Pacific Ocean could turn into 'Plastic Ocean'

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{image-plastic ocean_05022008.jpg}London, Feb 5: The largest ocean of the world may soon be known as 'plastic ocean' as despite repeated warnings, people continue to dump waste in the waters, making it the world's rubbish dump. Scientists claim that excessive dumping of garbage by humans have exploited the Pacific Ocean to such an extent that the waste floating on its surface looks like a ''plastic soup'', which poses great risk to human health and sea animals.

The ''soup'' covers an area twice the size of the continental United States. It stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan. About one-fifth of the junk, which includes everything from footballs and kayaks to Lego blocks and carrier bags-- is thrown off ships or oil platforms. The rest comes from land.

''The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States, '' Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation said yesterday.

The reason cited for this large garbage in the ocean is the usage of non-biodegradable plastic products. Modern plastics are so durable that objects half-a-century old have been found in the north Pacific dump.

The ''Great Pacific Garbage Patch'' , now known as ''plastic soup'' was discovered by Charles Moore, an American oceanographer.

He believed it was about 100 million tonnes of flotsam circulating in the region. But the current research has made his discovery more horrible, the Independent reported.

Mr Moore, came across the sea of waste by chance in 1997, while taking a short cut home from a Los Angeles to Hawaii yacht race.

He said that because the sea of rubbish is translucent and lies just below the water's surface, it is not detectable in satellite photographs.

''You only see it from the bows of ships,'' he said.

According to the UN Environment Programme, plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals. Syringes, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have been found inside the stomachs of dead seabirds, which mistake them for food.

Plastic is believed to constitute 90 per cent of all rubbish floating in the oceans. The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic.


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