GyreWatch Research Platform, Pacifica, Earth -- 18 Mar. 2057: The Department of Terran Environmental Management this day released its annual report on the activities of GyreWatch, the monitoring program which keeps track of the developing ecosystem of the Pacific Trash Gyre. The highlight of the report is the discovery by scientists of a record 9 distinct species of microorganism which have developed the ability to metabolize a wide variety of plastics.
"It really is a fascinating result," stated GyreWatch program head Dr. Falbjorg Valvensteuen in an audio interview. "Previously, we were only detecting new plastiphages at a rate of 1 or 2 a year. This is also the first time we have detected free-floating plastiphages; previously, such organisms had only been found in the stomachs of marine life where they acted symbiotically to help the animals metabolize otherwise indigestible plastic fragments which would have otherwise killed them. We feel that the Gyre ecology may have reached a tipping point."
The report has caused alarm among observers who warn of the possibility that plastic-metabolizing organisms could migrate out of the Gyre and start to attack the plastics used in industrial and consumer goods. "It really cannot be understated how dire the threat is," said Dr. Gargoss Aiboforcen, a professor of technoecological studies at Branson University. "There is very little in modern life that does not contain some plastic components. Computers, vehicles, augmentation implants, the supports of buildings, the containers of leftovers in your refrigerator -- imagine if all of these things started to rot. We're talking about an industrial apocalypse here."
Opinions remain sharply divided on the Pacific Gyre, including among prominent environmental groups. Going back decades, when cleanup efforts which had successfully eliminated the smaller Atlantic and Indian Ocean garbage patches but had been unable to get rid of the much larger Pacific Gyre patch were halted due to outcry in the scientific community, there has been a schism dividing up-wing environmental organizations which want to see the strange new ecology of the Gyre protected and nurtured from more bioconservative groups which want the Gyre cleaned up as part of a concerted effort to return Earth's environment to a pristine pre-technological state. The official position of the influential Naturist party is neutral on the subject of the Gyre ecology, but it is largely the concerted efforts of the Technocratic and Corporatist parties which have kept the GyreWatch program funded and blocked renewed cleanup efforts. Discoveries made by GyreWatch have led to a number of useful and profitable new products, including industrial solvents, plastic strengthening agents, and the acne prevention drug Fibroflexuliun.