Floating Trash on the riachuelo (La Boca, Buenos Aires)
No, this is not the Great Pacific Garbage Patch!
Half of the trash is made of plastic bottles. Plastic bottles (especially mineral water bottles) are evil. Please drink tap water (or purified / filtered tap water if needed).
Sale of plastic bottles should not be permitted in countries that do not recycle plastic trash.
And in countries where plastic trash is recycled, there should be a tax on plastic bottles, used to finance recycling and to encourage people to bring their plastic trash to recycling centers where they would get that tax back. This is the case in many states in the US, and a lot of unemployed people make money by scavenging plastic trash and bringing it to recycling centers, where they get paid for the trash they bring. As a result, there is much less plastic trash in the environment.
One example is the California CRV: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Redemption_Value.
Photos of Buenos Aires (Argentina)
The problem is that "industrial development" brings plastic bottles and plastic containers in country that do not have any trash collection system, let along recycling.
Most people in developing countries are used to throwing garbage anywhere because in the past, most garbage was compostable, so it was ok. But now garbage is mostly made of plastic, and people still do the same, the throw it away anywhere. there are no trash bins in cities, and very few cities have trash collection. Sometimes people pile-up trash and burn it, which is not good either when the trash contains lots of plastic.
My feeling is that corporations should be banned from selling plastic containers and plastic bags in countries that do not have trash collection and plastic recycling. In those countries, those corporations should subsidize plastic recycling and fund education programs if they want to sell their plastic junk.
But that requires political will and most local people are quite poor and they would not want to pay more for plastic stuff in order to fund its recycling.
Photos taken in Argentina in Februaty and March 2010.