A floating island of trash and plastic, officially dubbed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), is reportedly expanding in size at an unprecedented rate. According to newly published research in Scientific Reports posted just this Thursday, the giant garbage island has apparently reached over 600,000 square miles. The floating debris is estimated to weigh around 80,000 metric tons, which is roughly equivalent to 500 jumbo jets.
The garbage island, estimated to contain over 1.8 trillion pieces of trash, is currently floating in the deep ocean right between California and Hawaii. All of the trash is trapped near the surface of the ocean on the upper water column, brought together by the swirling currents of the North Pacific Gyre.
Scientist first brought up the growing pile of trash in October 2016 when a group of researchers from The Ocean Cleanup Foundation had surveyed the GPGP. The most recent study shows that the vortex of trash has actually doubled in size since 2016, and it is now twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France. Environmentalists have expressed their concern over the expanding island of trash, which some have called a “ticking time bomb” waiting to explode.
Floating between California and Hawaii, the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" is up to 16 times bigger than previously thought and growing "exponentially," a new study sayshttps://t.co/V0v4PWmU8I— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 23, 2018
Researchers have determined that the pile of trash is mostly comprised of plastic bottles, plastic bags, buoys, wood, and fishing nets that have stuck together. The GPGP also contains microscopic particles and other small fragments that could be even more damaging to the ocean’s aquatic wildlife.
As reported by Fox News, the plastic litter could eventually be very harmful to humans. Marine life and birds could ingest some forms of plastics that are toxic, which in turn could be eaten by humans. This could potentially lead to serious health problems down the road. The GPGP is particularly attractive to birds as plastics will collect algae, which will, in turn, attract birds and fish.
Scientists from the Ocean Cleanup program have already started working on a 2,000-foot-long device, which is being assembled at the former Alameda Naval Air Station, to help in cleaning up the plastic in the debris field. The non-profit organization has also called upon other environmental groups to help it remove trash from the GPGP.