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The biggest accumulation of ocean plastic on Earth is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Unfortunately, like things were not bad enough that we have such a thing, a new study claims that the debris it contains is more than they previously thought. The journal Nature Scientific Reports recently published this paper that actually contains the most comprehensive survey of the area. It is located between California and Hawaii and contains about 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that weight about 80,000 tones.
The worst part is that this is between four and 16 times more debris than experts previously believed. In order to reach these results, teams of scientists dragged nets over hundreds of miles across the ocean’s surface. They collected 1.2 million plastic pieces. At the same time, a C-130 Hercules aircraft equipped with special camera sensors scanned the area over two separate flights. The results were shocking. The garbage patch is as large as 1.6 million square kilometers, meaning three times the size of France.
The situation is a lot worse than previously thought
According to Doctor Laurent Lebreton, the lead author of the study, it’s extremely frightening when you find such large quantities of plastic so far from land. The patch contains everything from kitchen objects to fishing gear. The debris and the nets usually have lots of dead fish around, meaning that they cause a lot of harm.
Actually, fifty of the items the teams recovered had production dates that were still visible. The oldest such object dated from back in 1977. Lebreton also explains that plastic usually disappears from the ocean’s surface in time. The marine life either ingests these objects or they suffer degradation. However, the problem we have now is that the influx of plastic is much larger than the outflux, which happens naturally. The ocean will no longer be capable of getting rid of these objects.
Now, The Ocean Cleanup Foundation is planning to use an artificial coastline to collect the debris from the garbage patch, later this year.
Image source: flickr