There is an the seventh continent that is a third of the size of the United States but completely uninhabited. And for good reason, since it consists of an accumulation of plastic waste in the oceans.
In 1997, the American oceanographer Charles Moore discovered the first vortex of waste in the sea: an area of 3.4 million square kilometers contaminated by floating plastic waste, accumulating in the North Pacific gyre, a giant swirling mass of water formed by the ocean currents. Broken down into small pieces and micro-particles, the waste forms a “plastic soup” that is invisible to the naked eye.
300 million metric tons of plastic are produced each year and almost 10% end up in the ocean. (source: lemonde.fr)
Similar pollution can be observed in other gyres in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, for example, with harmful consequences for the marine biosphere, due to the toxicity of certain plastics and their high levels of concentration in the seawater.
In total, the gyres contain 7 million metric tons of waste. The vortex of waste in the North Pacific could cover an area the size of Europe in 20 years. Once you realize that it takes 450 years for a plastic bag to decompose (source: http://www.consoglobe.com/duree-vie-dechets-nature-1386-cg/2), curbing the trend becomes a matter of urgency.
One foundation, Tara Expeditions, is taking a stand against plastic waste. This NGO dedicated to ocean ecology has been travelling the seas since 2003, taking samples and carrying out analyses. The next expedition will take place in the Mediterranean between May and November 2014 and aims to assess the impact of this kind of pollution on the Mediterranean biosphere. It will include initiatives to raise awareness and promote sustainable solutions – such as water treatment and innovation to drive the development of biodegradable plastics and waste management – to make the sea pure and clean again.
Follow the Tara expedition in the Mediterranean beginning in May 2014 : www.taraexpeditions.org
And on Twitter: @TaraExpeditions