Dept of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Centre for Environmental and Information Technology (EIT)
200 University Ave. W
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1
Phone: (519) 888-4567
Prof. Philippe Van Cappellen, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Ecohydrology, spoke with the Weather Network about the growing awareness of marine debris accumulating in our oceans.
The most notable accumulation of debris, the Great Pacific garbage patch, has developed through the confluence of ocean currents rotating in the same clockwise direction within the North Pacific Gyre.
Sources of marine debris include improper solid waste disposal, storm drain overflows, industrial discharges, treated and untreated municipal sewage, and storm events which mobilize debris from land, as well as derelict fishing nets and dumping at sea.
The debris has serious ecological, human health and economic consequences, including entanglement of marine wildlife, accumulation of persistent organic pollutants in the fish and seafood we consume, and soiled beaches which impacts tourism and lowers property values.
Van Cappellen cites the main solution to the marine litter problem is prevention. Better solid waste disposal infrastructure, public awareness of the issue and better enforcement of existing laws and conventions would go a long way to reduce man-made trash in our oceans.
“This is a global issue,” said Van Cappellen, “but it is well within our control.”
Van Cappellen leads a research project on plastics debris within the Great Lakes at the University of Waterloo. His interview can be viewed on the Weather Network homepage: “How much garbage is actually in our oceans?” by Natalie Thomas.