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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Plastic Garbage in the Ocean Has Disappeared

You know all those articles, ads and documentaries about the pollution of the ocean with plastic. Well, apparently they are not true. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

Cózar and his colleagues wanted to understand the size and extent of the ocean's garbage problem. The researchers circumnavigated the globe in a ship called the Malaspina in 2010, collecting surface water samples and measuring plastic concentrations. The team also analyzed data from several other expeditions, looking at a total of 3,070 samples. 
What they found was strange. Despite the drastic increase in plastic produced since the 1970s, the researchers estimated there were between 7,000 and 35,000 tons of plastic in the oceans. Based on crude calculations, there should have been millions of tons of garbage in the oceans. 
Because each large piece of plastic can break down into many additional, smaller pieces of plastic, the researchers expected to find more tiny pieces of debris. But the vast majority of the small plastic pieces, measuring less than 0.2 inches (5 millimeters) in size, were missing, Cózar said.
The researchers guess that the plastic may be breaking down into undetectable particles (something I've observed in my own garage recently when I discovered a trash bag had disintegrated into fine white flakes) and/or being sucked down into the deep ocean. In any event, the total amount of plastic in the oceans per this study is less than estimated to have reached the ocean every year during the 1970s.

Something is ridding the ocean of plastic debris faster than we can replace it.

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