A grim bit of history has sailed into Seattle harbor: A barge carrying nearly 1 million pounds of debris, much of it from the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. Officials said the football field-length barge, now docked at a waste management facility, contains debris that washed up on the coasts of Alaska and Canada, and represent only about 1 percent of the debris littering the coastline.
"It's one of the greatest environmental tragedies on the planet right now," said Chris Pallister, co-founder of the nonprofit Gulf of Alaska Keeper.
NBC News reports
that the barge, the first load of junk to arrive from Kodiak, Alaska, includes huge piles of styrofoam, bottles and thousands of buoys that were washed out to sea by the 2011 tsunami, which was triggered by a magnitude 9 earthquake. It was estimated that nearly 230,000 people lost their homes in the disaster.
The environmental impact will continue for decades. Beginning next month, thousands of volunteers will begin pick through the piles of debris, which will be shipped to Seattle in hopes that a good amount of the trash can be sent to a disposal site in Oregon for recycling.