image credit: Robin Low (Flickr CC)

95% of debris from the 2011 tsunami that devastated parts of Japan will end up in that swirling vortex of plastic and other rubbish – the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but some will hit the shores of North America.

Lighter debris has already reached places like Alaska, where a Japanese teenager’s football washed up on Middleton Island. The man who found the ball is married to Japanese woman, who was able to read the teenager’s name plus the name of his school. Amazingly, a moving crate containing a Harley Davidson motorcycle and a set of golf clubs was found on a beach in British Columbia, Canada. A Japanese fishing boat has also been purposefully sunk after it was found heading towards Canada’s coast.

From the Guardian:

The Japanese government estimates 4.8m tonnes of debris – parts of factory buildings, houses, cars and trees – were swept into the ocean during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Debris will be sparse and not arrive in some wave, as many might picture. Most will be light, as heavy items tended to sink close to Japan’s shores. But some items of sentimental value are bound to turn up. There is even a Facebook page dedicated to documenting Japan’s tsunami debris and returning important items to owners.

Despite the curiosity, the debris is the result of a tragedy and furthermore the continuation of one. The amount of trash forced out to sea by the tsunami is equivalent what gets dumped into the ocean over the course of an entire year. Oceanic ecosystems are already suffering catastrophic problems due to trash and pollution.


On Earth Day weekend in late April, environmental activists in North America got a better idea of the slowly growing mess that last year’s tsunami is making of the continent’s western coast. Thousands of volunteers picked up trash during the annual beach clean-up.

Due to ocean currents most debris expected to wash up will do so on the coasts of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington State and Oregon, while some items will land in Hawaii.

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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