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Large garbage patches in the sea

The 5 big garbage whirlpools in the sea

The 5 giant Garbage whirlpool in the seaIn my opinion, plastic waste, which makes its rounds in the ocean currents, is too rarely a topic in the media. There are millions of tons of plastic waste floating in the sea and the pictures of it are more than frightening. The gigantic garbage whirlpools of plastic waste are representative of our unconscious consumption, lack of education and inadequate recycling systems. With this article I would like to draw your attention once more to the gigantic garbage whirlpools in our oceans. In this article I will introduce you to the 5 biggest garbage whirlpools in the oceans, explain the origin and consequences of plastic waste in the sea and show you what each of us can do immediately against the growing garbage whirlpools.

Here is another short Table of contents about the article:

  1. 5 huge garbage whirlpools in the sea
  2. Origin of the sea whirlpools
  3. Origin of the plastic waste of the garbage strudel
  4. Consequences of the garbage whirlpool
  5. What we need to do about the waste whirlpools
  6. Conclusion

These are the 5 huge garbage whirlpools in the sea

Garbage whirlpool in the sea - sea whirlpool garbage
Here are the big 5 trash whirlpools in the ocean! In the North and South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean / Source: TheOceanCleanup₁

The waste whirlpools are all located near the equator, because this is where the ocean currents from the north and south meet and bundle the waste in the sea. Unfortunately, the size of each can only be guessed at the moment. Garbage whirlpools are constantly in motion and therefore no meaningful geographic or political boundaries of the garbage whirlpools can be established. This is also a reason why many people question the existence of the waste whirlpools. Unfortunately, I can only give you facts about the North Pacific garbage whirlpool, but I am trying to get figures for the other 4 large garbage whirlpools in our oceans.

  1. North Pacific Garbage Vortex: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Current is the best known because it is the largest garbage whirlpool in our oceans. It is estimated to have a size of 700,000 to more than 15,000,000 km². Under certain circumstances, this one garbage whirlpool alone is larger than Europe. At least one piece of plastic is said to float in this ocean vortex per square meter. Especially the island of Hawaii is affected by this garbage vortex.
  2. Indian garbage vortex: The garbage whirlpool is in the South Indian Current Circle.
  3. South Pacific Garbage Vortex: This is the garbage vortex in the South Pacific Current.
  4. North Atlantic Garbage Vortex: This waste vortex bundles the plastic waste in the North Atlantic current circle. Here, about 0.2 plastic particles float on every square meter.
  5. South Atlantic Garbage Vortex: The trash swirl in the South Atlantic Current is also huge.

It is estimated that there are about 1000 - 2500 g of plastic waste floating in each of these waste whirlpools per square kilometer.

How did the garbage whirlpools form in the first place? Why does the garbage collect at these 5 ocean eddies and where does all the plastic garbage in the garbage eddies actually come from? I would now like to answer these questions in more detail.

Origin of the garbage whirlpools in the sea

First of all, I would like to give you the scientific background of the garbage whirlpools in the sea and explain why the ocean currents exist. These are the natural and scientific reasons for the ocean vortices:

  • Meeting of warm winds from the tropics and cold winds from the polar regions
  • Different water temperatures due to the alternation of tropical, temperate and polar climate zones₂.
  • Salinity of the water₃
  • Earth rotation (clockwise flow circles of ocean vortices in northern hemisphere, counterclockwise flow circles in southern hemisphere)

It is through the resulting ocean eddies and our unconscious handling of plastic waste that the large waste eddies in the sea occur in the first place. But where exactly does the garbage originate?

Origin of the plastic waste in the waste strudels

Origin of the garbage eddies in the sea - sea eddies with plastic waste of the oceans
Findings from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's THE NEW PLASTICS ECONOMY RETHINKING THE FUTURE OF PLASTICS study, 2016.

There are significant studies on the origin of the plastic waste in the waste whirlpools. I refer to the detailed study "The New Plastics Economy" by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation₄. The result shows that the industrial continents such as North America and Europe are responsible for nearly half of the world's plastic production, but only about 2% of the plastic waste in the ocean is generated directly by them. Southeast Asia has a real plastic waste problem, because these developing countries are responsible for about 80% of the plastic waste in the ocean. Developing countries in Africa and South America also have a high share of plastic waste in the sea. In these countries, poor recycling systems, lack of education and, as a result, unconscious consumption are the order of the day. For these very reasons, plastic is rarely recycled. The garbage ends up in landfills and blows into the sea, if it is not already directly into the sea. Plastic was suddenly there and had many advantages. Now we get to see the disadvantages due to the garbage whirlpools and urgently need to do something. Here is another video that describes the garbage whirlpools in their formation very well.

80% of the plastic waste of the garbage whirlpool comes from land

According to the study Plastic Debris in the World's Oceans₅ conducted by Greenpeace International, about 80% of the plastic waste in the sea is generated on land. Sooner or later, the weather ensures that the waste reaches the sea either directly from the mainland or via rivers.

So it is by no means possible to simply claim that only beachgoers are to blame for the plastic waste in the sea. No, it's all of us. Because even a household in Frankfurt, in the middle of Germany, far from the sea, is driving plastic waste into the sea every day. How? Through Microplastics in cosmetics or by washing the laundry, which also contains plastic fibers.

These are the components of the plastic waste in the garbage swirls

Garbage vortex in the sea - sea vortex from plastic waste

The things that swirl around in the trash swirls are exactly the same things that you find on the littered beaches of our earth. For example, in the trash swirls float...

  • ... masses of plastic bags
  • ... unbelievable amount of plastic bottles
  • ... yogurt and drink cups
  • ... care items such as disposable razors, shower gel bottles or toothbrushes.
  • ... buckets, barrels or canisters
  • ... lighters, straws, beer cans and glass bottles.
  • ... Packaging of sweets
  • ... old fishing nets (so called ghost nets), lines or cables.
  • ... but also organic waste such as coconut shells or banana peels.
  • ... this could now go on indefinitely.

We find pretty much every kind of plastic waste in the garbage swirls. This shows once again that the plastic objects themselves are not the problem, but only the fact that we handle them poorly.

What do garbage eddies in the sea mean for nature?

You certainly know that plastic is not biodegradable. I recommend you also my article What is plastic anyway? to read. The plastic may "decompose" over many decades into smaller microplastics, but once it is created, it remains forever. This also applies to the Plastic waste in the environment and in the sea.

"Every little piece of plastic that was manufactured in the last 50 years that got into the ocean is still there somewhere." - Tony Andrady, chemist at the American Research Triangle Institute.

So every piece of plastic waste that we allow to enter the oceans is still out there and has to be collected again. That's because marine animals eat pieces of plastic. The toxic plastic, for example, passes into the cells of fish, which eventually end up back on our plates. What consequences Plastic in the food chain has on our health is still largely unexplored. But it cannot be healthy.

The devastating consequences of the garbage whirlpools in the sea

We can't just ignore the plastic waste whirlpools, because they are getting bigger every day. By 2050, there will be more plastic waste in the ocean than there are fish. We are destroying our planet and eliminating the waste vortices is our last chance. Now and not in 3o years. Here I would like to explain the consequences of the garbage whirlpools for our health, for nature and for the animal world:

  • Animals die in agony: Animals mistake plastic waste for food and die a long, agonizing death from the plastic in their stomachs. They strangle themselves on nylon ropes, nets or six-pack rings. Every year, another 10 million tons of plastic waste enter the sea, costing the lives of 1,000,000 seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals every year.₆
  • Plastic waste binds pathogens: We must not forget that the plastic waste in the garbage stacks attracts bacteria and thus transports pathogens to the other side of the world, where the diseases may not have existed before.
  • Microplastics enter the food chain: With every piece of plastic, the threat to humans and animals increases. This is because plastic does not simply disappear. Over the course of centuries, the plastic waste from the garbage drums decomposes through the weather into smaller microplastics that are eaten by fish. The plastic passes into the cells of the animals that we later have on our plates. Learn more here about Plastic in the food chain.

We have created one of the biggest environmental problems of our time through the garbage eddies in the sea. It is time to correct this mistake.

What can we do about the garbage whirlpools?

There are many really good projects against the garbage whirlpools in the sea or against the basic problem of plastic waste in the environment. I will present these to you in a detailed, separate article. Here I would like to explain to you now rather finally, what each individual of us can do immediately against the garbage whirlpools in the sea.

  • Live plastic-free: By living plastic-free, you'll make very little plastic waste yourself, live healthier and be a role model for other people. Learn here how you can easily go nearly plastic free living can.
  • Support and organize CleanUps: I organize some myself, but usually, no matter where you are, you can always participate in CleanUps and clean up the plastic waste in nature with your own hands. It gives you an incredibly good feeling, believe me. You can also just start an action yourself! You can join our global CareElite CleanUps Facebook group here..
  • Consciously consume: The unconscious consumption in combination with the lack of education is the main cause for the 5 big waste whirlpools in the sea. By consciously buying sustainably, you do something for the environment and against the waste whirlpools. Take a look at the plastic free store and get inspired.
  • Pass on your environmentally conscious attitude: You are a role model! Share your attitude and try to create a hello-wake-up effect in others. Only a change in the awareness of all people can save us from having more plastic in the sea than fish in 2050.

Conclusion - garbage vortex in the sea?

The garbage whirlpools in the sea are there. And they continue to grow with each passing day. Diseases are being transferred to new areas, more and more microplastics are getting into the cells of fish, and masses of birds and marine mammals are dying as a result of the waste-laden ocean eddies. It's long past fun and we need to act. Because the trash problem is getting out of control. But together we can eliminate the garbage whirlpools. Through conscious consumption and a new, contemporary awareness. The Zero Waste lifestyle gives a lot of hope.

I look forward to your opinion, questions or suggestions.

Best regards,

Living plastic-free - Less plastic waste in the environment

PS.: If you have scrolled up to here -> Be sure to join our global Facebook group CareElite CleanUps and who knows: Maybe you will soon organize your first own CleanUp against the further growing garbage whirlpools!



₄ The New Plastics Economy,


₆ NABU -

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate links. If you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, because I get a small share of the sales revenue - and of course the product price does not change. Thank you for your support and best regards, Christoph!


Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

54 thoughts on “Die 5 großen Müllstrudel im Meer”

  1. Hello Christoph,
    I have been interested in the topic for a while and am now also writing my KL (complex leistung in class 10) about plastic pollution and an important sub-point is the garbage eddies. I have a question: How big are the individual garbage whirlpools?
    Many love greetings!

    1. Hey Jana! Thanks for your message. For example, in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the garbage moves in 1.6 million square kilometers. For comparison, Germany has an area of 357,386 square kilometers.
      Many greetings

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