Great Pacific Garbage Patch is Twice as Big as Texas, and Growing

Scientists have know about a floating dump called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) for decades. It exists in the ocean about halfway between California and Hawaii and is the largest collection of ocean plastic on Earth.

Yes, it’s disgusting, but even worse, a new study has found that the GPGP is as much as 16 times larger than previously thought. Since measurements began in the 1970s, it has quadrupled in size and continues to grow at an alarming pace. Right now it’s over 600,000 square miles wide, which is twice the size of Texas.

With 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, it weighs over 88,000 metric tons – the same as 500 jumbo jets.

The results of the study, published March 22, 2018 in the journal Scientific Reports, are based on a three-year mapping effort by scientists with The Ocean Cleanup, six universities and an aerial sensor company.

Prior to this study, researchers usually employed one-meter, fine-meshed nets to collect debris in order to estimate the size of the GPGP. But this method could produce inaccurate results because of the small surface area tested and the inability of the nets to catch any objects larger than the nets themselves.

The researchers in the new study were able to more accurately quantify the GPGP by simultaneously crossing it with 30 vessels as well as two aircraft.

One ship trawled two devices that were six meters wide and better able to catch medium and large objects. The fleet collected a whopping 1.2 million plastic samples. One of the aircraft flying overhead had advanced sensors that took 3D scans of the floating garbage.

Ocean Cleanup Expedition

The vast majority (92 percent) of the samples collected were large items, like discarded fishing nets. “We used to think most of the debris consists of small fragments, but this new analysis shines a new light on the scope of the debris,” Dr. Julia Reisser, chief scientist of the expedition, said in a press release.

Most of that plastic accumulates when it drifts into circulating ocean currents. Eventually the plastic breaks down into small pieces that marine animals can mistake for food. Not only does all that plastic garbage potentially harm more than 600 species of sea life, but it also brings toxic pollutants into the food chain for humans.

Can we clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

“These results provide us with key data to develop and test our cleanup technology,” stated Boyan Slat, founder of The Ocean Cleanup and a co-author of the study, “but it also underlines the urgency of dealing with the plastic pollution problem.”

The Ocean Cleanup is a Netherlands-based nonprofit with 70 engineers, researchers, scientists and computational modelers working on advanced technologies to get rid of plastic in the world’s oceans.

To avoid the carbon emissions and possibility of by-catch of using vessels to clean up the GPGP, the organization has developed a passive system that works with ocean currents.

A floater with a screen beneath it gathers debris and directs it to a collection system. The collected plastic could be sold to recycling companies, and the profits would in turn help fund additional clean-up efforts.

Using this system, The Ocean Cleanup estimated it would take about five years to clean up half of the GPGP, although some scientists and oceanographers are skeptical that it will be successful. The first deployment is scheduled for the middle of this year.

“Since the [study] results indicate that the amount of hazardous microplastics is set to increase more than tenfold if left to fragment, the time to start is now,” Slat stated.

To learn more about The Ocean Cleanup and its progress on cleaning the GPGP, visit its website.

Take Action

  • Each of us can help reduce pollution by recycling plastic bags and other items and reducing the amount of plastic we use.
  • Participate in organized beach clean-up efforts like the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup every September. If you’re visiting a beach and see plastic or other litter, pick it up and recycle or discard it.
  • Plastic straws can be deadly to marine life when they end up in the ocean. Please sign this petition to reduce plastic straw waste in California, and if you live elsewhere, also urge your representatives to consider similar legislation.
Great Pacific Garbage Patch infographic

Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Photo credits: The Ocean Cleanup

77 comments

Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Thanks.

SEND
Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Thanks.

SEND
Peggy B
Peggy B2 months ago

TYFS

SEND
Marie W
Marie W9 months ago

Thanks!!

SEND
Danuta Watola
Danuta W11 months ago

Thanks for sharing

SEND
KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssuesabout a year ago

tfs

SEND
KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssuesabout a year ago

tfs

SEND
KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssuesabout a year ago

tfs

SEND
KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssuesabout a year ago

Tfs

SEND
KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssuesabout a year ago

Horrendous nightmare!
REVEALED: How the plastic industry KNEW 50 YEARS AGO it was causing a pollution crisis and hid it from the world. -
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5240389/Plastic-industry-hid-pollution-crisis-50-years.html
http://plastic-pollution.org/
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/28/a-million-a-minute-worlds-plastic-bottle-binge-as-dangerous-as-climate-change

SEND