Last update:

Great Pacific Garbage Patch, North Pacific Ocean

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch located between Hawaii and California is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world


The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a marine area in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California with a high concentration of marine debris and plastic waste. The extent of the area is considered to be around 1,600,000,000 km2 and it is the largest and best known among other similar zones, some of which exist in the Atlantic and Indian oceans [1, 2, 3, 10]. A scientific article published in 2018 indicated that at least 79,000 tonnes of ocean plastic are floating inside this marine area [10].

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:Great Pacific Garbage Patch, North Pacific Ocean
Country:translation missing: en.countries.united_states_of_america
State or province: Pacific Ocean
Location of conflict: Pacific Ocean
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Plastic; marine debris
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

The extent of the area where marine debris gets accumulated is around 1,600,000,000 km2. A scientific article published in 2018 indicated that at least 79,000 tonnes of ocean plastic are floating inside this marine area [10].

Project area:60,000,000
Type of populationUnknown
Start of the conflict:01/01/1997
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:The Ocean Cleanup:;
Algalita Foundation:;
The Plastic Pollution Coalition:;
The Plastic Oceans Foundation:
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Other Environmental impacts, Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Global warming
Other Environmental impactsAdverse impacts on the entire marine ecosystem and marine food webs:
As micro plastics and other trash collect on or near the surface of the ocean, they block sunlight from reaching plankton and algae below. Algae and plankton are the most common autotrophs that are organisms producing their own nutrients from oxygen, carbon, and sunlight. If algae and plankton communities are threatened, the entire food web becomes endangered since most of marine animals such as fish and turtles feed on algae and plankton, which will than affect the predators such as tuna, sharks, and whales. Eventually, seafood would become less available in the marine ecosystem as well as more expensive for people. [3]
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsToxic impacts of micro plastics are identified even in the bodies of babies [11, 12].
Some plastics decompose within a year of entering the water, leaching potentially toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A, PCBs, and derivatives of polystyrene [11].
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood
Potential: Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsSeafood might become less available and more expensive [3].
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Global awareness raising
Development of alternatives:The environmentalists, international EJOs, and fisher people claim for the reduction and/or ban of (especially single use) plastics, and point to the need of reusing and recycling of plastics and materials.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is currently getting bigger and denser.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

A Fishing Town in India Is Building a Road to a Plastic-Free Ocean (28.06.2018) [16]
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Impacts of marine debris on subsistence fishermen An exploratory study (Nash, 1992. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 24(3), pp.150-156) [14]
[click to view]

Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic. (Libretto et al., 2018. Nature, Scientific Reports, 8:4666) [10]
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Encyclopedia Britannica) [1]
[click to view]

Man begins six-month swim through 'Great Pacific garbage patch' (The Guardian, 05.06.2018) [4]
[click to view]

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (National Geographic) [3]
[click to view]

The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ Is Ballooning, 87,000 Tons of Plastic and Counting (New York Times, 22.03.2018) [2]
[click to view]

The giant garbage vortex in the Pacific Ocean is over twice the size of Texas — here's what it looks like [5]
[click to view]

Great Pacific Garbage Patch now three times the size of France (CNN, 23.03.2018) [6]
[click to view]

Fishermen call for ban on plastics (Citi News Room, 11.06.2018) [15]
[click to view]

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Ocean Clean Up) [8]
[click to view]

World's largest collection of ocean garbage is twice the size of Texas [9]
[click to view]

These Indian fishermen take plastic out of the sea and use it to build roads (World Economy Forum, 06.2018) [18]
[click to view]

EU unveils plans to pay fishermen to catch plastic (The Guardian, 04.05.2011) [19]
[click to view]

How India’s Fishermen Turn Ocean Plastic Into Roads (National Geographic, 23.05.2018) [17]
[click to view]

EU and US tackling plastic pollution of the ocean [21]
[click to view]

Plastic Pollution Coalition [12]
[click to view]

'Great Pacific garbage patch' sprawling with far more debris than thought (The Guardian, 22.03.2018) [7]
[click to view]

Fishing for plastic from the sea (Un Environment, 24.05.2018) [20]
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Great Pacific garbage patch [11]
[click to view]

Our plastic Our Problem (Seas At Risk, video)
[click to view]

Other documents

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch [3]
[click to view]

[click to view]

Density of plastics between 1962 and 2018 [2]
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:ENVJustice Project
Last update17/10/2018
Legal notice / Aviso legal
We use cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. By clicking "Accept cookies" you consent to place cookies when visiting the website. For more information, and to find out how to change the configuration of cookies, please read our cookie policy. Utilizamos cookies para realizar el análisis de la navegación de los usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Al pulsar "Accept cookies" consiente dichas cookies. Puede obtener más información, o bien conocer cómo cambiar la configuración, pulsando en más información.