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NOAA – Garbage Patches: How Gyres Take Our Trash Out to Sea

NOAA Ocean Podcast: Episode 14 How the gyres that circulate our ocean waters also accumulate plastics. Find out what a garbage patch is and isn’t, and what we can do about this ocean-sized problem.

“..Gyres are large systems of circulating ocean currents, kind of like slow-moving whirlpools. There are five gyres to be exact—the North Atlantic Gyre, the South Atlantic Gyre, the North Pacific Gyre, the South Pacific Gyre, and the Indian Ocean Gyre—that have a significant impact on the ocean. The big five help drive the so-called oceanic conveyor belt that helps circulate ocean waters around the globe. While they circulate ocean waters, they’re also drawing in the pollution that we release in coastal areas, known as marine debris. The most famous example of a gyre’s tendency to take out our trash is the Great Pacific Garbage patch located in the North Pacific Gyre. The patch is an area of concentrated (and mostly plastic) marine debris. While this is certainly the most talked about garbage patch, it is not the only garbage patch in the ocean. In the last five years, researchers have discovered two more areas where a “soup” of concentrated marine debris collects – one in the South Pacific Ocean, the other in the North Atlantic. As with the North Pacific Garbage Patch, plastic can circulate in this part of the ocean for years, posing health risks to marine animals, fish, and seabirds…”

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