Blog: Carlita the Croc

Something in the Water


There’s a thing called the Great Pacific Garbage patch.  It’s a mass of swirling garbage larger than the United States located in the Pacific Ocean between the west coast and Japan.  It is so big that there is a western and eastern zone.  The man who discovered it, a sailor named Charles Moore, said it took a week to cross the eastern patch in his yacht.  Worst of all, it’s not the only garbage patch out there

Where does the garbage come from?  Well, it comes from me and you, but mostly you. 
Humans consume a lot of one-time use products. This creates a couple of problems. The first problem is that when you throw things “away,” it just means it is taken away from your living or work space so as not to be an eye sore or, um, nose sore.  But that garbage still sits somewhere.  The second problem is that while some materials can be recycled and used again, many people don’t bother recycling.  We really, really need to recycle because some of these materials never ever, ever go away. Ever. I’m not even kidding.


That’s one of the biggest problems: plastic never goes away.  But it does break down into tiny microscopic pieces that are consumed by and accumulate in small ocean creatures.  Even the big pieces can get eaten by animals who mistake it for food, because, hey, we have no idea what plastic is and we don’t have hands to investigate…that’s what mouths are for.  Eating larger pieces of plastic can be deadly, and smaller accumulated pieces will make their way up the food chain to create major health hazards for top-of-the-pyramid consumers, including humans. 


Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Ay, I live in Chicahgo an dis ocean garbage patch stuff ain’t got nuttin’ tuh do wit me!” 

Au contraire…we’re all connected to the ocean.  Here in Chicahgo, Lake Michigan has its share of floating garbage affecting the food chain.  Lake Michigan is connected to the Chicago River, which hooks up to the Des Plaines River via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship canal.  It then connects to the Illinois River, which empties into the Mississippi River.  And the Mighty Mississipp’ flows all the way on down to the Gulf of Mexico.  That’s how trash from Chicago finds its way to the ocean (I’m looking at you kid who threw your empty bottle into the Des Plaines River!)



Now throw in seven billion humans creating trash and littering, along with refuse falling off ships, and the fishing industry not properly disposing of its mess – and you got yourself an ocean garbage soup. 


Do something!

Now, what to do about all this?  Well, stop littering!  Recycle aluminum, paper, cardboard, and plastic!  Especially plastics, because “thrown away” plastic never really goes away.  Not only that, but plastic is made from fossil fuels, which you may remember from such human-caused predicaments as climate change. So, it’s best to use as few plastic products as possible.  Think: bags, toys, cups and dishware, and especially product packaging!  That stuff is notorious for unrecyclable plastic usage.
You can also support sustainable seafood by choosing your favorite fish from the Seafood Watch guide. This will steer you toward seafood that is sustainable and fished in a responsible way that doesn’t harm the ocean. The more people choose sustainable seafood, the better chance it will be an industry standard. 

Need a little push to get involved?  Get a first-hand look at how important it is to dispose of trash properly and recycle by participating in local “clean-up” events to collect garbage from the rivers and streams in your area! Here are some places to look in Chicago: Friends of the Chicago RiverBrookfield Zoo American Association of Zookeepers, and Openlands. Heck, you can organize your own group to do cleanups!


I’d love to hear about actions you’re taking! Share how you’re helping the ocean and waterway garbage problem by tweeting at me @candidcroc using the hashtag #carlitaonwater! 

Posted: 5/24/2016 9:27:11 AM by

Carlita the Croc

I'm Carlita the Croc, here to deliver my candid views on various topics, articles, news, and stories in conservation. For the latest news follow me on Twitter, for striking photos follow me on Instagram.


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