News & Politics

Major Flight 370 Discovery: Our Oceans are Filled With Trash!

The enormous amount of ocean debris has frustrated those searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

Halfway across the Pacific, a message of plastic pollution in a bottle reminding us that most of the pollution in the ocean comes from our everyday lives. (Stiv Wilson)
Photo Credit: Stiv Wilson

The search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet has not turned up a definitive answer to what happened to Flight 370.  But what the searchers have turned up is an ocean full of trash, which is frustrating the planes swooping over the area west of Australia to try to find clues on the plane.

If the missing plane is in the ocean, it will be one piece of debris out of millions.  “It isn't like looking for a needle in a haystack," scientist M. Sanjayan told CNN. "It's like looking for a needle in a needle factory.”

The most glaring example of the problem came when a satellite saw two objects floating in the Indian Ocean.  It was called the best lead to date.  But it turned out the bigger item of the two was likely a shipping container.  As the Associated Press reports, trash spews out of “hundreds of shipping containers lost overboard from cargo ships each year...The containers themselves can become hazards as they float around for months, buoyed by plastic objects inside or the air trapped behind watertight doors.”

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Shipping containers are just a small part of the overwhelming amount of garbage in the ocean, which environmentalists have warned about for years.  When the 2011 tsunami occurred, more than 10 million tons of garbage, including trees, houses and tires, floated into the ocean.

Trash in the ocean is having an impact on ocean ecology.  As the Inter Press Service’s Stephen Leahy reported in 2012, plastic in the ocean is negatively affecting marine animals with no backbone, which could mess up the entire ocean food chain.


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.