In the Pacific Ocean, the “Great Pacific garbage patch”, a floating island of trash the size of France, has been found to have much more garbage than before. With 79,000-plus tons of plastic attached together, scientists and environmentalists are warning many about the oceans being smothered by trillions of pieces of trash.
According to Scientific Reports, this collection is at least 16 times bigger than the previous estimates. The two-year study has discovered that the liter in the “Great Pacific garbage patch,” as nicknamed is “increasing exponentially” with miniature plastics making the most of its 1.8trillion pieces floating in the Pacific.
According to Ocean Cleanup, the non-profit group who is leading the way to clean up the floating trash heap, the plastic is made up of fishing nets, bottles, plates, buoys, ropes, and other tools left astray. They state that the massive amount of plastic discovered proves the need for an international push on how to use of plastic safely and eco-friendly because it is getting worse.
While durable, plastic has been blamed for harming drinking water in rivers and lakes, estimating 8 million tons of it being dumped into the oceans yearly. Worse, large pieces of it has killed various marine animals and are on pace to outnumber them by 2050. Ocean Cleanup wants to get rid of half of it in the next five years and the rest in the next twenty.
This new project plan comes through a developed system of massive floating barriers of underwater screens that get the plastics in one setting so it can be taken out in one scoop. Their prototype, which will be unveiled this summer, seeks to collect five tons of waste per month.
However, the system does not capture mini plastics that are less than 10 millimeters in size and needs more funding for an enhanced version in the next few years. More concerning is the report from the UK government stating there will be an uptick of plastic production in these next few years that could offset any plastic picked up.
The good news is that the issue of plastic pollution is gaining importance with other countries as almost 200 countries supported the United Nations resolution last year that calls for the cleanup of pollution in the ocean.
The new report is considered a step forward in scientific understanding of garbage composition of the “Great Pacific garbage patch.” Again, though, many are still not totally satisfied because of the growing problem of mini plastics that are being found every year in the oceans.
For any use in stopping these mini pieces from doing its damage, scientists have called for radical policy changes by countries in how they use and recycle plastic from certain goods. To prevent the expansion of the floating island of rubbish and any other pieces that could find its way to the ocean, new, biodegradable alternatives need to be produced and used that can breakdown faster than regular plastic.