According to a new study, the large accumulation of ocean trash in the Pacific Ocean known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has rapidly grown to twice the size of Texas. Composed of garbage, abandoned fishing gear, and nearly 80,000 metric tons of plastic, the floating isle of trash has expanded up to 16 times larger than expected.
Deploying 30 vessels simultaneously crossing the large debris field with sampling nets and two former military surveillance aircraft, The Ocean Cleanup Foundation spent several months mapping the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) located between California and Hawaii. According to their findings, microplastics make up 94 percent of an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the patch.
“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.”
Laurent Lebreton, lead author of the study, explained, “Although it is not possible to draw any firm conclusions on the persistency of plastic pollution in the GPGP yet, this plastic accumulation rate inside the GPGP, which was greater than in the surrounding waters, indicates that the inflow of plastic into the patch continues to exceed the outflow.”
On Thursday, Scientific Reports published their results which concluded that ocean plastic pollution within the GPGP is increasing exponentially and at a faster rate than in surrounding waters. Now considered twice the size of Texas, the GPGP is also three times the size of continental France.
According to a new report from Britain, Foresight Future of the Sea, plastic pollution in the ocean could triple by 2050 unless a “major response” is mounted to prevent plastic from reaching the ocean.
Boyan Slat, founder of The Ocean Cleanup and co-author of the study, noted, “To be able to solve a problem, we believe it is essential to first understand it. These results provide us with key data to develop and test our cleanup technology, but it also underlines the urgency of dealing with the plastic pollution problem. Since the 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.”