Lots of people share the same dream vacation – diving in the clear waters of the Caribbean. This dream may become a little less appealing after a photographer recently discovered a new “Sea of Plastic” off the coast of one Honduran island.
Photographer Caroline Power calls the island of Roatan in the Caribbean her home so she’s no stranger to the waters in the region. That’s why she was stunned to discover the “Great Caribbean Garbage Patch” floating just 15 miles off the coast of the Caribbean island.
Ocean garbage patches are not something new, in fact, there’s quite a lot of them (1). The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of the more famous ones as well as one of the biggest on the planet as it stretches between California and Hawaii (2). There are several other such patches in the Southern Pacific, in the Indian Ocean, in the Southern Atlantic, and, as Caroline Power has discovered – in the Caribbean.
The causes for these “blankets of plastic” on our oceans’ surface are known to most of us – our excessive use of plastic wrappers and products as well as our inability to recycle or dispose of them efficiently (3).
Caroline Power has devoted a large part of her life to raising awareness of the plastic problem in our oceans and she recently talked about her discovery in the Caribbean in an interview with The Telegram:
“We were on a dive trip to a set of islands that don’t quite break the ocean surface. They are one of the most pristine dive sites in this part of the Caribbean. Everywhere we looked, plastic bags of all shapes and sizes: chip bags, ziplocks, grocery, trash, snack bags, other packaging. Some were whole, and the rest were just pieces.”
Power and her team through the garbage patch for about 5 miles. They saw all kinds of plastic and trash items in the patch including TV sets, toothbrushes, soccer balls, and countless flip-flop pairs. One part of the garbage patch was “about two miles wide that had multiple trash lines that stretched from horizon to horizon.”
The non-profit environmental organization Blue Plant Society (4) also commented on Power’s photos, describing them as “unbelievable”. The current theory about this garbage patch’s formation is that it floated from the Motagua River in Guatemala and was washed into the sea by some recent heavy rains.
If you’re having a hard time imagining how this “blanket of plastic” looks, you can check out Power’s video here:
There are lots of things that can be done about dealing with and preventing garbage patches such as this one. For example, we recently told you about Boyan Slat’s “Ocean Cleanup” initiative that uses an artificial free-floating boom to help reduce the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and then recycle the gathered plastic.
As great as such initiatives are, the main concern remains to find ways to reduce the amount of plastic and other garbage we throw out in the first place. Other non-profits such as Plastic Oceans (5) also work in that direction and help raise awareness about the problem with startling statistics such as the fact that we produce over 300 million tons of plastic every year and that we use and throw away about 500 billion plastic bags annually.
This is not a problem that we can fix overnight nor is it something that the average person can prevent by simply using a couple of fewer plastic bags per day. However, even bigger changes on a corporate level still need to be initialized by people first and that’s exactly what Caroline Power and her team are trying to do.