Sad news from the sea: The world’s largest collection of ocean garbage, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is getting bigger. The colossal collection of floating plastic trash is located halfway between Hawaii and California. According to one study, the trash mass is now more than 600,000 square miles, or twice the size of Texas. The estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic now weigh some 88,000 tons, which is about the same as 500 jumbo jets, a mass anywhere from four to 16 times the previously estimated amount.
The study, which was published on Thursday, was led by author Laurent Lebreton of the non-profit group the Ocean Cleanup Foundation. As the study notes, winds and converging ocean currents direct the garbage to this particular location. The trash island was discovered in the early 1990s. Lebreton says that the garbage hails from countries around the Pacific Rim, as well as some in Asia and North and South America.
While the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest of its kind, it’s not the only one. There are five known floating heaps like it. Even worse, no governments are stepping in, as the masses are in international waters. So it’s only privately funded groups like the Ocean Cleanup Foundation that are making an effort to do something about the problem. Make no mistake, the situation is pretty dire. “It's a ticking time bomb of larger material,” said Joost Dubois, a spokesman with the foundation.”We've got to get it before it breaks down into a size that's too small to collect and also dangerous for marine life.”