The breathtaking reminder of human pollution that sits between California and Hawaii is up to 16 times bigger than previously thought, according to a new scientific report.
Researchers at the Ocean Cleanup Foundation published findings Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports that should serve as a wake-up call: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly taking on the plastic we unwittingly send into the ocean.
The mass was first discovered in the 1990s and is now about three times the size of France, or 1.6 million square kilometers. It’s not a solid mass but is a concentration of about 79,000 metric tons of plastic that has been broken down to 1.8 trillion pieces.
Almost half of the plastic found are fishing nets and some items found dated back to 1977.
People around the world consume more than 320 million tons of plastic each year, of which a small amount is recycled. Unless humans take control of how its used and disposed of, we can expect the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to become an even bigger blight on the body of water Californians regularly enjoy.