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Great Pacific Garbage Patch Growing Rapidly, Study Shows

By The Ocean Cleanup — last modified Apr 10, 2018 08:11 AM
New analysis reveals the region contains as much as sixteen times more plastic than previously estimated, with pollution levels increasing exponentially.

Published: 2018-04-10 00:00:00
Topics: Environment , Pacific Crossing

Great Pacific Garbage Patch Growing Rapidly, Study Shows

Image from NOAA's National Ocean Service

Delft, the Netherlands, March 22, 2018 – 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 metric tons are currently afloat in an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – and it is rapidly getting worse. These are the main conclusions of a three year mapping effort conducted by an international team of scientists affiliated with The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, six universities and an aerial sensor company. Their findings were published today in the journal Scientific Reports.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), located halfway between Hawaii and California, is the largest accumulation zone for ocean plastics on Earth. Conventionally, researchers have used single, fine-meshed nets, typically less than a meter in size, in an attempt to quantify the problem. However, this method yields high uncertainty because of the small surface area that is covered. Additionally, these methods could not measure the magnitude of the problem to its fullest extent, because all sampling nets – small and large - were unable to capture objects greater than the size of the net.

In order to analyze the full extent of the GPGP, the team conducted the most comprehensive sampling effort of the GPGP to date by crossing the debris field with 30 vessels simultaneously, supplemented by two aircraft surveys. Although most vessels were equipped with standard surface sampling nets, the fleet’s mothership RV Ocean Starr also trawled two six-meter-wide devices, which allowed the team to sample medium to large-sized objects.

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