The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, shown above, is located between California and Hawaii. The majority of the garbage patch is composed of plastic, which cannot break down. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch exists due to currents in this area of the Pacific Ocean. It is here where wind patterns create a circular ocean current, drawing in debris and trapping it inside. Currently, the size of the of the patch is unknown, but it is estimated to be the size of two states of Texas put together. The plastic left in this patch to sit for eternity poses a number of threats to the marine ecosystem. The marine food web is very complex and the plastic threatens the community of algae and plankton – the main food source for the majority of marine species.
Since the patch is so far from any country’s coastline, no one is taking responsibility for this environmental problem. However, since the plastic has been degraded into very small microplastics – it is not economically feasible to try and remove it from the ocean. Instead, companies such as Micromidas, based out of San Francisco, have developed a new system to develop a plastic that is biodegradable. Therefore, if this plastic ends up in the ocean or a landfill it can almost all be recycled with little to no toxic emissions.
Micromidas has developed a way to use a chemical from wastewater plants to create plastic. This chemical is known as sludge. Wastewater sludge is an expensive problem for treatment facilities. Each year four million tons of sludge is hauled away to a landfill, costing treatment facilities around $200 million annually. The remainder of the sludge is burned or sent to farms. Micromidas has the opportunity to replace the three million barrels of oil a year used to create plastic AND save wastewater treatment faculties $100 million annually to create plastic from essentially our poop. Check out the video below to learn more about Micromidas.