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Explain the Causes, Impacts and Responses to one Major Global Pollution Incident

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Explain the causes, impacts and responses to one major global pollution incident


Over the past decade there have been various major pollution incidents leading to growing concern of the well being of our environment. One major incident is the Great Pacific Garbage patch, which was founded in 1997 by Captain Charles Moor, and has been a continuously growing issue. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a gyre of garbage and debris in the middle of the pacific ocean having many impacts on the animals and the environment. It is an example of a transboundary pollution incident, as plastics and other debris being thrown into the ocean from various countries, travel through currents to this area of the ocean. A gyre is a system of circular ocean currents formed by the Earth’s wind patterns and forces created by the rotation of the planet. This response will be looking at the causes, impacts and responses to the build up of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The environmental causes to the buildup of debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, are that the garbage thrown into the ocean eventually make their way to the gyre. Once it reaches the gyre it circulates through the currents and wind, unable to escape, until washed up, or eaten by sea creatures or birds. Most of the garbage in the gyre is plastic, as plastic is not biodegradable, it only breaks down into tiny fragments over a long period of time. During this period, they entangle and kill millions of sea creatures, as they ingest toxicants that cause liver and stomach problems in fish and birds. Marine Debris also disturbs marine food webs, as micro plastics and other trash collect on the surface, blocking sunlight from reaching plankton and algae below. If Algae and plankton are threatened, the entire food web may change. Some responses to these issues have been to raise awareness on the issue, to stop people from throwing plastic into the ocean. Charles Moore, who discovered the garbage patch continues to raise awareness through his own organization, and National Geographic have built a catamaran made of plastic bottles to display the strength of plastic, and the threat they have to the environment. This indicates that the litter of plastics into the pacific ocean has gotten out of hand, and is destroying the area's ecosystem, someone has to take responsibility and come up with an achievable solution.

The economical causes to the plastic waste in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are that plastic is a cheap, strong and convenient resource which can be used to sell many products. In the US people consume billions of bags and bottles per year, in which only 5% are recycled. Around 50% is buried in landfills, and the rest is lost in the environment which it ultimately washes out to sea. Many companies use plastic as a way of saving money, and earning profit, rather than doing what is best for the environment. Producing plastic requires a lot of energy, the number of plastic bottles needed to support the US needs would require 17 million barrels of oil annually. Once the bottle is used it is usually thrown away and dumped somewhere else in the world. The current high demand for plastic worldwide has resulted in mass production and mass consumption of plastic. The demand will continue to rise, unless action is taken in controlling the consumption of plastic. In response to the high demand for plastics, some organizations have spent a lot of money creating a net to begin to clean up the mess that people have made, but unless the amount of plastic used is reduced, nothing can be done. This suggests that although using plastic is cheap, and beneficial for both the business and the consumers, producing it wastes so many resources, to then be thrown away after a short period of time and left to pollute the environment.



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