An Island of Garbage the Size of Texas

San Francisco is a town that is defined by her bay, the Golden Gate, and the vast Pacific Ocean that is its source.

Last evening, the local news featured a story of the timelessness of petrochemical plastics and what happens when the plastic trash we leave behind that finds its way into ocean. Into the enormous eddies and currents, swirling into an island of plastic crap the size of Texas. Perhaps if you look real hard when you’re flying to Kona from San Francisco you’ll see it; white and swirling and huge.

Anything the size of Texas has an environmental impact.

Needless to say, this garbage gets into the food chain and kills off marine life – from bottom to top.

The news report stated that the problem resembled that of global warming: Hard to perceive, out of sight. And once we do notice, well, the problem is huge.

What can any one person do?

Let’s start off easy: The ocean isn’t a waste dump. Like it or not, that’s where you came from, assuming you’re, well, alive.

How about if we all rowed out to the island of plastic trash somewhere between here and Hawaii and grabbed the bit of plastic we left behind that was so small it couldn’t possibly bother anything and brought it home.

Of course the problem is – what then? An indestructible bit of plastic is still indestructible when I throw it in the garbage can.

But at least it isn’t part of a Texas-sized island of garbage in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

You gotta start somewhere.

environment, environmental ocean pacific ocean petrochemical garbage trash plastic texas

Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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  1. First let me just say I need to see this – some sort of proof this indeed exists. It would lend so much to your credability. I’m from Minnesota so global warming has a sort of appeal to me. But this much garbage in the ocean – if true – should be dealt with somehow.

    p.s. I take issue with your statement that we all came from the ocean – I need proof of that as well.

  2. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the comment. There’s a lot of info on the garbage heap in the ocean. I’ll just send you one link for you to look at, but there’s more:

    I certainly agree that this needs to be dealt with.

    In regard to your comment about life evolving from the ocean. Well, I respect your opinion. I think there is some significant scientific evidence of this, but I’m going to let us just agree to disagree on this one. For this blog I’ll stick to debating environmental issues. Thanks again for the comment.

  3. Holy Crap!
    I found out recently that this island is floating about! what a scary thing! What is being done! who is working on it and why the hell is this not on the news more often. Is there a chance that this Island of human shame will crash into the coastline and burry us in our own filth. It would be fair.

    Thank you Sir

  4. Alex,

    Yep, this is a scary phenomenon indeed. The collection of debris swirling in the ocean is there due to the oceans circulation patters so, as I understand it, there is little chance of it actually crashing onshore per se. That isn’t to say that there isn’t plenty of human trash and waste that does come ashore – here on the west coast of North America from Asia for instance.

  5. I’ve read about this and, while alarming, calling it an island is misleading. I don’t know what word to use, morass? Islands are things you can walk on.

  6. Hey T,
    Do you know who is working on it?, I have a few ideas. I came to Oahu hoping to join somebody but it has been harder than I thought.
    We got to do something.

  7. Thanks,
    I’ll get in touch with them. For now I’m starting to follow interesting concepts like “Cradle to Cradle”, hopefully we will stop polluting and start living smarter.


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