Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Sixteen times more plastic than previously estimated

  • 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.

March 22, 2018 The Ocean Cleanup  see ScienceDaily article here

Video explanation:


….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.

…The results, published today in Scientific Reports, reveal that the GPGP, defined as the area with more than 10 kg of plastic per km2, measures 1.6 million square kilometers, three times the size of continental France. Accumulated in this area are 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing 80,000 metric tons, the equivalent of 500 Jumbo Jets. These figures are four to sixteen times higher than previous estimates. 92% of the mass is represented by larger objects; while only 8% of the mass is contained in microplastics, defined as pieces smaller than 5 mm in size.

“We were surprised by the amount of large plastic objects we encountered,” said Dr. Julia Reisser, Chief Scientist of the expeditions. “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.”…

L. Lebreton, B. Slat, F. Ferrari, B. Sainte-Rose, J. Aitken, R. Marthouse, S. Hajbane, S. Cunsolo, A. Schwarz, A. Levivier, K. Noble, P. Debeljak, H. Maral, R. Schoeneich-Argent, R. Brambini, J. Reisser. Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic. Scientific Reports, 2018; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-22939-w

New analysis reveals the Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains as much as sixteen times more plastic than previously estimated, with pollution levels increasing exponentially.
Credit: Image courtesy of The Ocean Cleanup