill and they where showing up one by one and people went out to try and match them and clean them so people could still wear them.

Episode 2: The Hong Kong Plastic Pellets Spill

Overnight on July 23-24, 2012 the plastic pellets were being shipped from Guangzhou to Shantou, both in southern China’s Guangdong Province, when the cargo ship Yong Xin Jie 1 ran into Typhoon Vicente, the worst storm to strike Hong Kong in more than a decade. Seven 40-foot-long containers were lost overboard in the waters south of Hong Kong. Six of the containers contained sacks of small plastic pellets used in the manufacture of other plastic products, about 150 tons in total, according to Hong Kong environmental authorities. One container held bottles. Five of the containers full of plastic pellets were located by the Hong Kong Marine Department, which salvaged the containers and the plastic pellets at sea. About 50 tons of pellets in 25 kg sacks were collected from the water, but many of the sacks that were still adrift broke open, releasing tons of the pellets that piled up in great white drifts across 10 Hong Kong beaches or scattered across the sand. The sixth container known to hold sacks of plastic pellets is still missing (Figure 3). Environmentalists warn that the pellets, nurdles, can absorb pollutants from sea water, thus becoming toxic themselves (ENS, 2012 )

Episode 3: The post-Japan Tsunami Marine Debris

The International Pacific Research Center in Hawaii reports that somewhere between 5 and 20 million tons of tsunami debris from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan is migrating quickly across the Pacific Ocean (Figure 4). More than 200,000 buildings simply disappeared from view. Crew from the Russian tall ship STS Pallada spotted furniture, appliances, and a fishing boat with the home port ‘Fukushima’ painted on it after passing the Midway islands, part of the Hawaiian Island Archipelago, which is 2,000 miles from the epicenter of the quake.

Episode 4: Death of Whales

A gray whale that died after getting stranded on a West Seattle beach had a large amount of garbage in its stomach—ranging from plastic bags to a pair of sweat pants and even a golf ball. It was determined that the whale had been attempting to feed in industrial waters and therefore exposed itself to debris and contaminants present on the bottom in these areas (Figure 5).

Episode 5: The World’s Rubbish Dump

A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said (Figure 6). The vast expanse of debris, which is the world’s largest rubbish dump, is found in swirling underwater currents. This drifting “soup” stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan (Marks, 2008).

2. The Problem

2.1 The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch

In 1997, the oceanographer Charles Moore discovered a garbage patch bigger than the US State of Texas. 90% of the sea wastes is plastic in the ocean. In June 2006, the United Nation Environment (UNE) found about 18,500 plastic wastes per square mile.

80% of the sea plastics come from our lands. There have been 5 other Garbage Patches recorded to date. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has the most plastic than the other surrounding garbage patches.

The size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch ranges from 700,000 KM to 15,000,000 km. The percent depth is 25,000 in the water. A large amount of plastic bags, bottles and trash were growing larger in the North Pacific and now another Patch has been found in the Atlantic (McLendon, 2010).

A remote, 25-acre island in the North Pacific is so overwhelmed by garbage that it may become the first U.S. hazardous-waste site whose primary problem is plastic. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch goes for hundreds of miles across the North Pacific Ocean. It is like a floating landfill in the sea. Plastic starts in people’s hands and goes to the landfill and from there ends up in the ocean to the animals’ stomachs and could also end up around the animals’ necks. These became public thanks to the news crews and scientists and explorers who started going to the North Pacific more to find the problems of the plastic found there.

Some people call the Great Pacific Garbage Patch the “trash island,” but Holly Bamford said this is wrong because if it was just an island of it then they could go and clean it up fast but it is not that easy. There is not a small amount of garbage; it is a really large amount and it will take a long time to clean it all up. The North Pacific Garbage Patch is known as the Plastic Island. Figure 1 shows the North Pacific Garbage Patch and other things that put plastic waste into the North Pacific waters (National Geographic Education, 2010)

2.2 The Plastic Wastes of the United States

Plastics play an important role in almost every aspect of our lives. Plastics are used to manufacture everyday products such as beverage containers, toys, and furniture. The widespread use of plastics demands proper end of life management. Plastics make up almost 13% of the solid wastes, a dramatic increase from 1960, when plastics were less than 1% of solid wastes. The largest category of plastics are found in containers and packaging (e.g., soft drink bottles, lids, shampoo bottles), but they also are found in durable (e.g., appliances, furniture) and nondurable goods (e.g., diapers, trash bags, cups and utensils, medical devices). The recycling rate for different types of plastic varies greatly, resulting in an overall plastics recycling rate of only 8%, or 2.7 million tons in 2011. However, the recycling rate for some plastics is much higher, for example in 2011,  29% of HDPE bottles and 29% of PET bottles and jars were recycled (US-EPA, 2011).

Table 1 and Graph 1 show 32 million tons of plastic wastes were generated in the United States in 2011, representing 12.7% of total Municipal Solid Wastes (MSW). These plastic wastes generated almost 14 million tons of plastics as containers and packaging, about 11 million tons as durable goods such as appliances, and almost 7 million tons as nondurable goods, such as plates and cups. Only 8% of the total plastic waste generated in 2011 was recovered for recycling. The category of plastics which includes bags, sacks, and wraps was recycled at about 11%. The recycling of plastics found in automobiles is counted separately from the MSW recycling rate.

2.3 The Hazards of Plastics

Plastic is a polymer, which is usually molded. Some are natural but most are man made from oil (Freudenrich, 2009). When it is broken down it is just like oil in water. New study reveals plastics decompose into hazardous chemicals. In the first study to look at what happens over the years to the billions of pounds of plastic waste floating in the world’s oceans, scientists are reporting that plastics decompose with surprising speed and release potentially toxic substances into the water (ACS, 2009). The researchers termed the discovery “surprising.” Scientists always believed that plastics in the oceans were unsightly, but a hazard mainly to marine animals that eat or become trapped in plastic objects (ACS, 2009). “Plastics in daily use are generally assumed to be quite stable,” said study lead researcher Katsuhiko Saido, Ph.D. “We found that plastic in the ocean actually decomposes as it is exposed to the rain and sun and other environmental conditions, giving rise to yet another source of global contamination that will continue into the future.”

Dr. Katsuhiko Saido said that the polymer polystyrene begins to decompose within one year, releasing components that are detectable in the parts-per-million range. Those chemicals also decompose in the open water and inside marine life. However, the volume of plastics in the ocean is increasing, so that decomposition products remain a potential problem. Decomposing plastics are leaching potentially toxic chemicals like bisphenol A into the seas, possibly threatening ocean animals, and us. Threats to the marine environment are of chemical and physical dangers.

Chemical Dangers

Plastics in the ocean present two distinct chemical dangers—they both secrete and absorb toxic substances. Plastics contain a wide variety of chemicals, often called plasticizers, many of which can be toxic. These include chemicals like phthalates and bisphenol A, the recently publicized BPA. These chemicals can leak out of the plastic and into the seawater. Conversely, plastics also have the ability to absorb many hydrophobic toxins. These include chemicals like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and pesticides like DDT. The smaller the pieces of plastic become, the more surface area is available to soak up toxins from the water. Pellets of plastic, including nurdles, can concentrate these chemicals up to a million times higher than they are found in seawater (Ellison, 2007). These toxic chemicals are then ingested by whichever animal eats the pellets. Chemicals that are leeched from the plastic and chemicals absorbed by it can cause physiological damage, especially when ingested.

Physical Dangers

Plastic decomposes but does not biodegrade, meaning that while it breaks down into microscopic pieces, it remains as plastic. Plastic breaks into ever smaller pieces through mechanical action and exposure to UV radiation via photodegradation. Regardless of size, however, plastic remains a chemical polymer and cannot be broken down further by microorganisms involved in biodegradation (Kapchinske, 2007). Some plastics marketed as biodegradable are actually plastic polymers held together by a cellulosic matrix. The cellulose will biodegrade, but the polymers will remain. Pieces of plastic smaller than a human hair have been identified in ocean water (Thompson et al, 2004). It is likely that plastic is reduced even further, perhaps even to single polymer molecules.

Consequently, pieces of plastic of all sizes can be ingested by animals and be directly responsible for their death, often by puncturing or blocking the digestive tract. Depending on how the digestive tract is blocked, death can occur from either choking or starvation. Plastic can be and has been eaten by all manner of sealife. Animals like fish and turtles will eat plastic pieces mistaking them for food. Birds not only ingest pieces of trash, they also try to feed them to their chicks. Up to a million sea birds are killed every year from encounters with eating plastic or becoming entangled in it (Norlander, 2010). Zooplanktons can also be killed by choking on the smallest pieces of plastic (Weisman, 2007). This has potentially serious implications for the marine food web as zooplankton serve as an important food source for many other species. In the North Pacific Central Gyre the mass of plastic is roughly six times the mass of plankton (Moore et al, 2001). Plankton is more abundant than plastic, but as plastic breaks into more pieces this could change. Baleen and bottom feeding whales also end up ingesting garbage. Plastic debris can also act to ensnare or trap animals. This is a triggerfish trapped in a bucket hauled up while collecting samples for research.

2.4 Effect on Human Health

Clearly, plastic wastes threaten the ocean life, thus threaten the global biosphere. The toxic chemicals that leach out to the sea affect animals that live, migrate, or feed in the sea. Evidences are seen on whales, turtles and birds eating the plastic or get tangled and get sick or die. This effect changes the food chain which causes all the animals to drastically change their way of life. The main thing is that we can relate the effect of garbage patches to our own village. On November 10, 2013, Kotlik was flooded and it did a lot of damage. The garbage was all over the place including the sewer and fecal matter. Even after a month, some of the village folks still do not have running water in their homes. By the time spring comes all that dump that spilled and frozen will melt and float, affecting the whole environment and most importantly posing dangers to human health. Figure 7 shows the Kotlik garbage dumpsite beside the Kotlik River which is the community source of water for drinking and other domestic, navigational and industrial uses. Also portrayed are photos of the damages after the November storm and flooding. During this happening, the icebergs from the ocean flowed into the river and destroyed houses, boats and the power systems. ( Figure 7)

2.5 Plastics Endanger the Albatross Colony of Alaska

Not so much is publicly known about the plight of seabirds. They are major parts of the ocean ecosystem and therefore contribute to the balance of the marine food and energy web. Specifically, the albatross colony has been continuously declining in population. They are now endangered species. Figure 5 shows a case where the albatross abdomen is filled with plastic wastes. Environmentalists identify plastics ingestion as one big factor causing the death of seabirds (US Fish & Wildlife Service, 2010).

Historically, millions of short-tailed albatrosses bred in the western North Pacific on several islands south of the main islands of Japan. Only two breeding colonies remain active today in Japan. In addition, single nests are found in Hawaii. Short-tailed albatrosses forage widely across the temperate and subarctic North Pacific, and can be seen in the Gulf of Alaska, along the Aleutian Islands, and in the Bering Sea (Figure 8). The world population is currently estimated to be about 1200 birds. Short-tailed albatrosses are slow to reproduce and are long-lived, with some known to be over 40 years old. They begin breeding at about 7 or 8 years, and mate for life.

Short-tailed albatrosses have survived multiple threats to their existence. In late 1800s and early 1900s, feather hunters killed about five million of them, stopping only when the species was nearly extinct. In the 1930s, nesting habitat on the only active nesting island in Japan was damaged by volcanic eruptions, leaving fewer than 50 birds by the 1940s. Volcanic eruptions, severe storms, and competition with black-footed albatrosses for nesting habitat continue to be natural threats to short-tailed albatrosses today. Human- induced threats include hooking and drowning on commercial long-line gear, entanglement in derelict fishing gear, ingestion of plastic debris, contamination from oil spills, and potential predation by introduced mammals on breeding islands (US-Alaska Fish and Wildlife Service, 2001).

3. Existing Solutions to Recover Wastes

3.1 US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regulations on Hazardous Waste

Hazardous waste is a waste with properties that make it dangerous or potentially harmful to human health or the environment. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is the public law that creates the framework for the proper management of hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste. EPA regulations translate the general mandate of RCRA into a set of requirements for the Agency and the regulated community. The RCRA hazardous waste program regulates commercial businesses as well as federal, State, and local government facilities that generate, transport, treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste. (

3.2 Existing Technology to Recover Municipal Solid Wastes

According to the American Chemistry Council (2009), about 1,800 US businesses handle or reclaim post-consumer plastics. Plastics from MSW are usually collected from curbside recycling bins or drop-off sites. Then, they go to a material recovery facility, where the materials are sorted into broad categories (plastics, paper, glass, etc.). The resulting mixed plastics are sorted by plastic type, baled, and sent to a reclaiming facility. At the facility, any trash or dirt is sorted out then the plastic is washed and ground into small flakes. A flotation tank then further separates contaminants, based on their different densities. Flakes are then dried, melted, filtered, and formed into pellets. The pellets are shipped to product manufacturing plants, where they are made into new plastic products.

4. Our Management Plan

The problems are that the Great North Pacific Garbage Patch (GNPGP) is spilling plastic waste and other solid wastes into the sea which is just like oil in water. Then it is moving with the water into Alaska and around the Pacific. The waters are getting polluted and the animals are eating the plastic. This is affecting them, their habitats, their ecosystems, and us. This is causing the food chain to break, eventually affecting the health and home of Alaskans. The eroding of the lands when polluted waters come through cause damages. The dumping of plastic and other waste is illegal but people still do it. We can do some things to combat these effects. Some ideas are making a plastic waste sea wall to block the rising sea level, doing more studies on the dangers of plastic and the technology to abate them, and harnessing them as non-polluting land fills. For the sea animals, like the seabirds, more specifically the albatross of Alaska, that are already at risk or becoming instinct, we support the recovery systems that already have been established by the various sea life organizations. Since plastic is a big factor threatening its survival, we can help strengthen the movement to remedy pollution.

We support the categorization of plastics as hazardous wastes. We recommend more researches on the area of how plastics affect animals and other organisms. We can help our community, our people, and Alaska by getting involved in clean-up movements and minimizing the use of plastics. We can make websites, blogs, videos, or newsletters to make people constantly be aware of environmental issues to show how to and talk about them. We can think of new ideas on how to prevent any further damage to the endangered species, specifically the albatross colony of Alaska during community meetings. We support conservation actions on the endangered albatross species and continue to promote measures designed to protect albatross population.


One of the major problems of the ocean is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling plastic soup seen from space, the size of Texas and it is multiplying. Ninety percent of these garbage patches are plastic wastes. Several alarming episodes are showing various marine debris coming from different countries around the world. The impact is hazardous to organisms and their environment. This study focused on the plastic wastes dumped into the ocean and found out that they pose chemical and physical dangers. Plastics decompose and release chemicals toxic to living things. They also obstruct the plankton population affecting then the food chain. Research studies show concrete evidences of dead animals like whales, turtles, and birds that have ingested all sorts of plastic wastes and had been entangled by them. The effect of plastic wastes to the survival of one endangered species of birds of Alaska, the short-tailed albatross was further studied. The albatross colony of Alaska is declining and one of the factors causing it is plastics ingestion. In 2011, 12.7 % of the US Municipal Solid Wastes (MSW) equivalent to thirty two million tons of plastic wastes was generated. Only eight 8% of these plastic wastes were recovered and only 11% were recycled. The demand for plastic products will increase as human population increases, consequently garbage patches will increase. What is threat to oceanic life is threat to human existence. The current recovery technology should be strengthened and legal regulations be strictly enforced. Proposed management plan calls for all people getting involved in conservation movement, recovery efforts, protection of endangered species, relevant research and education.

5. Figures and Table

Figure 1: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch 


Figure 2: The Nike Shoe Spill Source:

Figure 3: The Hong Kong Plastic Pellets Spill


Figure 4: The Japan Post Tsunami Debris

Source: earthquake-then-and-now/

Figure 5: Death of Whales, turtles, and birds

Source: our-part-dead-whale-found-eating-plastic-bags-all-fingers-point-back-at-us/

Figure 6: The Rubbish Soup

Source: tip-that-stretches-from-hawaii-to-japan-778016.html

Table 1: 2011 Facts On US Municipal Solid Wastes (MSW)

Waste Generated in Tons


% Plastic Waste generated in MSW

12.7 % of MSW


Plastic Waste generated in tons

32,000,000 tons

Recovered Plastic Waste – 8 %

2, 560,000 tons

Recycled Plastic Waste – 11 %

281,600 tons

Plastics in US Municipal Solid Wastes (MSW)









Plastic Waste Generated Recovered Plastic Waste Recycled Plastic Wastes

Graph 1: Plastic Waste in MSP of the United States, 2011


Figure 7: The Kotlik Garbage Dump Site and After-Flood Devastation

Source: Kotlik School Teachers’ Actual Photos, 2013

Figure 8: The Albatross Population Distribution


6. References

  1. American Chemical Society, 2009. Chemistry for Life. in-oceans-decompose-release-hazardous-chemicals-surprising-new-study-says.
  2. Amos, Anthony. F. 2013.Pollution of the ocean by plastic and trash. Water encyclopedia ocean-by-plastic-and-trash.html#b
  3. Bowermaster, Jon. 2013. The world’s most beautiful garbage dump is spelled A-L-A-S-K-A. Takepart. August 19,2013
  4. Foris,Anita.2011.Plastic products leach toxic substances. University of Gothenburg, faculty of science. May 9,2011. leach-toxic-substances.cid991256
  5. Handwerk, Brian.2010.Giant ocean-trash vortex Documented-A first. National Geographic. October 28, 2010. cific-garbage-patch-pictures/
  6. Heimbuch, Jaymi. 2009. The ocean has issues: 7 biggest problems facing our seas, and how to fix them. Treehugger. biggest-problems-facing-our-seas-and-how-to-fix-them.html
  7. Kostigen, Thomas M. 2008. The worlds largest Dump: The great Pacific Garbage Patch. Discover (science for the curious). July 10,2008. dump#.upqu1y42yow
  8. McLendon, Russell. 2010. What is the great Pacific Garbage Patch? Mother Nature Network(MNN) February 24, 2010. is-the-great-pacific-ocean-garbage-patch
  9. Research Study News, 2009. Short-tailed Albatross,Yamashina Institute for Ornithology, Japan.
  10. Rochman, dhelsea.2013. What are some hazards of plastic waste. Living on earth. March 8,2013. Program 1D=13-P13- ooo1D&segment 1D=6
  11. Sampat,Payal.2012.over 180M tones of Toxic Waste Dumped into worlds oceans, rivers, and lakes each year. Earth Island Journal. February 28, 2012. ons_of_toxic_waste_dumped_into_worlds_oceans_rivers_and lakes_ea/
  12. US-Alaska Fish and Wildlife Service. Short-tailed Albatross: Threatened and Endangered Species, February 2001.

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Garbage Patches Threaten Oceanic Life

A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States. In 1997, the oceanographer Charles Moore discovered this garbage patch. Ninety percent of these sea wastes are plastics. This study focuses on the impact of plastics to marine life and specifically to the albatross colony of Alaska.

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