Published: Nov. 27, 2020 By

You’ve probably heard that there is a lot of plastic in the ocean, but did you know about the floating trash island in the ocean (otherwise known as  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch)?  

Do you have an idea of where these come from and the solutions being proposed or worked on today?

What is The Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. Marine debris is litter that ends up in the ocean, seas, and other large bodies of water.
  • Some disagree with the title of "garbage patch" as they claim it does not paint an accurate picture of the marine debris problem in the North Pacific ocean. Marine debris concentrates in various regions of the North Pacific, not just in one area. The exact size, content, and location of the "garbage patches" are difficult to accurately predict.
  • These patches contain a lot of our garbage because ocean currents have moved the waste to accumulate in these areas 
  • Much of the debris is actually small pieces of micro plastic that are not immediately evident to the naked eye.

Why is there plastic in the ocean?

General Causes of Plastic Waste in Oceans

  • Land Based sources 
    • Urban & storm runoff 
    • Sewer overflows 
    • Beach visitors 
    • Inadequate waste disposal & management 
    • Industrial activities 
    • Construction 
    • Illegal dumping 
  • Ocean based Sources
    • Fishing industry 
    • Nautical activities
    • Aquaculture 

Why is it bad to have plastic waste in oceans?

Why don’t we just clean it up by going by and scooping up all the plastic? 

So what do we do about all this plastic waste in the oceans?


  • There are some projects working on cleaning up litter and plastic from the oceans, such as 4Oceans & The Ocean Cleanup


  • A large amount of the plastic & waste ending up in the oceans is from inadequate waste disposal and management as well as other mismanaged practices 
    • If we reduce the amount of waste we have in the first place, the amount ending of plastics ending up in the ocean will be reduce 
  • The US sends some of its trash around the world for other countries to deal with. Many of these countries have much less regulation around waste disposal and it is often mismanaged. If the US had to be responsible for its waste, perhaps less of it would end up in the oceans.

Zero Waste... Did You Know?

Check out our other Zero Waste articles!

  • General Zero Waste info and news
  • Facts, concepts, and opinions from CU students, faculty, and staff
  • Industry news and policy
  • Zero Waste Lifestyle and DIY ideas

Click Here for more "Zero Waste... Did You Know"