The Great Pacific Plastic Garbage Patch Is Now Bigger Than Texas, Says Ocean Cleanup Foundation
The existence of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn't a secret, but it doesn't seem like it's common knowledge, either. That's pretty remarkable considering the GPGP consists of about 88,000 tons of floating trash and is currently three times larger than France, drifting between California and Hawaii.
According to new research published today by the Ocean Cleanup Foundation (which coordinated 16 international researchers to survey the Patch), the GPGP is not only growing—it's becoming a ticking time bomb for the world's oceans.
According to the Foundation's findings, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains around 1.8 trillion pieces of trash, a number which has increased exponentially since the 1970s.
The vast majority of it is plastic, made of Polyethylene and Polypropylene, and though plastic is notoriously long-lived, the Foundation has reported that the garbage patch is slowly breaking down. This might seem like a cause for celebration, but the reality is much less encouraging: the breakdown of this mass of plastic will mean that tiny particles of it will begin to fill the surrounding ocean, potentially turning the ocean into a "plastic soup."
The implications of microplastics on aquatic biology is still being studied, but scientists have already made some disturbing discoveries, including that many species of fish are mistaking the tiny pieces of plastic for food and eating them. This means plastic is starting to enter the food chain and infect the nutritional content of sea life, which could (at the very least) end up making sea life more dangerous for humans to eat.
The solution, the Ocean Cleanup Foundation says, is to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch before its larger pieces break down and become much more difficult to collect. This is easier said than done, however—the GPGP lies in international waters, and no government has volunteered to take responsibility for it. If action isn't taken soon, it seems the Patch will become everyone's problem.