There are a total of five sub-tropical gyres (North Pacific, North Atlantic, South Pacific, South Atlantic, Indian Ocean). These five massive, slow rotating whirlpools accumulate marine debris and especially plastics which do not wear down; they simply break into tinier and tinier pieces, that will remain in the ocean for decades or longer.
The Great Pacific garbage patch was predicted in a 1988 paper published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States. The North Pacific Garbage Patch was discovered in 1997 by adventurer Charles Moore as he sailed back to California after competing in a yachting competition. Moore claimed to have come upon an enormous stretch of floating debris.
For many people, the idea of a “garbage patch” conjures up images of an island of trash floating on the ocean. In reality, these patches are not easily visible, because they consists of very small plastic particles suspended at or just below the surface that are almost invisible to the naked eye. It is impossible to detect the islands by aircraft or satellite. Instead, the size of the patch is determined by sampling. Estimates of size range from 700,000 square kilometres (about the size of Texas) to 10,000,000 square kilometres (about the size of Europe) to more than 15,000,000 square kilometres (about twice the size of the United States).
Ocean trash is counted in three ways: through beach surveys, computer models based on samples collected at sea, and estimates of the amount of trash entering the oceans. The most recent counts involved computer modeling based on samples taken at sea.
A team of scientists from the 5 gyres institute recently reported an estimate of the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world's oceans from 24 expeditions (2007–2013) across all five sub-tropical gyres, costal Australia, Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean Sea.
The impacts of plastic pollution through ingestion and entanglement of marine fauna, ranging from zooplankton to cetaceans, seabirds and marine reptiles, are well documented.
Adsorption of persistent organic pollutants onto plastic and their transfer into the tissues and organs through ingestion is impacting marine megafauna as well as lower trophic-level organisms and their predators.
Relatively large particles of plastic found especially in the marine environment (typically more than about 200 mm).
Washed out on our coasts in obvious and clearly visible form, the plastic pollution on our beaches is a sad and well documented fact of our times. Puffins, gulls, seabirds, sea turtles, seals and whales are among the creatures that swallow or become entangled in plastic bags and plastic objects.
Since 1997, 693 species of marine animals had some sort of interaction with human-made debris, with 17 percent of them listed with some degree of vulnerability to extinction on the IUCN Red List.
Plastic found in the stomachs of dead seabirds suggests the Pacific Ocean off the northwest coast of North America is more polluted than was realized. Scientists found that more than 90 percent of 67 fulmars (gull-like birds that breed in high-Arctic Canada and on islands in the Bering Sea) had ingested plastics such as twine, Styrofoam and candy wrappers. An average of 36.8 pieces of plastic were found per bird.
Small plastic particles that are generally smaller than 5 mm down to the micrometer range. Primary microplastics are manufactured and are a direct result of human material and product use (including cosmetics, cloth washing and industrial processes), while secondary microplastics are microscopic plastic fragments derived from the breakdown of larger plastic debris.
ON THE INGREDIENTS LIST:
In the ocean, sunlight and waves cause floating plastics to break into increasingly smaller particles, but they never completely disappear or biodegrade. Plastic particles act as sponges for waterborne contaminants such as pesticides.
Plastic was invented in the mid-1800s and has been mass produced since the end of World War II. In contrast, ocean garbage has been studied for slightly more than a decade. The oceanographic model assumes that amounts of plastic entering the ocean depend on three principal variables: watershed outfalls, population density and maritime activity.
Most of the things we buy use disposable plastic: packaging, cosmetics, straws- even fishing nets. Many plastics are designed to be used only once, leading to our landfills and beaches being awash in these single-use plastic.
The biggest contributor to this mass of ocean plastic is China, followed by Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The U.S. only ranks 20th as a source of ocean plastic, in large part due to its advanced garbage collection system. By estimation 80% of the plastic originates from land; floating in rivers to the ocean or blew by the wind into the ocean. The remaining 20% of the plastic originates from oil platforms and ships
The resulting item-by-item, location-by-location Ocean Trash Index that Ocean Conservancy compiles each year provides the only global snapshot of the marine debris littering coasts and waterways around the world. Many of the most commonly found pieces of trash include items we use every day from food wrappers to beverage containers to plastic bags.