As per a new study published in Nature's Scientific Reports on March 22, 2018, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean, contains up to 16 times more waste than previously thought.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch now occupies an area three times the size of France in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii with 79000 tons of plastic debris in the form of 1.8 trillion pieces.
• Researchers conducted the surveys of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2015 and 2016 and estimated that 78200 tonnes of plastic waste are packed into an area. This figure has increased exponentially since the 1970s.
• Using a combination of drag netting and visual surveys from boats and an aeroplane, researchers estimated that the patch is 1.6 million square kilometres in area, which is almost the same size as Queensland, Australia.
• The study revealed that the fishing nets account for 46 per cent of the trash and the majority of the patch is composed of other fishing industry gear including ropes, oyster spacers, eel traps, crates and baskets.
• It is estimated that 20 per cent of the debris is from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.
• This floating plastic litter is troubling the marine life, it is ingested by marine organisms or entangles marine life.
Who conducted the Study?
• The study was led by the Ocean Cleanup Foundation and by researchers at institutions in New Zealand, the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Denmark.
• Laurent Lebreton, an oceanographer at the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, is the lead author of the Study.
Great Pacific Garbage Patch
• The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an accumulation of the marine debris or litter in the North Pacific Ocean.
• The Patch is also known as the Pacific trash vortex and spans from the West Coast of North America to Japan.
• The patch is comprised of the Western Garbage Patch located near Japan and the Eastern Garbage Patch located between the US States of Hawaii and California.
• The patch tends to gather the garbage as much of the trash is non-biodegradable. Plastics accumulated in the patch do not wear down, they simply break into tinier pieces, forming Microplastics.
• The patch was discovered in 1997 by Charles Moore, who had sailed through a mishmash of floating plastic bottles and other debris on his way home to Los Angeles.
• The patch is now being targeted by the Ocean Cleanup Foundation. The Foundation was set up by Dutch teenager Boyan Slat with an aim to clean the patch through USD 32 million cleanup campaign.