Billions of pieces of plastic float in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, putting the food chain in jeopardy.
A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports on Thursday, March 22, reports the existence of a vast 1.6 million sq km landfill floating in the Pacific between Hawaii and California. The finding is not new, but the extent of the damage far exceeds the estimates of previous studies.
They are billions of pieces of plastic floating in the Pacific. 80,000 tons of waste exactly. According to the study conducted by the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, the floating landfill is 4 to 16 times bigger than estimated in two previous studies.
It is not a compact mass however. The study found the each square kilometer contains no more than one kilogram of plastic. These are bags, bottles, packaging, abandoned fishing nets, but also microparticles.
While the nets kill many fish, turtles and marine mammals that get entangled in them, they are part of the large debris relatively easy to collect. The Ocean Cleanup Foundation is developing a system of floating barriers to catch these debris and thus gradually empty part of the landfill.
The microplastics, however, present a real puzzle. These harmful particles are ingested by fish and then enter the food chain. For now, there is no miracle solution to make them disappear. But to stop their exponential increase, say the authors of the study, we must radically change our way of life and current consumption and dispose responsible of our waste.