World

The latest nation to apply to the UN: An ocean garbage patch with 115,000 ‘citizens’

By Greg Hadley

ghadley@mcclatchy.com

Plastic garbage is displayed prior to a press conference of the Ocean Cleanup foundation in Utrecht, Netherlands, Thursday, May 11, 2017. The foundation aiming to rid the world's oceans of plastic says it will start cleaning up the huge patch of floating junk known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within the next 12 months, two years ahead of schedule.
Plastic garbage is displayed prior to a press conference of the Ocean Cleanup foundation in Utrecht, Netherlands, Thursday, May 11, 2017. The foundation aiming to rid the world's oceans of plastic says it will start cleaning up the huge patch of floating junk known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within the next 12 months, two years ahead of schedule. AP

The Great Pacific garbage patch, a swirling pile of pollution and discarded plastics between California and Japan, is made up of millions of pieces of trash and tiny plastics and has been estimated to be anywhere from the size of Texas to twice the size of the continental United States.

Now, a group of activists is hoping to make those comparisons to countries and states a bit more literal.

According to Quartz, enviromental advocates have started a petition to have the garbage patch officially recognized by the United Nations as a country, formally known as the Trash Isles. They even have designed a flag, passport and currency, appropriately named “debris.”

So far, the group has more than 115,000 signatures on its petition urging the U.N. to accept the Trash Isles as a nation and volunteering to be citizens of the country. If the petition reaches its goal of 150,000 signatures, it would have more “citizens” than 24 other countries.

The Trash Isles’ honorary first citizen is, of course, former U.S. vice president Al Gore, who appeared in a video for the project.

“We want to shrink this nation,” Gore said. “We don’t want any more plastic added.”

Other high-profile supporters include British actor Judi Dench and Olympic champion runner Mo Farah, per Reuters.

Getting the Trash Isles recognized as a country would help, organizers say, because it would force other U.N. members to help clean the new nation up, as required by the U.N.’s charter.

However, not only is the plan extraordinarily unlikely to succeed, it also isn’t entirely scientifically accurate. In promotional materials, activists describe the Trash Isles as roughly the size of France, suggesting that there is nearly 250,000 square miles of solid, uninterrupted garbage floating on the surface of the Pacific.

In fact, “island” or “isles” are misnomers, according to the NOAA. For the most part, the garbage patch consists of millions of pieces of microplastics — tiny pieces of plastic that poision fish and harm the environment. While there is plenty of empty water bottles and fishing nets too, some of them are below the surface and it is not large enough on the surface to be observed by satellites.

Still, scientists say the garbage patch is extremely dangerous for the environment and use names like “Trash Isles” to convey the severity of that danger, per AdWeek.

  Comments