SARGASSO: Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Maybe we should start by just posting a bunch of links and see where they lead us:

Chris 10/29 2:40
This gives a general background of the garbage patch.

"Because of the stability of this gentle maelstrom, the largest uniform climatic feature on Earth is also an accumulator of the debris of civilization. Anything that floats, no matter where it comes from on the north Pacific Rim or ocean, ends up here, sometimes after drifting around the periphery for 12 years or more."

So it is pretty clear that the west coast of the U.S. at least contributes some to this pile.

"I am often asked why we can't vacuum up the particles. In fact, it would be more difficult than vacuuming up every square inch of the entire United States; it's larger and the fragments are mixed below the surface down to at least 30 meters. Also, untold numbers of organisms would be destroyed in the process."

So it appears that clean up can't be fix the whole problem. The amount of plastic put into the Pacific needs to be reduced.

What happens if this problem isn't fixed?

"The battle to change the way we -produce and consume plastics has just begun, but I believe it is essential that it be fought now. The levels of plastic particulates in the Pacific have at least tripled in the last 10 years and a tenfold increase in the next decade is not unreasonable. Then, 60 times more plastic than plankton will float on its surface."

Chris 10/29 3:00

Here is my idea for what we could do for the next week:

1. Find out how much L.A. actually pollutes and how much goes in the water.
2. Find out if the plastics actually hurt the birds.
3. Find out what other animals may be impacted.
4. Figure out the currents of the area.
5. Looks for specific laws that L.A. may be breaking.
6. Find out if there are any specific laws because the area is a national monument.

Chris 10/29 3:10

“Ninety percent of Laysan albatross chick carcasses and regurgitated stomach contents contain plastics. Fish and seabirds mistake plastic for food. Plastic debris releases chemical additives and plasticizers into the ocean. Plastic also adsorbs hydrophobic pollutants like PCBs and pesticides like DDT. These pollutants bioaccumulate in the tissues of marine organisms, biomagnify up the food chain, and find their way into the foods we eat.”

"You’ll notice the emphasis on plastics. Most other materials biodegrade or are not as buoyant as plastics, which do not biodegrade. Their resilience is also their menace, as today plastics have invaded the most distant places, from the Bering Sea to the South Pole."

This paragraph talks about the currents and when the plastics started to become a problem:

"How trash makes its way to the garbage patch is pretty straightforward. When a plastic cup gets blown off the beach in, say, San Francisco, it gets caught in the California Current, which makes its way down the coast toward Central America. Somewhere off the coast of Mexico it most likely meets the North Equatorial Current, which flows toward Asia. Off the coast of Japan, the Kuroshio Current might swoop it up and yank it eastward again, until the North Pacific Current takes over and carries it past Hawaii to the garbage patch. These are the currents that make up the North Pacific Gyre. Moore says it takes a year for material to reach the Eastern Garbage Patch from Asia and several years for it to get there from the United States. Now multiply that one cup by billions of plastic items over years and years—actually about 60 years, starting after World War II, when we really began to make plastic products en masse."

It would still be good to figure out where "most" of this trash is coming from.

Chris 10/29 3:30

This is a site for NOAA's Marine Debris Web Education Campaign which Bush wanted to expand…

Chris 10/30 3:00

This article goes into the types of plastics that are in the north western part of the Pacific Ocean. It doesn't talk about the patch but it does mention how they collect and classify the data.

Chris 10/30 3:05

This article goes more into the chemistry of plastics. It would help to know how the plastics actually disrupt everything!

Chris 10/31 12:55

Here is a link to the LA District Attorney's office.

"Regulatory agencies, private citizens, and private action groups all refer environmental issues for possible investigation and prosecution. District Attorney investigators often serve as the primary investigators on the matters."

Chris 11/3 10:15

I found a good source that talks about pollution in a marine environment: view=c&_acct=C000015498&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=260508&md5=23e860e9fae2f6b2821b6295b5201325#toc10

There are a number of good links attached.

In general about 70 percent of all debris found in the ocean is plastic in nature. This is a given from a study done in the article.

“There are major inputs of plastic litter from land-based sources in densely populated or industrialized areas ( Pruter, 1987; Gregory, 1991), > most in the form of packaging.”

Chris 11/3 10:20


1. Show L.A. pollutes at a high rate.
2. Show that some of this pollution makes it to the Garbage Patch
3. Show that this pollution is dangerous to the marine life in the patch.
4. Show that this problem is getting bigger quickly.
5. Look for laws that show L.A. is at fault.
6. Make recommendations to help alleviate this problem.

It seems like much of the laws are designed to prevent ships from polluting the ocean and nothing about major cities.
This is a NOAA paper I came across that mentions everything from density of garbage to impact on birds and whatnot. Tries to pinpoint the problem to the western pacific, but the nature of the gyre redistributed the garbage.

Sorry for the shitty formatting

The EPA has issued some TMDL (total maximum daily loads) standards that LA is most likely not following, or is not able to follow yet.
department of public works - watershed management. has all pollution regulations and implementations.
a letter from the PW website explaining the trash output in rivers is too high and requires TMDL (Total maximum daily loads) standards. 2003
letter granting certificate of "full capture" to trash clean up efforts mentioned in previous letter. 2004 -later 2004


"trash has only been an important pollutant since 2000.

Land Use Types with Highest Litter Generation per Acre - Commercial and industrial

one manufacturer has earned A full capture certification in L. A. - Just one

For trash related structural Best Management Practices to be effective in Los Angeles County,
they must be capable of being retrofitted into the existing storm drain system. Unlike postconstruction
types of BMPs that are associated with new and redevelopment, BMPs installed for
TMDL implementation must be inserted into a drainage system not originally designed for such
installation, and typically in densely urbanized areas. These urban areas have the oldest
infrastructure, have the oldest drains and have the least expansion and maintenance right of way.
While these restrictions limit the range of suitable BMPs, “full capture” solutions are available

sites targeted by TMDL stadards
TMDL guidelines for CA

position of marine debris after 5 years. satellite derived. japan.

in the news

sea of trash, talks of the major players in science who deal with this problem as it gains popularity
APRIL 15, 2008

a discussion about the implementation of TMDL for the LA watershed.

The 2006 Clean Water Act 303(d) list identifies Reaches 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the Los Angeles River Watershed, because they do not meet water quality standards for trash. Tujunga Wash, Burbank

Western Channel, Verdugo Wash (Reaches 1 & 2), Arroyo Seco (Reaches 1 & 2), and Rio Hondo (Reach 1) are tributaries of the Los Angeles River Watershed that are also listed because they do not

meet water quality standards for trash. In addition, Peck Road Lake, Echo Park Lake, and Lincoln Park Lake are listed because they do not meet water quality standards for trash. The proposed

TMDL addresses impairments of water quality caused by trash in the afore-mentioned water bodies of the Los Angeles River Watershed.


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