You may have heard there’s a lot of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean. Some have referred to the phenomenon as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or described it as a huge floating island of trash the size of Texas. It’s true that the concentration of this debris is higher inside than outside the North Pacific Gyre, a large system of rotating ocean currents in the northern Pacific. But the reality is that the plastic pollution is more diffuse. Nobody has mapped the true boundaries of the trash, and it is not necessarily constrained to the gyre. What’s more, this isn’t a bunch of milk cartons, soda bottles and beer coolers lost during fishing trips—the majority of the debris is made up of tiny pieces that measure in millimeters, the remains of larger objects broken down by the ocean environment. In other words, it’s much more of a plastic soup than a plastic island. And it turns out there is a rather huge helping in the Atlantic Ocean, too.
This is an excerpt from an article written by: Mike Orcutt for Popular Mechanics | August 19, 2010