NOTE AND COMMENT: FORGOTTEN AT SEA - AN INTERNATIONAL CALL TO COMBAT ISLANDS OF PLASTIC WASTE IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2010 by Southwestern Law School
Southwestern Journal of International Law

NOTE AND COMMENT: FORGOTTEN AT SEA - AN INTERNATIONAL CALL TO COMBAT ISLANDS OF PLASTIC WASTE IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN

2010

SOUTHWESTERN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW

16 Sw. J. Int'l L. 265

Author

Matthew Schroeder*

Excerpt

I. Introduction

The Eastern Garbage Patch, located in the Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and San Francisco, is a massive vortex of trash and plastic debris that is twice the size of Texas and continuing to grow. 1 Its slightly smaller cousin, the Western Garbage Patch, lurks off the coast of Japan. 2 The formation of these massive regions of waste is largely due to ocean currents and wind streams that trap debris into central locations known as gyres. 3 Aside from their unsightliness, these oceanic "landfills" pose tremendous environmental hazards to marine life and the sustainability of the world's oceans. 4 It is estimated that about four-fifths of the Eastern Garbage Patch comes from land. 5 The United States, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan, and China are among its major contributors. 6 Currently, however, international law fails to specifically address this crisis of mounting waste in the Pacific. 7 As a result, assigning responsibility for the cleanup and prevention of the Eastern Garbage Patch has thus far proven impossible at the multilateral level given its location within international waters and the limited environmental prohibitions over land-based pollution of the ocean. 8

In response to the lack of international priority placed upon the pollution of the high seas, the United States should engage in a binding regional agreement with China, Japan, Taiwan, and Mexico to reduce their land-based sources of marine pollution in the Pacific Ocean. The agreement should be modeled after the Barcelona Convention System, ...
 
 
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