Plastic Pollution
May 22 2008

Earthrace Visits the “California Rubbish Dump”

by Johnny

Earthrace, the effort to circumnavigate the world in a 100% biodiesel powerboat and educate on renewable fuels, recently visited what they called the "California Rubbish Dump," in the Pacific. This from the Captain's log, Day 23,
" 'There’s a lot of crap in the water here', Adam says, as we dodge around another plastic bottle in the water. Our course is more like a drunken student weaving his way home after a bender, rather than a race boat in a straight line. It seems every hundred metres or so there’s another bit of crap in the water, and anything resembling a buoy (like a plastic bottle), we need to skirt around.

Prof Sharma in Scotland had warned us about this area. Actually so had Bob McDavitt, our forecaster back in New Zealand. It is a giant rubbish dump of plastic and polystyrene, that unbelievably, is the size of Texas, and we’re currently on the southern tip of it.

What actually happens is the current that passes down the West Coast of America picks up rubbish and debris along the Californian coast, and then drags them all the way out here, some thousand odd nautical miles away. The current here then drops under the surface, leaving behind all the rubbish. It joins the giant Californian rubbish dump that remains here year after year, and gradually increases in density as more crap drifts in."
As we have learned recently, the garbage patch (or both of them) is much larger than originally thought. As a Californian who's trying to make a difference and reduce our plastics use, I'm not sure how great I feel about the name "California Rubbish Dump," however it's a shoe that fits squarely on all of our feet as the majority polluters on this side of the Pacific.