That’s the title of a new Washington Post article, written by Chris Mooney.
He explains, the results of a new study.
Seventy nine thousand tons of plastic debris, in the form of 1.8 trillion pieces,
now occupy an area three times the size of France in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. According to the researchers who assessed the current state of the region, known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” is “increasing exponentially.
While this phenomena is not new, the new survey estimates that the mass of plastic contained there is four to sixteen times larger than previously thought. It’s a large area with high volumes of plastics, one in which concentrations increase markedly as you move towards its center. The debris ranges from tiny flecks to enormous discarded fishing nets, which make up 46 percent of the material, the study found.
The study was led by the Ocean Cleanup Foundation and scientists from institutions in New Zealand, the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, and Denmark. The Ocean Cleanup Foundation released this image showing the size of the patch and also where the plastic becomes most dense. The plastic is probably mostly coming from Pacific countries, Lebreton said.
But it could be coming from anywhere since plastic now travels across the entirety of the ocean and has even shown up in Arctic waters, where very few humans live.
That suggests the plastic traveled there from elsewhere, riding the ocean currents. Some of the debris likely also came from the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan and washed large amounts of waste back out to sea, the study said.
The location of the patch is in a zone of slack currents where debris arrives and then lingers, naturally growing in the calm waters. The study finds that, based on prior examinations dating back to the 1970s, the amount of plastic in the patch is steadily growing as more flows in than flows out — saying that plastic levels are “increasing exponentially.”
A striking aspect of the findings was the discovery of large volume of fishing nets or so-called “ghostnets,” posing another damaging intrusion into this ecosstem for many organisms. A 2015 published study found that humans are filling the oceans with an estimated 8 million tons of plastic every year, and that is expected to increase 22 percent by 2025.
This means there is far less plastic accumulating in the Pacific patch than is going in the world oceans. This suggests that much plastic is sinking and doing its damage at the seafloor, or in lower depths of the ocean.
In this sense, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is, in the end, merely the most dramatic outward symptom of a far deeper problem of enormous volumes of human waste reaching places where it was never intended to be.
“The results are alarming, it really shows the urgency of this situation”.