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Mapping a floating swath of plastic waste

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • During a recent survey off the coast of California, researchers were shocked by density and pervasiveness of small plastic particles floating just below the surface.
  • Out of more than a hundred samples in a recent expedition, not a single net returned without little plastic particles.
  • Scientists say that much of the debris comes from land, rather than from ships. Litter from up to hundreds of miles inland can come from places like cars or storm drains and end up in the ocean.

The center of the Pacific Gyre, an area of spiraling ocean currents, has accumulated large amounts of waste and debris that gets trapped by the large clockwise flow of water between North America and Japan.