The Largest Environmental Problem You've Never Heard Of by ProQuest


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                    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

  The Largest
  Problem You’ve
  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
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