In the Pacific, a flotilla (1) of plastic has
created the earth’s newest floating island
This Trash is No One’s Treasure
A murky mixture of assorted plastic, thrown away and
discarded, now floats off the coast of California. One
person’s plastic water bottle, another’s old plastic tubing,
multiplied by the thousands of people living in North America, has created a huge amount of trash and
debris that does not break down and disappear over time. Through littering and the movement of
trash from wind and rain, this debris has collected in the ocean and now floats around like an island.
Garbage Island, also known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, has become a symbol of the
increasing problem of trash. People have used more and more plastic because it is cheap, lightweight,
and does not break or shatter easily. But, if not recycled, these same characteristics make plastic a
difficult product to get rid of.
How Big is This Problem?
Just how big is Garbage Island? Some say it is about 600,000 square miles, about twice the size of
Texas. Others say this grouping of assorted junk is much larger. While the ocean currents seem to
keep the trash tangled together, the border is constantly shifting as the water moves, making it
almost impossible to measure.
Sounding the Alarm
On of the first people to talk about this giant, floating garbage heap was Charles Moore, a
woodworker-turned-sea captain. He sailed through this trash filled area of water in 1997 and was
stunned to find plastic debris hundreds of miles from land. "That set off alarm bells and made me
want to monitor it," says Captain Moore.
Captain Moore is one of the people who have estimated the collection of floating garbage to be
the size of the U.S. -- 3.8 million square miles. But he has no scientific tools for measuring so this is
just an estimate, which most scientists disagree with. However, what Captain Moore is most upset
about is that no one seems concerned to find the tools to do a real measurement. So, he has now
created a research foundation to study this region of the ocean and publicize its plastic problem.
The Good With the Bad
Even if everyone could agree on the size of Garbage Island, it is unclear what they would do with
the information. Plastics can harm ocean birds and mammals that eat it. The plastic contains harmful
chemicals, can pierce internal organs, or trick animals into thinking they are full so that they end up
starving to death. But hard numbers are tough to come by. "It's so hard to say a bird died due to
plastic in its stomach," says a scientist, Dr. Ramford. "We have seen birds mature and live out their
whole life, [with] plastic in their stomach."
Though no one thinks any possible benefits of plastic outweigh risks, scientists did find some
positive aspects of the garbage patch -- a high concentration of microorganisms clinging to the
trash. "The microorganisms are good for the ocean, because it turns out they're making oxygen,"
scientists Prof. Karl says. Some people are concerned that a possible cleanup, even if it were possible,
would do more harm than good, by removing these organisms. The only thing we know for sure is that
Garbage Island is still out there, getting bigger and bigger with each passing day.
(1) flo·til·la 1. A small fleet. 2. A group of water craft that works like a unit
1. Read the article, Garbage Island. Highlight or
underline any words that you did not know or
that you used context clues to define. Date _____________ Period ___
2. Where did you find the definition of the word flotilla? ________________________
3. Based on the context clues, what do you think the word discarded means? _____________
4. Based on the context clues, what do you think the word debris means? _______________
Night 2 & 3
5. What is the purpose of the italics text underneath the title of the article?
6. What is needed to make the picture a more helpful text feature for the reader?
7. Why do you think select words within the text are bolded? _____________________
8. Why can’t people agree on how large “Garbage Island” is? ______________________
9. How can plastic harm animal life? ____________________________________
10. What is one of the positive aspects of Garbage Island?
11. Pick another subtitle to replace “The Good with the Bad” based on the main idea of that section.
12. Pick one text feature included in the article, Garbage Island. Explain how that text feature
increased the readers understanding of the article.
Adapted from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123793936249132307.html