The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of plastic, floating trash halfway between Hawaii and California, has grown to more than 600,000 square miles, a study published Thursday found. That's twice the size of Texas.
The world's largest collection of ocean garbage is growing.
First discovered in the early 1990s, the trash in the patch comes from around the Pacific Rim, including nations in Asia and North and South America, Lebreton said.
The patch is not a solid mass of plastic. It includes about 1.8 trillion pieces and weighs 88,000 tons — the equivalent of 500 jumbo jets. The new figures are as much as 16 times higher than previous estimates.
"We were surprised by the amount of large plastic objects we encountered,” said Julia Reisser of the foundation. “We used to think most of the debris consists of small fragments, but this new analysis shines a new light on the scope of the debris."
The research — the most complete study undertaken of the garbage patch — was published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports.
The study was based on a three-year mapping effort by an international team of scientists affiliated with the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, six universities and an aerial sensor company.
Sadly, the Pacific patch isn't alone. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest of five such trash collections in the ocean, Lebreton said.
No governments have stepped up to clean the trash, which is in international waters, so it's up to privately funded groups such as the Ocean Cleanup Foundation to take the lead in getting rid of the garbage.
Scientists work with the European Space Agency to take photos of the garbage patches from space.