The “Plastic Vortex,” or what is sometimes referred to as the “garbage patch,” is within an area that is technically referred to as the the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone. This area does not have rigid physical boundaries, and varies seasonally in both size and position. Floating patches have been reported by sailors and fishermen, but relative to the large area of the North Pacific Ocean, large masses are not observed frequently. No one really knows how big this area is. Ocean Voyages Institute’s science team has been involved in research, testing and analysis since 2009 to better understand this area.

Why is the Plastic Vortex a problem?

Plastics and other wastes in the oceans:

  • Can kill marine life.
  • Is entering our food chain.
  • Continues to increase due to poor waste management practices on land and sea.
  • Can have a negative effect on people’s health and safety.

It is estimated that over 60% of the plastic and other wastes (including rubber and aluminum) in the ocean come from land-based sources, and once in the sea, they are at the mercy of the confluence of tides, currents and winds because they are buoyant. Over time through exposure to the sun and heat, some plastic materials can disintegrate into ever smaller pieces due to weather and UV impact.