TRUE, FALSE, NOT GIVEN: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (reading)

Read the text below and answer the TRUE, FALSE, NOT GIVEN questions that follow. After checking your answers, you should also look at the vocabulary section for this text at the bottom of the page. Speed levels:

  • 20 minutes or more = TOO SLOW!
  • 15 minutes = not bad
  • 10 minutes = good
  • 5 to 10 minutes = very good
  • less than 5 minutes = AMAZING!

 


The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, stretching from about 500 nautical miles off the coast of California, across the northern Pacific to near the coast of Japan, a circular pattern of currents has collected and encircled an enormous vortex of floating garbage. This rubbish is held there by swirling ocean currents, and has been described as the world’s largest rubbish dump. It’s sheer size, and previously unknown presence, is starting to alarm scientists who are now scrambling to find a solution to what could represent a massive ecological and environmental danger..

There are various sources of plastic litter entering our seas: shipping, tourism and fishing, to name but a few; however, roughly 80 percent of the debris, which ranges from bottles and cigarette lighters to toothbrushes and packaging scraps, came first from the land. Dragged into the sea by wind and water, even underground streams, this rubbish has drifted on the currents until it joins the mass of debris already afloat.

TRUE, FALSE, NOT GIVEN

The increasing rate of plastic pollution is alarming. The production of plastic doubles every decade, and ever-increasing amounts of trash makes it way to the seas—more than 6 million tons per year, according to the UN Environment Program (this is the same programme that estimated every square mile of ocean water contains approximately 46,000 pieces of rubbish, although this is not all of a problematic nature).

The plastic waste was first discovered in 1997 by American sailor Charles Moore, who discovered the floating mass of rubbish by chance after returning home from a yacht race. He sailed through a vast congregation of plastic which had congregated into what is often referred to as the great ‘Pacific garbage patch’. However, the term may be misleading as the ‘patch’ is in fact two massive linked areas of circulating rubbish, says Dr Marcus Eriksen, research director of the US-based Marine Research Foundation, founded by Moore. In fact, when it was first identified in the media, there was ‘the idea that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup.’ Dr Eriksen says.

Moore, an oceanographer who has made the study of the patch his full-time occupation, believes there is about 100 million tonnes of plastic circulating in the northern Pacific – or about 2.5 per cent of all plastic items made since 1950. It was the sheer scale of the issue that encouraged Moore to first establish the Marine Research Foundation.

Although many media and advocacy reports have suggested the patch extends over an area greater than the continental US, recent research sponsored by the National Science Foundation suggests the affected area may be much smaller. This can be attributed to the fact that there is no specific standard for determining the boundary between the “normal” and “elevated” levels of pollutants and what constitutes being part of the patch. A certain level of rubbish is considered ‘normal’ and according to many, is entirely unavoidable given the dramatic increase in the global population. It is generally accepted, however, that the high concentration of plastic is approximately the size of Texas in the USA, and is growing every year.

The main problem is that generally, flotsam such as wood and paper in the ocean would biodegrade, but modern plastics do not break down like other oceanic debris, meaning objects half a century old have been found. Instead, the plastic slowly photodegrades, becoming brittle and disintegrating, and then entering the food chain. To make the situation worse, the small plastic particles act like a sponge to trap many dangerous man-made chemicals that have also found their way into the ocean, like hydrocarbons and DDT, which is then ingested by marine life which in turn is fished and ends up on sale for human consumption.

Larger pieces of plastic are also a threat to birds, which mistake them for food. Syringes, cigarette lighters and tooth brushes from the patch have all been found inside sea bird carcasses. In addition, the larger piece of plastic allows organisms and marine life to travel distances far greater than their natural habitat would allow, as they hitch a ride on larger items that travel on the currents, meaning that delicate ecosystems are at risk.

As plastic breaks down it becomes heavier than the water, so there is not only plastic floating on the surface, it is also in the column of water below and sinking to the sea bed, again causing significant damage to the marine life below.

Despite the environmental impact, there is still precious little being done to curb the problem. Some solutions have been presented, but due to the vast expanse of rubbish, none have been able to provide an option that would satisfactorily address the issue.


TRUE, FALSE, NOT GIVEN questions

Are the following statements TRUE, FALSE or NOT GIVEN according to the text?

1. The great Pacific garbage patch was located intentionally.
Show answer FALSE  – ‘Charles Moore, who discovered the floating mass of rubbish by chance after returning home from a yacht race’

2. The garbage patch is a singular, solid mass.
Show answer FALSE  – ‘the “patch” is in fact two massive, linked areas’, ‘an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that’

3. There are disagreements over the exact size of the patch.
Show answer TRUE  – ‘Although many media and advocacy reports have suggested the patch extends over an area greater than the continental US, recent research sponsored by the National Science Foundation suggests the affected area may be much smaller.’

4. The size of the patch is growing at an increasing rate per year.
Show answer NOT GIVEN  – the text states that the patch ‘is growing every year’, but not that the rate is increasing.

5. Modern plastic biodegrades and does not affect marine life.
Show answer FALSE  – ‘modern plastics do not break down’

6. The plastic is not safe even when it sinks.
Show answer TRUE  – ‘sinking to the sea bed, again causing significant damage to the marine life below’


Vocabulary from this text:

nautical  = relating to the sea.

(to) corral = gather together, keep in one place

a congregation = a gathering or collection of people or things

misleading = giving the wrong idea or impression (sometimes intentionally)

elevated = raised, higher than normal

flotsam= wreckage or waste found floating on or washed up by the sea

brittle = easily snapped or broken, but not bent

disintegrating = breaking apart into smaller pieces

ingested = eaten, swallowed, absorbed

carcass = the dead body of an animal

to curb (a problem) = to reduce, limit or stop something

 

Practice

Complete the sentences below using a word from the list above. Use each word ONCE ONLY.

The car hit the wall with such force that it completely .
Show answer disintegrated

He comes from a background – his grandfather was a fisherman and his father was a captain.
Show answer nautical

As people get older, their bones often become more and can break easily.
Show answer brittle

The farmer had to the sheep into the barn because of the bad weather.
Show answer corral

He needs to his temper if he wants to get a promotion. He won’t be able to talk to staff like that if he becomes a manager!
Show answer curb

The that was on the beach was ideal for starting a camp fire.
Show answer flotsam

He was arrested for providing intentionally information to the police about where has was that night.
Show answer misleading

Stress can blood pressure, which can lead to a number of illnesses.
Show answer elevate

The police believe he some poison but they are not sure who gave it to him.
Show answer ingested

There was a large of birds in the area so they had to divert the flight.
Show answer congregation

In most western countries, only the best meat is eaten when an animal is killed – a lot of meat is still left on the .
Show answer carcass

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