The world is turning out to be a dirtier place. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), which is an enormous zone of an unending amount of plastic and trash floating between California and Hawaii, has gone bigger to assume a size three times that of France (247,368 square miles) and still growing, a report published in Scientific Reports said last October.
According to the study which took into consideration 1.2 million plastic samples retrieved from the trash swatch, at least 79,000 tons of plastic could be floating around in an area of over 617,000 square miles which 4-16 times bigger than that estimated previously.
"Historical data from surface net tows indicate that plastic pollution levels are increasing exponentially inside the GPGP [Great Pacific Garbage Patch], and at a faster rate than in surrounding waters," the authors of the study wrote. "While this does not necessarily mean that the GPGP is the final resting place for ocean plastic reaching this region, it provides evidence that the plastic mass inflow is greater than the outflow," the Scientific Reports study said.
It was in 1997 that Charles Moore, a marine scientist, went through the mess of plastic and other trash while returning home in Los Angeles. The infamous name of GPGP was later given by American oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer who is known for tracking ocean currents.
Though the GPGP has made its name in folklore as something which can be seen from the space or something called Trash Isles with Al Gore being signed up as its first citizen, the Scientific Reports' study makes the first attempt of taking a comprehensive look at the huge garbage floating in the water.
The patch doesn't only include discarded plastic bottles and fishing nets but even the debris from the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. But it is the high percentage of the abandoned fishing gear (46 per cent) in the trash which has surprised oceanographers.
"I knew there would be a lot of fishing gear, but 46 per cent was unexpectedly high," Laurent Lebreton, the lead author of the study and an oceanographer with the Ocean Cleanup, told National Geographic. The nettings and other plastic waste cause massive damage to the marine ecosystem by suffocating and injuring the marine life in a large number every year.
The study by Scientific Reports found support in another report done by Britain's Foresight Future of the Sea that said that plastic pollution in the ocean could increase three times by 2050 and that, along with the warming oceans and rising sea levels, pose grave threats to the marine life as well as the water bodies.