Study: Garbage patch in the Pacific now twice the size of Texas - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Study: Garbage patch in the Pacific now twice the size of Texas — and growing

(Image: The Ocean Cleanup) (Image: The Ocean Cleanup)
(Image: The Ocean Cleanup) (Image: The Ocean Cleanup)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A new three-year mapping effort of the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch has discovered that the mass is significantly larger than previous estimates, containing as many as 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic and weighing nearly 80,000 metric tons. 

The study, conducted by researchers commissioned by The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, was released Thursday in the academic journal Scientific Reports. 

Scientists call the garbage patch, which is currently located about halfway between California and Hawaii, the 'largest accumulation zone for ocean plastics on Earth. Over the course of the survey, researchers measured the total size of the trash mass at more than 600,000 square miles – twice the size of Texas, and nearly three times the size of France. 

"We were surprised by the amount of large plastic objects we encountered," said Dr. Julia Reisser, chief scientist of the expedition. "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."

To get a more precise estimate of the scope of the garbage patch, researchers say they crossed the debris field with 30 vessels simultaneously, each equipped with surface sampling nets that collected plastic for testing purposes. Additionally, a C-130 aircraft was fitted with sensors that allowed it to "collect multispectral imagery and 3D scans of the ocean garbage."

The findings, according to the study, dramatically change our understanding of the mass' makeup. More than 75 percent of the total mass of the garbage patch is comprised of debris larger than 5 centimeters, which is the size threshold for items to be considered pieces of microplastic. The microplastics, however, account for an incredible 94 percent of the estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of debris floating in the area. 

The study also suggests that pollution of plastic debris in and around the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is growing exponentially — at a much faster rate than in surrounding waters. Virtually all of the trash that was sampled by researchers in the patch — 99.9 percent of the 1.1 million pieces collected by researchers during their trawls — was plastic-based.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved. 

  • Hawaii News Now headlinesNewsMore>>

  • The Latest: HHS says families won't be immediately reunited

    The Latest: HHS says families won't be immediately reunited

    Wednesday, June 20 2018 12:01 PM EDT2018-06-20 16:01:56 GMT
    Friday, June 22 2018 7:45 AM EDT2018-06-22 11:45:42 GMT
    (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File). FILE - In this Wednesday, June 13, 2018 file photo, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly session of PMQs at parliament in London. The British government is facing anoth...(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File). FILE - In this Wednesday, June 13, 2018 file photo, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly session of PMQs at parliament in London. The British government is facing anoth...
    British Prime Minister Theresa May says the United States is wrong to separate migrant children from their parents, but has rejected calls to cancel President Donald Trump's visit to Britain next month.More >>
    British Prime Minister Theresa May says the United States is wrong to separate migrant children from their parents, but has rejected calls to cancel President Donald Trump's visit to Britain next month.More >>
  • In reversal, Trump orders halt to his family separation rule

    In reversal, Trump orders halt to his family separation rule

    Wednesday, June 20 2018 11:21 AM EDT2018-06-20 15:21:21 GMT
    Friday, June 22 2018 7:45 AM EDT2018-06-22 11:45:19 GMT
    A boy stares out of a heavily tinted bus window leaving a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility Tuesday in McAllen, TX. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)A boy stares out of a heavily tinted bus window leaving a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility Tuesday in McAllen, TX. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

    Trump signs executive order to keep families together at border, says 'zero-tolerance' prosecution policy will continue.

    More >>

    Trump signs executive order to keep families together at border, says 'zero-tolerance' prosecution policy will continue.

    More >>
  • 'Papa! Papa!' Audio of children stokes rage over separation

    'Papa! Papa!' Audio of children stokes rage over separation

    Tuesday, June 19 2018 1:20 AM EDT2018-06-19 05:20:32 GMT
    Friday, June 22 2018 7:04 AM EDT2018-06-22 11:04:55 GMT
    (U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP). In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a U.S. Border Patrol agent watches as people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the...(U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP). In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a U.S. Border Patrol agent watches as people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the...
    An audio recording that appears to capture the heartbreaking cries of small Spanish-speaking children being processed by U.S. officials stoked the uproar over the policy of separating immigrant children from their...More >>
    An audio recording that appears to capture the heartbreaking cries of small Spanish-speaking children being processed by U.S. officials stoked the uproar over the policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.More >>
Powered by Frankly