these photographs of plastic bottles found
along the east anglian shore in the united
Kingdom are part of Nick sinclair’s project, A
Drop in the Ocean. the image on page 42 is
part of Next American City’s limited edition
program and for sale at americancity.org/store.
Never Heard Of By Hamida Kinge
Photography by Nick sinclair
n 1997, Charles Moore, a former furniture “It’s OK, you can drop in there, it’s ok, it’s ok!”
restorer and retired sea captain, was Moore yells over high winds to a truck driver who
sailing from Hawaii back to Long Beach, is making a delivery of green waste mulch at a
Calif. after a yacht race. Taking a shortcut loading dock in Hilo, Hawaii. On a Friday morning
home, he came across a terrifying sight: a this past October, Moore spoke with me by cell
cemetery for every plastic thing imaginable; phone between deliveries.
baby toys, bottles, motor oil containers and Placing mulch on land remediates the soil of
giant entanglements of netting; an endless bacteria and toxicants such as weed killers, Moore
vista of plastic particles. The debris covered explains. Fewer toxins end up in the ocean as
an area so large it took him an entire week a result. “Wherever I go on land, I try to mulch
to sail through it. it,” Moore says. The program is just one of the
More than a decade after Moore discov- initiatives that Moore works on, connecting
ered it, this vortex of synthetic waste swirls human practices on land with their consequences
tirelessly, but now has an official name: the in the water.
Eastern Garbage Patch. Estimates of its size An intense 61-year old who looks a decade
range between 435,000 and 932,000 square younger and talks like an encyclopedia of marine
miles, but most scientists refer to it as twice debris facts, Moore founded the Algalita Marine
the size of Texas. Though it is largely a Research Foundation in 1994; a major component
byproduct of urban centers and a potential of Algalita’s work is monitoring and documenting
threat to the health of humans and marine the Eastern Garbage Patch and its plastic debris.
life, average citizens don’t know it exists. But Part of a larger mass of circular currents
if the current attention Moore is getting is called the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, an area
estimated at 10 million square miles, the garbage
any indication, consumers will soon think
patch is the debris epicenter of that whirlpool.
twice when they buy bottled water from a
Oceanographers such as Curtis Ebbesmeyer,
deli or bite into a piece of mahi-mahi.
issue 22 neXt aMeriCan City
a leading authority on marine debris, have been studying the the fastest growing segment in the U.S. municipal waste
phenomenon for years, but because of its vastness, there are stream. Betwee