February 28, 2018

pacific garbage patch

“The Great Pacific garbage patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, is a gyre of marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean discovered between 1985 and 1988. It is located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N and 42°N. The patch extends over an indeterminate area of widely varying range depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to define the affected area.” ¹

I am interested in the “Pacific trash vortex” and especially the potential poetics that can be found here. It is undoubtedly a product of human activity, but still very much assembled by currents. Humanity (mainly a specific part of humanity) provided the materials, nature built the structure. This joint project of humanity and nature has produced, if you stretch the definitions a bit, what could be called the largest man made structure to date. At an estimated 700 000 square kilometres it is 60 000 times larger than the second largest structure which suitably enough is another landfill at a puny 12 square kilometres.²

Though calling it a “structure” is in itself a problem as it is not a solid patch of “trash island” floating around but rather a submerged “cloud“ of microscopic debris particles and some larger trash. It is both material, non-material and perhaps even immaterial. A person travelling over it by boat most of the time would not notice it. It is not visible to the naked eye (not even from space, as one common misconceptions goes). It is basically only visible in data, on maps, without understandable scale, from a god-like perspective of the earth, so typical for the anthropocentric anthropocene view.

The “Pacific trash vortex” has also gathered a strong symbolic value. People have created a multitude of articles, petitions and even a design project of passports, stamps and currency in order to recognize it as a country. Right now the future of the vortex is unclear with at least one promising project dealing with a potential method for clean-up.

Anton Lindström


1. Wikipedia, ‘Great Pacific garbage patch’,, 2018, (accessed 27 February 2018).
2. Wikipedia, ‘Fresh Kills Landfill’,, 2018, (accessed 27 February 2018).

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