5 Ways to Slow Down the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP)

I expect that you’ve heard that our garbage is a big problem for ocean life; images of the Pacific Garbage Patch make me embarrassed to be human. Especially one who has drunk bottled water.

 The Problems

Plastics that don’t biodegrade are a main source of harm, and many start as water bottles. They get broken down (photodegradation) into microplastic small pellets which sea creatures eat.

They create digestion blockages and many leak toxins that are absorbed into the food web. Sheets of them can block sunlight from the phytoplankton below, the critical base of the ocean’s food chain.

Effects on the ocean itself, like temperature, salinity, and CO2 levels are just now being studied and invisible garbage, below the waterline, may be an even bigger problem.

How to Help

1. Learn where your water comes from and use filters so you can have good water without plastic bottles.

2. Make art

Photo by Alexandre Maciera

Photo by Alexandre Maciera

If you’re not up for major artwork, google water bottle crafts for dozens of projects for kids of all ages.

3. Swim

We can all make a difference once we realize how we can be better stewards of the environment and our own ecological footprint, make appropriate daily changes and inspire others to do the same.
— Benoit LeComte. The goal of his Transpacific swim.

Benoit LeComte is planning to swim the Pacific, from Tokyo to San Francisco this fall, to bring attention to how we’re polluting the ocean. I expect that the video of his route, which will intersect with one of the patches, will be an eye-opener for us all.

Maybe there’s a local body of water where you can swim to raise money for a water bottle reduction program of your choice.

4. Sail

The Start of the Transpac Race. Doug Gifford/Ultimate Sailing

The Start of the Transpac Race. Doug Gifford/Ultimate Sailing

This summer’s Transpac sailors are doing citizen-science on the way back from their race to Hawaii. The red lines on the map above show their planned routes for collecting water and garbage samples for scientific analysis.

And, finally, if you’re not quite that adventurous, turn to your own household and community to . . .

5. Pinpoint Plastic Bottle Recycling Sites

Some areas can only recycle PET plastic bottles (polyethelene terephthalate) that have the designation “1” on the bottom. These don’t contain BPA (Bisphenol A) used in rigid plastics). Some sort by how rigid the plastic is.

In my community, it took two calls to and three websites until a real person verified that I can recycle plastic bottles, jugs, and tubs regardless of the number.

Don’t give up until you get the information you need and a way to gather your empties. You may need to adjust a spot in the house or let them slurry around in your car trunk until you can get them to a recycling site. Any routine that works for you can help slow down the GPGP. Also sharing your routines by adding a ‘comment’ to this post may help us all.