40 Interesting Great Pacific Garbage Patch Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
people think of Pacific Trash Vortex as a floating island of plastic

Just second to Nature’s supremacy is human supremacy and we strongly believe that the elusive creator – whoever he or she is – actually considers creation of humans as the greatest disaster ever! Didn’t get it? Well, let us put it this way:

“In 3,400 years of recorded history, mankind has been in complete peace for 268 years. That makes just 8% of the total history on record. For the remaining 92%, we have been busy killing each other in what we call ‘war’! Funny, we are not just busy killing each other, we are also busy destroying nature by several means that have direct and indirect effect on other life forms that share this planet with us.”

We are pretty darn sure that majority of you will agree with what we are stating. Those of you who do not agree, take a look at the two images below.

a sea turtle pictured eating plastic

a sea bird's corpse showing plastic items in its stomach

Look carefully! The first image shows a turtle munching on a piece of plastic and the second image shows the corpse of a bird (black-footed albatross) with plastic content in its belly. What are the common facts you notice here?

  • They both (one alive and one dead) ate plastic.
  • They both belong to the sea.

Now, why are we stressing on plastic and sea? That’s because we are about to walk you through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. You must have heard of it. Some say that there is an enormous area (some actually call it a floating island) in Pacific Ocean that has floating piles of plastic garbage and that the covered area is as big as the state of New York! So, you actually picture something like this:

a man canoeing through floating plastic garbage

A misleading picture of Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Or something like this:

people think of Pacific Trash Vortex as a floating island of plastic

This is how people picture the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a floating island made of plastic.

The two images that you see above are nowhere even close to the real view of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In fact, you don’t see any plastic garbage pile floating around at all! All you see is water and water in every direction. So you must be thinking, “why on earth did people lie to us when there is no such garbage patch at all?”

Actually, there is a garbage patch. It is just that the plastics are not seen floating on top of water surface of the Pacific Ocean. These plastics are in fact microplastics or rather small pieces of plastic that are suspended in the water.

Now that we have your attention, let us take you through the list of 40 interesting Great Pacific Garbage Patch facts. For those of you who already know this, consider this list a refresher course. Those of you who don’t know this, you will find it pretty interesting and disturbing.

Interesting Great Pacific Garbage Patch: 1-10

1. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has an alternative name. People also call it, Pacific Trash Vortex.

2. Interesting, it is not the only garbage patch that haunts our oceans. There are other such patches which can be found in both Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean. Such garbage patches are actually developing in comparatively smaller water bodies such as the North Sea. Such smaller water bodies are actually shipping routes.

3. The patch actually spans over a long distance from North America’s West Coast all the way to Japan.

4. As a matter of fact, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is actually a combination to two separate trash vortexes. The first one is near Japan and is known as the Western Garbage Patch. The second one lies between California and Hawaii and is known as the Eastern Garbage Patch.

the area of Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The area of Great Pacific Garbage Patch pr Pacific Trash Vortex. Image Credit: NOAA.

5. The Western and the Eastern Garbage patches get connected together by Subtropical Convergence Zone of the North Pacific. This convergence zone is actually a place where Arctic cold water meets warm South Pacific water. This convergence creates a water highway which is used by the Western Patch and Eastern Patch garbage or debris to travel from one patch to the other.

6. The interesting fact about the Pacific Trash Vortex is surrounded by what is known as North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Gyre in an ocean actually refers to a current system that moves in a circular pattern.

7. This whole circular current system is formed by Earth’s rotation and wind patterns. To be specific, the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is actually formed by 4 currents which are:

  • North Pacific current.
  • Kuroshiro current.
  • North Equatorial current.
  • California current.

8. The aforementioned 4 currents actually form a circular system of currents because the all four currents move in a clockwise direction. The total area covered by this current system is 7.7 million miles2 or 20 million kilometers2.

9. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch lies within that massive area. Interestingly, the central area is very calm and is the place where the oceanic debris is stuck.

10. What really happens is any garbage that is outside the circular current system slowly sucks in the debris and pushes it right in the calm central area.

Interesting Great Pacific Garbage Patch Facts: 11-20

11. The exact size of the Pacific Trash Vortex is not known. Since there is no floating island of plastic out there, it is literally not possible to get a size estimate using drones or even satellite imagery.

12. The estimate actually varies. Some estimate the size of the patch to be as small as 700,000 sq. km. while some say that the patch is as big as 15,000,000 sq. km.

13. The garbage patch mostly consists of plastic that remains suspend in the water column beneath the water surface.

marine debris beneath water surface

Marine debris beneath water surface in Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Image Credit: National Geographic.

14. Since plastic is inorganic and non-biodegradable, the only thing that happens is photodegradation. This is a process in which the plastic disintegrates in smaller and smaller pieces over time and stays suspended.

15. In 2001 a study was conducted in which it was found that every square kilometer contains 334,721 plastic pieces.

16. Ecologists and oceanographers have actually discovered that the ocean floor right beneath the Pacific Trash Vortex also contains heaped debris. According to them, about 70% of the debris from patch actually settles down at the ocean floor.

17. Any ecological concerns? Of course yes! Let us start with a simple one. There are many invasive species of organisms that can stick on to the plastic particles and travel long distances from the debris origin source before reach the patch. These invasive species can actually move to different places and colonize. That’s pretty troublesome.

18. The greatest threat is that plastic eventually directly enters the food chain. How does that happen? Because the plastics eventually breakup into tiny pieces, it literally becomes difficult for marine animals like fish and turtles to distinguish them from food.

19. Failure to distinguish the plastic particles from food means that these marine creatures eventually end up consuming the plastic particles.

20. Plastic cannot be digested and hence, they take up a significant amount of stomach space over time. This eventually kills them.

Interesting Great Pacific Garbage Patch Facts: 21-30

21. Black-footed Albatross and Sea Turtles are highly affected by the suspended plastic debris. The adults actually pick up the debris and end up feeding the same to their babies, resulting in high amount of fatalities in those populations.

22. If the danger to wildlife is not scary enough, let us take a look at how the garbage patch affect humans. What really happens is that sunlight keeps on breaking plastic garbage to smaller and smaller pieces where they eventually become microscopic pieces.

23. At this level, the plastic debris is capable of absorbing organic but toxic pollutant right from the seawater. These pollutants include toxics like PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

24. Problem is that marine animals like fish end up consuming these microplastics that are laced with organic toxics. Not only are they unable to digest the plastic, they are also hit but the toxic pollutants, which their endocrine system thinks of as estradiol (basically an estrogen sex hormone and steroid).

25. When the endocrine system is tricked, these marine creatures get into hormonal misbalance and in turn, their whole lifecycle is gets out of balance.

26. The problem is that, many of these fish breeds (which end up with toxins and plastic in their body) are food sources for humans. Now you get the story, right? The plastics we create end up in our body through seafood. Lovely!

27. Going back to the ocean ecosystem, these small fish and even jellyfish (and yes, jellyfish also consume these microplastics laced with organic toxins) are consumed by large fish and guess what? Well, you how it all ends!

28. Going back to turtles and albatrosses, here is what happens to them: Turtles love jellyfish and they actually get confused between jellyfish and plastic bags. The result is that the turtles end up eating plastic bags.

29. The albatrosses on the other hand love fish egg but unfortunately, the plastic resin pellets actually look like fish egg to them. So, they just grab those plastic pieces and feed their babies, which in turn end up with ruptured organs and die out of starvation.

suspended garbage prevents sunlight from reaching plankton and algae

Suspended garbage prevents sunlight from reaching plankton and algae. Image Credit: National Geographic.

30. The plastic debris suspended close to the surface actually end up blocking sunlight from reaching below. When this happens, algae and planktons do not get sunlight. These marine organisms are autotrophs. Simply put, they use carbon, oxygen and sunlight to make their own food.

Interesting Great Pacific Garbage Patch Facts: 31-40

31. When sunlight fails to reach these organisms, their communities dies. Algae and planktons actually form the food source for smaller marine creatures like fish and turtles. Absence of these organisms will affect those marine creatures.

32. When the fish and turtles decline in population, the apex predators such as sharks and tuna will have less food and their population will gradually decline.

33. Thus, the summary is simple! Seafood will become scarce over time. Increased shortage of seafood will make it more and more expensive for humans. What happens then? We are pretty much afraid by the very thought of that. A whole chain of events will follow, which will not be good.

34. Now the debris actually comes from bottle caps, Styrofoam cups, water bottles made of plastic and plastic bags. However, it will be naïve to think that they are the only sources.

35. Debris also comes from cargo ships that are known for direct dumping in water. Again, there are offshore oil rigs and boaters. Pretty unusually plastic products are dropped in oceans. Such products include things like LEGOs and computer monitors (monitors contain a significant amount of plastic). Many of these items are deliberately dumped and some are accidental.

Sea turtle entangled in fishing net. Image Credit: National Geographic.

Sea turtle entangled in fishing net. Image Credit: National Geographic.

36. One of the major threats is the dumping of plastic fishing nets. Once these nets are dropped, they go on what is known as ‘ghost fishing’ spree. Fish and seals often get caught in these nets are unable to set themselves free, they eventually drown.

entangled seal in finishing net

Monk seal entangled in discarded fishing net. Image Credit: National Geographic.

37. The question is, why isn’t anyone cleaning the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Good question and a good solution too! But, there is a teeny tiny problem. The Pacific Trash Vortex is far away from the coastlines and it is massive both in terms of the area covered and the depth of the vertical water column that holds the suspended plastic particles.

38. A lone country (even if it is USA) will end up with bankruptcy while attempting to clean the patch on its own. It is too expensive.

39. Topping that problem is that it is literally extremely (we cannot stress more on this word) difficult to separate the natural food source from the microscopic plastic pieces. So, trying to remove the debris will lead to removal of natural food source, wiping out millions of marine lives.

40. National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program (NOAAMDP) says that even if some intelligent nets with brains are developed that can actually only trap the debris and leave the natural food behind, it will take 24×7 work for 365 days straight to clean up 1% of the patch using 67 ships together! That’s too much!

Now that whatever damage we have caused cannot be undone, the best we can do is to prevent the growth of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But, is that possible considering that the billionaire psychopaths (simply put capitalists) have absolutely no respected for nature and all they care about is profit? We don’t think so! The only way to stop them is to stop using the plastic products they throw our way. What do you think? Drop your comments below and let us know.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Hey Wait! There's More...


bob winkleburger November 12, 2016 - 2:56 am


SJ September 21, 2018 - 11:13 am


AYDEN March 25, 2020 - 11:29 pm


tyson June 26, 2017 - 7:45 am

⋛⋋( ՞ਊ ՞)⋌⋚⋛⋋( ՞ਊ ՞)⋌⋚

Sankalan Baidya
Sankalan Baidya June 26, 2017 - 11:35 am

That’s one hell of a comment!

dado a dado July 25, 2017 - 8:49 am

Thunder strike is kunso

lily September 29, 2017 - 1:51 am

its so sad its bad espesially the black footed albatross

holly April 10, 2018 - 9:50 pm

this is really pathetic we could do way better

Sankalan Baidya
Sankalan Baidya April 11, 2018 - 12:07 pm

Can you please help us improve or at least provide the ‘better’ version?

Timothy April 11, 2020 - 1:48 am


Marcus August 7, 2018 - 11:48 am

It’s going to take an entire globe. Seriously. Literally.

Paul Gower April 11, 2019 - 3:13 am

Myself I think the biggest biggest problem is that hardly anyone sees this pacific garbage patch (Out of site out of mind). I work as a night costodian so I see first hand the stuff that put in the trash, recyclables ie. cans, plastic bottles, newspaper and not to mention the trash bags (plastic). So I think we have to stop this using of petroleum based products like plastics. We could be making plastic using organic plant cellulose.

Dan May 30, 2019 - 10:38 am

It’s such a shame that we can’t even recycle in some places. Not even for a fee.

will June 24, 2019 - 5:46 pm


dada July 25, 2019 - 10:59 pm

earth sucks

Anon September 8, 2019 - 11:30 pm

psychopath = billionaire capitalists ? Really? There are also psychopath government people, psychopath communists, etc.

Sankalan Baidya
Sankalan Baidya September 9, 2019 - 12:15 am

Of course! You are right! We never said the billionaire capitalists were the only psychopaths!

Ben Dover November 14, 2019 - 7:52 pm

Sankalan shut up

Sankalan Baidya
Sankalan Baidya November 14, 2019 - 9:05 pm

Wish granted.

chad November 14, 2019 - 7:53 pm

sankalan stop try to be cool you are dumb and kind

Sankalan Baidya
Sankalan Baidya November 14, 2019 - 9:05 pm

Dumb and kind? Well, may be! Thanks for letting me know.

JP December 8, 2019 - 8:11 am

Thank you for this article! This has helped me with my project on the GPGP a lot! Keep up the great work.


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