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Since We Last Spoke: A Petition to Recognize the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as an Official Nation

Updates to stories from the Pacific Standard archive.
Some of the Laysan albatrosses on Midway die from stomach punctures. Others slowly starve, weak and weighted down, their bellies full but empty of anything to nourish them. Their bodies litter the ground. Some wash broken in the waves, their great wings trailing behind them.

A patch of plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean has grown to rival the size of a not-so-small country. Some activists have even made the case the heap should be recognized as one. Plastic Oceans Foundation, an environmental charity, and LADbible, a news and entertainment group, have petitioned the United Nations to recognize the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as an official nation.

The campaign is the latest in a long list of creative ideas meant to get people caring about the patch. In the September/October 2015 issue of Pacific Standard, Brooke Jarvis documented the efforts of photographer Chris Jordan, who "spent years trying to visually represent the baffling scale on which we produce and scrap the materials of consumer society."

Jordan's work took many forms, Jarvis wrote: "a forest made from the cigarette butts thrown out every 15 seconds in the United States; a swirl of hundreds of thousands of cell phones, the discards of a single American day."

Despite Jordan's efforts, the amount of microscopic plastic pieces swirling throughout our oceans has continued to grow. The folks at the Plastic Oceans Foundation are hoping that this U.N. petition might further imbue people with a sense of urgency.

A version of this story originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now and get eight issues/year or purchase a single copy of the magazine.