More than 200,000kg of rubbish has been hauled out of the 1.6 million square kilometre Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP).
Video released on Wednesday to mark the milestone shows a giant sausage-like haul of plastic pulled from the ocean and dropped onto the deck of a ship. While many of us would suspect that plastic bags would make up the majority of the floating mess, it’s actually thicker plastic items that are the worst contributors.
Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit organisation working on the problem, revealed to Yahoo News Australia its workers hardly ever find plastic bags floating in the middle of the ocean because just a small amount of algae growth causes them to sink. That doesn’t mean they’re not a problem — millions are found on the seabed and around river mouths.
Another reason bags aren’t often found by ocean cleaners is they’re made from thin plastic material which is more readily affected by UV radiation, causing it to break down into tiny microplastics that are consumed by fish and other marine life.
Key facts about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The GPGP is two collections of debris floating between Japan and the USA
Most of the GPGP is made up of plastic
Garbage patches around the world settle in calm sections at the centre of ocean gyres
The GPGP is estimated to weigh 80,000 tonnes and contain 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic
What types of plastic are floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
Thicker items like milk crates, bottles and toothbrushes are more commonly found. But it’s large industrial fishing nets, used to catch the world’s insatiable hunger for wild fish, that are one of ocean’s biggest problems.
Its plastics are less dense than seawater and float, making them easily carried by currents that are the biggest problem. They belong to the polyolefin plastic family and include:
High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
While Ocean Cleanup is focused on retrieving rubbish from the ocean, it has one simple piece of advice that will make solving the issue faster and easier.
“Getting the plastic out of the ocean before it breaks down into microplastics is crucial,” a spokesperson said.
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