The great Pacific garbage patch may be 16 times as massive as we thought | Science News

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The great Pacific garbage patch may be 16 times as massive as we thought

New estimates put greater weight on larger plastics

By
10:00am, March 22, 2018
fishing net washed ashore

THINGAMABOBS  Fishing nets and ropes make up 47 percent of the plastic mass in the Pacific Ocean’s notorious garbage patch, a new study suggests.

We’re going to need a bigger trash can.

A pooling of plastic waste floating in the ocean between California and Hawaii contains at least 79,000 tons of material spread over 1.6 million square kilometers, researchers report March 22 in Scientific Reports. That’s the equivalent to the mass of more than 6,500 school buses. Known as the great Pacific garbage patch, the hoard is four to 16 times as heavy as past estimates.

About 1.8 trillion plastic pieces make up the garbage patch, the scientists estimate. Particles smaller than half a centimeter, called microplastics, account for 94 percent of the pieces, but only 8 percent of the overall mass. In contrast, large (5 to 50 centimeters) and extra-large (bigger than 50 centimeters) pieces made up 25 percent and 53 percent of the estimated patch mass.

Much of the plastic in the patch comes from humans’ ocean activities, such

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