Scientists have discovered a giant rubbish tip made up of plastic bottles, bottletops and toothbrushes floating in the Atlantic Ocean. Recent studies show that the oceans may hold more “garbage patches” of fine plastic flotsam than scientists realized and that the fragments extend well below the sea surface.
Swathes full of drifting plastic bits are especially common in a region of the Pacific Ocean southwest of California that is sometimes called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
However, the ocean currents that cause the Pacific gyre don’t just happen in the North Pacific.
Scientists at the Sea Education Association (SEA) just finished a two-decade-long study of the North Atlantic and found similarly sad results. Large swathes of the western North Atlantic also hold prodigious amounts of plastic debris. Just north of the Caribbean, a giant floating rubbish tip is made up of discarded plastic bottles, bottletops and toothbrushes.
Researchers said the dump has 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometre but it was impossible to measure the exact size of the patch as much of it floats beneath the surface.
The North Atlantic gyre that SEA studied also contains the Sargasso Sea, so the plastic is mixed up with the seaweed that grows there. Most depressingly, reports from the Pacific gyre indicate that fish are beginning to ingest the plastic as pieces get smaller and smaller.