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Study Estimates 2,700 Tons of Plastic Garbage Floating in the Ocean

By | Environment | No Comments



Photo Credit: http://www.nydailynews.com/

Is there anything we can do about plastic pollution floating in the ocean?  A new study just released estimates that over 270,000 tons of plastic and other garbage is floating in the worlds Oceans.  To put this massive amount of trash into perspective, thats enough to fill 38,500 garbage trucks full.

PLOS One conducted the study estimating that more than 5 Trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the ocean.  Most plastic floats on the surface for a while before it breaks down into micro plastics, making it easy for researches to use nets and other tools to capture it.  The study could not estimate the amount of plastic that has beached, fallen to the sea floor, or been digested by marine life.  Therefore, these numbers are conservative and most likely only represent a fraction of the total plastic in our oceans.

A large portion of the plastic in the Pacific Ocean is concentrated in what is known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “Garbage Island.”  Once plastic debris enters the ocean, it tends to float with the natural flow of the ocean current.  In the Pacific Ocean we have North Pacific Gyre concentrating much of the plastic and micro plastics into one area.  Some experts have estimated that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is approximately the size of Texas.

Plastic pollution is harmful to marine life but can also effect the human population.  These plastics eventually break down into “micro-plastics” and then are swallowed by the smallest marine creatures such as zooplankton.  They then move up the food chain to cetaceans, seabirds, and other marine reptiles, until eventually making their way into our food chain.

Is there anything we could do?  Entrepreneurs from around the globe have been working on solutions to our plastic and garbage problem.  Boyan Slat developed a system to allow the oceans to clean themselves.  With the help of crowd funding systems, Boyan has been able to raise more than $2 million dollars for his idea.  The concept does not use boats or nets to capture the plastic particles.  Instead, the system would use long floating barriers, connected to fixed objects that would stay in one place.  As the current flows around the ocean these barriers would sift out, and capture the plastic without ensnaring wildlife.  This would then concentrate all the plastics in one place where it could easily be picked up and moved into landfills.  More information on Boyan’s passive collection concept can be found in the link below.

The Ocean Clean Up Project



Photo Credit: www.nydailynews.com
Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_garbage_patch