"It was just filled with things like furniture, fridges, plastic containers, cigarette lighters, plastic bottles, light globes, televisions and fishing nets."
- Ian Kiernan
The Plastic Continent is one of the names (it's also known as “the Asian Trash Trail”, the “Trash Vortex”, and the “Eastern Garbage Patch”) given a giant mass of floating plastic trash in the middle of the Pacific, halfway between Hawaii and California. This unintentionally man-made island (which is larger than Texas and has twice the surface area of Britain), was discovered in 1997 by Captain Charles Moore. Within the region, it's estimated that theirs six times as much plastic as there is plankton (by weight/mass). The vast majority of the trash originates on land, being blown out to sea or washed downstream from storm sewers.
Ocean and wind currents are such that the floating trash just accumulates there in the open sea, where it is picked at by all manner of seabirds, fish, turtles, and cetaceans. Animals eat the plastic because the smaller bits look like fish eggs, and plastic bags in the water resemble jelly fish. They grow sick and die as a result, their bellies full of indigestible plastic.
Game and Story Use
- Well, it certainly suggests an Aesop, a profound environmental message about why we all need to recycle and be careful what we do with the trash we create.
- An Artifact Of Doom is thrown overboard, in hopes that it might be lost beneath the waves. Instead, it somehow ends up here, and is discovered by an environmentalist, journalist, or scavenger.
- Tens of thousands of years After The End, this junk still floats out there, a toxic Planet of the Apes Ending for Explorers who are otherwise ignorant of the long-dead civilization that made the world they live in.
- After a disaster at sea, the Captain and the engines are both dead, and the communications equipment is destroyed. The PCs drift upon the waves in their derelict ship. At the site of an island in the fog, they rejoice - until they see what the island is made of. There's a few resources to scavenge amongst all this floating debris, but mostly it serves as symbol that they too are cursed to drift at the mercy of forces beyond their control.
- The sea of toxins and scrap plastic is home to a poisoned sea monster or kaiju.
- May be inserted without warning into a naval combat or chase scene, as an eye-opening navigational hazard. Passing through this area is slow going, and could conceal any number of other dangers.
- A fantastic version might be made of shipwrecks, or discarded pieces of broken glass, or stranger things.
- Far in the future, it might actually be a continent, or at least continent-sized. It might even be a place that hasn't flooded from the ice caps melting.
- What would happen if nearby wildlife evolves the ability to pass (or even gain nutrition from) plastic?