Unveiling the Plastic Continent: Navigating the North Pacific Garbage Patch

continent of waste

Plastic Continent: What is the North Pacific Garbage Patch

The Plastic Continent is also referred to as the North Pacific Garbage Patch. Nicknamed “the seventh continent” or “the trash continent”, the gigantic plastic dump that evolves between Hawaii and California was discovered in 1997. Since then, this ocean of plastic has been observed, analyzed but above all feared by the scientific community, because it just gets bigger.

Northeast of the Pacific, a mask and a snorkel are enough to contemplate the tragedy better known as the “seventh continent”. Those who have seen it during expeditions or studies evoke with disgust a soup of waste. An impressive underwater snowstorm where the flakes, micro-particles of plastic, bottles, packaging, fishing nets… do not melt.

How big is the 7th plastic continent

The trash vortex does not look like a floating island made of compacted garbage as one might imagine. It is more diffuse, moving, perverse. But one thing is certain, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as it is scientifically named, is currently the most polluted ocean area on the planet. And the largest because according to the latest figures, it would indeed extend over more than 1.6 million km2!

Who discovered the continent of plastic

The first explorer of this continent-trash was Charles J. Moore. In 1997, this American oceanographer was returning on a sailboat from a sea race with his team when he came across miles and miles of waste in the open sea, a sad sight. Day after day I saw no dolphins, no whales, no fish, I only saw plastic, he recalls.

This question then arises: why does all the rubbish seem to be concentrated there, and not near the coast or even further offshore? The answer will be quickly found: it is due to what are called oceanic gyres.

What is an ocean gyre

Imagine an underwater cyclone and you have the idea of the monster. Ocean gyres are areas where different ocean currents converge on each other and where huge permanent eddies form. By continually turning on themselves, these whirlpools trap in their center all that is brought back by the different currents. This creates an uncontrollable waste management issue

On the globe, there are five main gyres: two in the Atlantic, two in the Pacific and one in the Indian Ocean. That of the North Pacific is the most important. In 2018, it contained an estimated 80,000 tons of waste, a pile of more than 1.8 billion pieces of plastic. But since then, everything suggests that the 7th continent has grown exponentially, fueled by the continuous flows of waste dumped mainly by rivers.

Where does the plastic in the ocean garbage vortices come from

Similar plastic whirlpools are found in the South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean. There are also point eddies in the Mediterranean Sea.

Globally, scientists estimate the amount of plastic floating in the oceans at 7 million tons. 80% of this waste would be transported from the land by the wind or waterways. The remaining 20% would be waste discarded or fallen from merchant ships.

What is the impact of these whirlwinds of garbage on marine fauna

Plastic vortices pose a major threat to marine biodiversity: plastic, which takes hundreds of years to degrade, is fragmented by solar radiation and can thus be easily ingested by fish, birds, and mammals sailors, like dolphins.

How to protect the oceans from these plastic vortices

The cleaning of existing vortices is a colossal undertaking that no State is ready to take on, as these vortices are often outside their territorial waters. Even though a lot of this waste could be recycled, it is a hard task to take on. To prevent the appearance of new vortices, or at least control the size of the vortices already formed, it would be necessary to reduce the production and use of plastic, promote recycling, and use biodegradable plastic.

Plastic continent: a solution that is slow in coming

Trash vortices are disastrous for the planet and biodiversity. Confused with plankton, microplastics are ingested by fish, turtles, crustaceans… The entire marine world is impacted.

If the awareness is there, if waste management and dumpster rental companies (check this website), foundations, NGOs are committed to cleaning the gyres with boats, nets or any other innovation, the results are not yet up to the challenge. Apart from a global upsurge of governments and citizens, a change in consumption patterns and the end of single-use plastics, we wonder what could stop the machine.

In any case, if nothing changes, according to Peter Thomson, the current United Nations special envoy for the oceans, there will be as much plastic as fish in the seas of the globe by 2050.

Greenville Solid Waste Management

Garbage management in the USA is a complicated problem right now, with different ways of transporting and processing waste in different cities like Greenville, countries, and states like South Carolina.

It has also been tried to break down the problem and build a structure that puts all the different types of waste management into a hierarchy. In this strategy, you want to look at the whole lifecycle of a product and try to get as much value out of any garbage as possible.

Waste management methods

As a result, waste management is usually broken down into three groups: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Each of these groups is based on the now-famous “3Rs”: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

This concept focuses on the best waste management systems. It gives advice on how to reuse waste while causing the least amount of damage to the environment. A lot of waste can’t be handled by this program, and some waste types often get stuck.

People should think about these things when they decide about expanding the waste management hierarchy to include the following ideas.

Some people call this process “solid waste management.” It’s when people pick up their trash and throw away their old things. A lot of things that don’t belong in the junk or trash can also be recycled through this service.

Garbage, or “solid waste,” has been a problem for a long time in Greenville and elsewhere in the USA, it’s been a problem for as long as people have lived in towns and cities. Waste management is about either how to treat waste or how to turn waste into something that can be used.

Solid waste managemment

Every family, as well as every business in the USA, should keep their waste under control. Industrialization has had both good and bad effects on the world. One of the downsides of industrialization is the growth of solid waste. The good news is people can use services like
Greenville junk disposal to remove their junk in bulk and conventiently get it hauled away to the nearest landfill.

In any case, proper new waste management solutions will be required sooner or later. Renting a dumpster is one of the most advantageous options you can make if you have a lot of junk to discard. Dumpster rentals are often a safer, more convenient, and less expensive solutions than other alternatives.

When it comes to planning, there isn’t a lot of time or money. Preparation against a future environmental accident can be done in stages.

There are some waste management planning measures that may be best for a community that doesn’t have a lot of money or time to think about them. Before an accident happens to nature, small but important efforts can have a big impact on how quickly and effectively waste management decisions are made after the event.

Consequences of not managing waste well

As a result of people not properly disposing of their solid waste, both the environment and the community are affected by the waste that has built up over time.

There are a lot of big garbage dumps, and biodegradable materials are pushed to decompose and break down in unnatural, uncontrolled, and dirty ways. There are many disease-causing insects and other harmful organisms that can live there after it decomposes for a few days. A bad smell comes from such a place, which makes it less appealing to get near it.

Many businesses in Greenville throw away toxic metals, chemicals, and other dangerous pollutants in their trash. They might have a negative effect on the environment when these wastes end up in nature. Chemicals can get into the soil, get into the groundwater, and make the soil less productive in that area.

In some cases, hazardous wastes and other flammable trash are mixed with normal garbage and other domestic waste. This makes disposing of them much more difficult and dangerous.

There are many health problems that can happen when paper and other waste is burned with hazardous wastes, such as chronic illness, infections on the skin and cancer.

The United Nations Environment Program and the International Waste Management Association collaborated on the Worldwide Waste Management Outlook.

It is a fresh scientific assessment of waste management practices throughout the world, as well as a worldwide call to action. This publication discusses why and how to take a whole-system approach to waste management as a follow-up to the Rio+20 Summit and in response to UNEP Governing Council resolution GC 27/12.

It also acknowledges waste management as a critical component of sustainable development and climate change mitigation. When it comes to governance, the Outlook discusses regulatory and other rules, collaborations, and funding mechanisms that must be developed in order to arrive at a long-term solution.

The Outlook contains a plethora of topic sheets and case studies that address specific concerns and demonstrate how well people have performed in this regard.

It has worldwide coverage and may be utilized for a variety of purposes, like recycling and dumpster rentals. It investigates the future of trash management, draws conclusions, and gives recommendations to legislators and waste management workers to assist them in developing solutions for their respective communities.

Outcome: it includes Global Waste Management Goals and a Global Call to Action that correspond to Post-2015 Development Goals. These objectives are accompanied by a call to action.

Current Recycling Practices in Texas

Sorters and waste storage in Texas

One category of recyclers corresponds to micro-enterprises, still informal, larger in size than that of collectors: sorting and stock micro-enterprises. They buy recyclable waste that has already been pre-sorted from collectors.

The price per kg of plastic, metal, glass or other waste is set according to the local market price of raw materials. Some sorters sometimes buy their waste directly from municipal garbage collectors. On the road to controlled landfills, municipal trucks stop directly at sorting and stock micro-enterprises to sell the fruit of their collection.

There are several types of sorters, depending on their size and location in the city. A large part of them are located in the pericenter districts, close to the historic center of Houston, the main market and shopping areas, as well as modern districts.

These are neighborhoods that have been used as waste receptors since the founding of the city. These districts have now specialized in the temporary storage of waste, which is then shipped to the outskirts of the city or resold to industries. The recyclers then work in a family room, which also serves as accommodation.

The concentration of recyclers is very important there. They generally perform a precise sorting of waste (differentiating between types of plastics, for example), clean them and store them, until they have a sufficient quantity to resell them to a wholesale waste trader or directly to the industry which will transform it. into a new raw material.

Other sorters are located in the extreme outskirts of the city like The Woodlands, in newer, not yet consolidated neighborhoods, often near rivers. These are companies working on a large family land adjoining the home, which can therefore store larger quantities of waste.

They are usually located on the route of controlled landfills using roll-off dumpsters in order to intercept waste in their path. Micro-enterprises working in an uncontrolled landfill have very similar characteristics. However, they are working on an even larger area, with much greater waste flows.

Other recycling players operate in the same sorting category: pig farmers. In all the popular districts of Houston, a number of residents keep pigs, which they feed with the organic waste (food scraps) of the population. This technique makes it possible to reuse a large part of the waste, since organic waste represents more than 30% of household waste at Houston.

The conditions of rearing and reuse of waste, however, pose a very great health risk to pig farmers and consumers. Local authorities are therefore much more severe with this type of recycling, which is still very widespread among the poorest families.

Marketing and processing of waste

Following the collection and sorting of waste, come the stages of marketing and processing. This is the buyback of waste by wholesalers, generally specialized in a single type of waste.

Sorting and stockpiling micro-enterprises sometimes perform this marketing task. In other cases they are specific companies. It is from this level that formal enterprises grow in number, due to the larger size of such structures.

Marketing companies, formal or not, then resell their waste to industries that transform it into secondary raw materials. Legal waste management companies often only have permission to work with industrial waste. In fact, the differentiation with household waste is more complex.

You don’t have to be a fanatic to live green

grocery waste
Eco-responsible lifestyle recommendations are the main topic of many publications and web pages created in the last years.

The aim of this article is not to cover the whole subject of environmentally conscious living, giving all the tips you’ve probably heard before. Today we would like to consider the three very common things which people from the industrialized countries usually take for granted: food, water and electricity.


Suppose that the majority of people are used to better recycling part of their litter – at least paper, glass and metal, then we can say that most of the remaining household rubbish is comprised of food.

The majority of the groceries that we throw away is in most cases in flawless condition and in some cases even in the original wrapper or box.

The sad reality is that on average most families in Canada throw away 20 to 30% of food bought in shops. If we include all the food that is thrown out in stores and restaurants, we come to the conclusion that some 7 to 14 billion tons of groceries is thrown away every year. Speaking in money language, it means annual waste of $3 to 5 billion in Canadian dollars).

Now you are probably surprised by these societies directed at fighting hunger, and on the other side so much food being wasted right at our homes and neighbourhoods.

But wait before you start packing the groceries you are not going to eat and sending it to places full of hungry people. There are some other methods you might want to try instead of throwing the food away.

1. Do you have any food left from yesterday? Try to incorporate it into today’s lunch. For example you can stuff some peppers with some leftover rice.

2. In your larder or food cabinet, try to stick to a simple habit: the groceries closest to the expiration date is always stored in front of the fresher ones.

3. It may happen that you know beforehand that there is some food you are not going to be able to eat before its expiration date.

Instead of throwing it away, try to find a local charity or soup kitchen and bring your food there when it’s still serviceable. Let some people eat it – hunger isn’t only to Africa. 4. Have you thought about mulching the leftovers instead of dumping them? Maybe you will oppose that you don’t own a garden. But your neighbour might own one and may be able to help you to get rid of your leftovers.


There are plenty of ways to avoid wasting water and you can probably name most of them yourself. One problem that comes to me when thinking about sensible water usage is the way we handle human waste: toilets.

We got used to using toilets so much that we no more think of them – as long as they operate the way the are supposed to. But try to calculate the amount of water your household uses every month just for flushing the toilet.

Big number, isn’t it?

But it doesn’t have to be that much, there are some methods of reducing the amount of water necessary for every flushing.

Basically, we can mention two useful recommendations:

1. Substitute your old toilet by a new type that has been designed to use as little water as possible. Just check out your local store – you might be amazed what choices regarding toilets there are today!

2. Another way of decreasing the amount of water for flushing is to place some plastic bottles filled with water into the tank of your toilet. Keep testing to find how little water is enough for the toilet to work properly.

Electric current

Here the situation is similar to the one with water and wasting it – there are a lot of tips on how to save electric energy to be found in books, magazines and on the Internet.

But one of the machines that needs vast amounts of energy is one that you might be using daily: a tumble dryer. We got used to having anything we like or need immediately, that we no longer care how much superfluous resources are wasted just because we don’t want to wait.

It’s a fact that no one has time today to wash clothes by hands and dishwashers actually save water. But tumble dryer?

Would it be such a great obstacle if we just waited 1 – 2 days for our laundry to get dry? If you really want to “live green”, use your tumble dryer only in crisis situations or get rid of it (sell it) completely. In addition to the environment, you will save some money on your electricity bills as well.

Plastic oceans: laws and action programs

The social and economic impacts of plastic waste at sea amount to millions of dollars, and waste management solutions are difficult to implement (dams on rivers, nets at sea, cleaning trawls, beaches, collection operations, volunteering … ). Zoom on the laws and action programs.

What are the laws and action programs to combat the plastic in our oceans?

Local waste monitoring

Most ports do not yet have the infrastructure to recover waste and some fishing equipment is obsolete. Local waste monitoring programs have been put in place, but monitoring the world’s oceans is complicated and even more costly. Satellite techniques are currently being studied to follow the fate of macro-waste at sea (microplastics cannot be affected by this method).

Plastic waste at sea: laws, conventions and commitments

Much of the waste is in international areas, so the problem needs to be addressed globally. Several laws, conventions and commitments have already been put in place:

  • law on waste in France of July 15, 1975 (completed in 1992);
  • water law of 3 January 1992, policy for implementing the Habitats directive Natura 2000 network;
  • Grenelle of the environment and Grenelle of the sea;
  • the London and Basel Marpol conventions (which prohibit the dumping at sea of ​​any waste, in particular plastic);
  • European Marine Strategy directive (2008);
  • Honolulu and Berlin commitments;
  • Environmental conference of 2013.

The 2011 International Conference on Marine Debris, in Honolulu, Hawaii, helped to understand the problem of plastic waste better.

Plastic manufacturers have organized themselves to react together and are engaged in awareness-raising actions. On the initiative of European industrialists, in March 2011 they signed a global commitment, the Hawaii Declaration, with the aim of better understanding and dealing with the issue.

To date, 58 members, 34 countries have signed up and more than 140 projects are underway. Actions are organized in three zones (Americas, 35%; Europe-Middle East-Africa, 40%; Asia-Pacific, 25%).

Support for research efforts includes the global microplastics research program, GESAMP GT 40, funded to the tune of 320,000 euros by PlasticsEurope and the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

Launched in February 2012, GESAMP GT 40 (working group of the Group of Experts on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection) should allow an assessment of the sources of waste, the behavior and the effects of microplastics in the ocean, with a plan of action carried out in three phases. After the workshops in Paris (2012), London (2013) and Seoul (2014), a report was presented in Barcelona in November 2014 (CIO-Unesco).

Several projects of this type exist around the world, providing precise information on the inventory. According to PlasticsEurope, the current balance sheet is not so catastrophic because despite an increase in production, the quantity of waste does not increase.

Since most of the waste should not arrive at sea, it is therefore essential to collect it on land. Plastic waste, which is practically 100% recoverable, either by recycling or by energy recovery, constitutes a renewable resource that has been poorly exploited to date.

Recall that in Europe, manufacturers in the sector have launched the challenge of achieving “zero plastic waste in landfill in 2020”. The recovery of plastic waste in Europe and France is still a progress in the making.

In France, there is a real political awareness reflected in the roadmap for the 2013 Environmental Conference, which includes:

  • the deployment for household packaging of the collection of all plastics (including films and trays) in order to allow recycling;
  • the possibility for the State to limit landfill only to non-recoverable flows (which amounts to prohibiting the landfilling of plastics);
  • the development of sustainable waste management dumpster chains capable of using recycled plastic materials.

Clean holidays: fighting litter

European plastic manufacturers are also involved in awareness-raising and educational activities, such as “Clean Holidays”, a program created in 1971 on the initiative of companies to combat litter and incivility. It benefits from support from local authorities, and of course from citizens who have adopted their own actions, responding to the slogan: “Our environment is not a dustbin”.

If it is estimated that 4 million people have been sensitized, there are still still more than 33,000 tonnes of litter in France (waste collected by hand). Nearly 20,000 tonnes on the roads (especially just after leaving the stations -service!), 10,000 tonnes in rivers (banks and waterline), 3,000 tonnes on beaches, 350 tonnes in the mountains …

And these figures are probably below reality. Among these wastes: 41% cigarette butts, 12% chewing gum, 9% packaging for beverages (plastic, 3.6%; cans, 3.6%).

Besides, the operation “I sail, I sort”, ie “Nothing overboard, all my waste at the port! ”, sponsored by the navigator Catherine Chabaud, noted in 2013 an increase in sorting by 80% in the 25 ports concerned. In 2014, 100% of the ports registered in the program were motivated to renew the operation.

A final action concerns the fight against the dispersion of plastic granules. Launched in 1992 by the Americans, followed by Canada in 1999 and then by the British in 2009, the Clean Sweep® operation has the objective of “zero loss of granules” at all stages of the chain (production, transport, processing). In Europe, in factories and workshops, the broom is there to replace water cleaning!

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