A British scuba diver filmed himself amid a sea of plastic and other trash at Manta Point in Bali, an important cleaning station for manta rays.
Thanks to ocean currents, the trash permeated the dive site for the whole day and, then, disappeared the following day — but not before Rich Horner captured it on film. In the video, posted on his YouTube channel, Horner can be seen swimming past floating plastic containers, food wrappers and other discarded items.
Although that particular site cleared up quickly, all that trash has to go somewhere eventually, and sadly, shocking sights like this are becoming increasingly common as plastic waste continues to accumulate in the ocean.
But where does it go?
Ocean currents are powerful and far-reaching, spreading seaweeds, plankton, and trash around the world. These currents eventually lead to places called gyres, where ocean currents circulate, especially those affected by wind patterns.
There are five major ocean gyres: the North Atlantic Gyre, the South Atlantic Gyre, the North Pacific Gyre, the South Pacific Gyre, and the Indian Ocean Gyre. All five of these gyres collect and store trash that has been thrown into the ocean, forming garbage patches so massive that they have their own names. The combined surface area of these garbage patches is nearly 16,000,000 square kilometers (6,177,635 square miles)!
Even worse, the trash that is trapped in these garbage patches is generally invisible to the naked eye, even though it’s definitely there. This is the result of years of ocean and wind forces breaking down trash into small, high-density particles. Scientists estimate that more than 5 trillion tiny plastic pieces that have a total weight of over 250,000 tons are floating around the world’s oceans.
In some areas, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Gyre, trash particle density consists of 25,000 particles per square kilometer and amounts to over 20,000 tons of plastic. That is an insane amount of invisible trash, and it’s certainly mixing with the plankton that many marine organisms feed upon. On top of that, microplastics that aren’t eaten sink to the seafloor.
No one person or nation is responsible for these garbage patches. They are the product of decades of carelessness worldwide, and we should be more thoughtful in our use of plastic and disposal of trash.
To get a better idea of how much trash is out there, watch Rich Horner’s video below. All of the trash on the reef will eventually make its way to the Indian Ocean Gyre and break down into even more invisible trash.