A picture of a sample jar containing examples of the tiny pieces of plastic polluting the Pacific Ocean. The Algalita Marine Research Foundation studies and educates the public about the effects of oceanic micro-plastic pollution on the ocean's ecosystem and marine life.
Photo: UniversalImagesGroup/UIG via Getty Images
Photo: UniversalImagesGroup/UIG via Getty Images

New garbage patch full of tiny pieces of plastic found in South Pacific

A huge section of the South Pacific Ocean, 1.5 times the size of Texas, is covered in tiny pieces of plastic smaller than grains of rice.

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A team of scientists, led by Algalita Marine Research and Education scientist Charles Moore, made the discovery during a six month expedition to the remote area. 

Unlike the more well-known garbage gyre in the North Pacific, scientists had not studied the more remote areas in the South Pacific.  

“We discovered tremendous quantities of plastic,” Moore said, in an area possibly “as large as 965,000 square miles.”

“My initial impression is that our samples compared to what we were seeing in the North Pacific in 2007, so it’s about ten years behind,” he said.

Utrecht University oceanographer Erik van Sebille has started a project to track the plastic and how it’s distributed in the oceans.

Once the plastic particles get caught up in the ocean currents, or gyres, it’s almost impossible to clean up, according to van Sebille, who said the best hope is to prevent the pollution in the first place.

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“Gone are the silly notions that you can put nets in the ocean and solve the problem,” Erikson told ResearchGate. “This cloud of microplastics extends both vertically and horizontally. It’s more like smog than a patch. We’re making tremendous progress to clean up smog over our cities by stopping the source. We have to do the same for our seas.”

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