Prelims level : Environment Mains level : Environmental Pollution and Degradation
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Why in News:

  • Indian Ocean is the world’s biggest dumping ground for plastic waste, but where the trash ultimately ends up has remained a mystery, The researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA), had done research to measure and track plastic waste in the Indian Ocean.


  • It is found that the southern Indian Ocean transport floating plastics towards the western side of the ocean, where it leaks past South Africa into the South Atlantic Ocean.
  • It is due to the prevalence of the Asian monsoon system, the southeast trade winds in the southern Indian Ocean are stronger than the trade winds in the Pacific and Atlantic
  • Oceans. These strong winds push floating plastic material further to the west in   the southern Indian Ocean than in the other oceans.
  • In the northern Indian Ocean, the simulations showed that there may be an accumulation in the Bay of Bengal in which the floating plastics will ultimately end up on beaches, transported by the reversing monsoon winds and currents. The ocean currents converge at the centre of the gyre and sink. the floating plastic material remains at the ocean surface, allowed to concentrate in these regions.
  • Smaller patches exist in the North and South Atlantic Oceans and the South Pacific Ocean. In total, it is estimated that only one per cent of all plastic waste that enters the ocean is trapped in the garbage patches.

Garbage patches:

  • The Great Pacific garbage  patch,  also  described  as  the Pacific  trash  vortex, is a gyre of marine debris particles in the north central Pacific Ocean.
  • It is located roughly from 135°W to 155°W and 35°N to 42°N.
  • The collection of plastic and floating trash, which comes primarily from countries in Asia, lies halfway between Hawaii and California and extends over an indeterminate area of widely varying range, depending on the degree of plastic concentration.

Impacts of Garbage Patch on animals:

  • The plastic found in ocean have direct effect on wildlife.
  • Turtles confuse plastic bags for jelly fish birds confuse plastic bottle caps for food, so their stomach is filled with plastic and it lead to death.
  • Fish on the low end consumes bit of plastic which is eaten by larger fish which our humans consume
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