A giant patch of garbage in the Pacific is twice the size of Texas

Posted at 12:19 PM, Mar 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-23 09:19:46-04

(RNN) – There is a giant collection of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean that is now larger than Alaska. Or twice the size of Texas.

And the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is growing, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

That’s 600,000 square miles of rubbish floating north of Hawaii and West of San Francisco, pushed together by the North Pacific Gyre – Earth’s largest system of ocean currents. As a point of reference, Alaska is 570,374 square miles and Texas is 261,914 square miles.

First noticed in the 1990s, the GPGP contains plastic and fishing nets and weighs 88,000 tons – equal to the weight of 500 jumbo jets, USA Today reports.

The patch is 16 times larger than previous estimates, according to the study, which was spearheaded by the nonprofit organization Ocean Cleanup Foundation.

Most of the GPGP is plastic of various forms – 79,000 tons of plastic. Most of the pieces of the patch are microplastics – but they only make up 8 percent of the mass. Fishing nets are 46 percent of the mass, and 20 percent is believed to have come from the 2011 Japanese tsunami.

Marine life is consuming the trash, affecting many ecosystems, concerning environmental groups like the Ocean Cleanup Foundation. As a result, humans could be affected by the contaminated fish they eat.

The scientists studying the GPGP are working with the European Space Agency to take photos of garbage from space.

A representative from the Ocean Cleanup Foundation told USA Today that there are five other garbage patches in the Pacific.

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