Film : Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic

Captain Charles Moore (USA) and the Algalita Marine Research Foundation has made a 3 part film (each part c. 20 mins) which records a research trip to measure and record the nature and extent of plastic pollution in the ocean gyregyre A circular pattern of currents in an ocean of the Pacific Ocean. This film is an extended portrait of the subject following their film “Synthetic Sea”.

The film is in three parts. If your viewing time is limited, we recommend a viewing of the “Synthetic Sea” followed by Part 3 of “Garbage Island”. Parts 1 and 2 of Garbage Island are nevertheless equally valuable viewing, and are portraits of how the research voyage was undertaken in order to arrive at “garbage island” in the Pacific Ocean.

The island of plastic in the ocean is not a solid mass of plastic, as the term island might suggest. Rather the plastic there exists in a highly broken down form, consisting of fragments and small pieces which float in the water column just beneath the surface. The amount of plastic in the water column intensifies as one approaches the centre of the gyre (a gyre is a circulatory current which draws the material to a centre point). In terms of mass, plastic in the gyre now heavily outweighs living creatures (kg per kg) by around 6 to 1, and can be as high as 60 to 1 or more

The plastic particles exist like confetti throughout the water column, and are widely consumed by marine life. The smallest marine creatures, zooplanktonzooplankton Zooplankton form the group of tiny animals such as minuscule jellyfish and rotifers present in the marine environment. They are a major source of food for those higher up the food chain, and their numbers relate directly as a good indicator to the nutrient enrichment of the sea of the area. Note: phytoplankton are microscopic plants, and zooplankton are microscopic animals., consume the tiniest particles. Fish consume the slightly larger particles, mistaking them for zooplankton (their natural food), and larger marine animals (dolphins, seabirds) consume the larger particles still, mistaking them for fish.

The plastic particles have the habit of attracting to their outer surface the molecules of man-made chemicals which are in the water column. These man-made chemicals include DDT and Persistent Organic Pollutants (biotoxic chemicals which do not biodegrade having been used in pesticides and other products). The result is that the plastic particles which are consumed are not only indigestible, but also poisonous. The widespread impact on the marine food chain and the ecology of the oceans is a cause for serious concern.

As Captain Charles Moore, captain of the Agalita Foundation’s research vessel, observes about the plastic debris: “there is no way you can clean it up”. Gathering in the plastic is beyond all practical bounds, and the plastic in the oceans now will be here for a very long time (possibly centuries). The only solutions are to stop the plastic debris and waste entering into the seas and oceans in the first place, or, to take action to ensure that all man-made plastics are biodegradable. Currently virtually all plastics manufactured are non-biodegradable.

“Garbage Island : An Ocean Full of Plastic” — A film in three parts.

Source: Agalita Marine Research Foundation, see

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