It’s that classic pub quiz question that fools everyone: what is the biggest man made thing on the planet? Of course, nine times out of ten we’ll say with great confidence “The Great Wall Of China”. After all, it can be seen from space, right? However the smug quizmaster (or a contestant that had this question in trivial pursuit years ago) will inform you that the real answer is rubbish: the giant landfill of rubbish on Staten Island, Fresh Kills. The remains of the World Trade Centre is there.
However, if you get this question in a quiz, you can now happily outsmug the quizmaster, albeit tinged with a bit of self-loathing for the impact of your species. The largest man-made object is now an even bigger collection of human waste. It’s not a landfill, at least not intentially. It’s the size of Africa, some ten million square miles. It’s at the centre of the Pacific ocean and it’s full of plastic refuse. The circular atmospheric currents form a ring of current, inside which there is a still region of ocean where anything drifting into the Pacific accumulates. Non-biodegradable plastics that reach this point will never leave, being broken down by the sun into ever smaller pieces to make their way into the entire marine food chain.