Study: Great Pacific Garbage Patch now three times the size of France
Researchers have known since 1997 that a massive patch of garbage has been swirling around in the Pacific Ocean. A new study shows that the patch has grown far faster than expected.
Where does a plastic straw go after someone litters it on the sidewalk?
Often, that piece of plastic will make its way down a storm drain, then into a creek, a river, and finally into the ocean where, in many cases, currents carry it to where billions of other plastic pieces end up: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area of concentrated trash between California and Hawaii that spans three times the size of France.
The garbage patch was first discovered in 1997 when oceanographer Charles Moore and his crew sailed through it in one of the most remote regions of the Pacific Ocean.
“It seemed unbelievable,” Moore wrote in Natural History. “But I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments.”
A three-year study published Friday in Science Reports shows that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is larger, growing faster, and has different characteristics than researchers previously thought. Most notably, the results showed that the patch takes up about 1 million square miles – four to sixteen times larger than previous estimates. Worse, it appears to be growing exponentially.
The study, which was conducted by The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, six universities, and an aerial sensor company, used aircraft surveys and 30 ships to study the size and characteristics of the garbage patch. They collected a total of 1.2 million plastic samples and scanned about 186,000 square miles of ocean surface.
The plastic samples they collected were diverse. A total of 50 items had readable production dates, ranging from the 1970s to 2010, and 386 items contained readable words in nine different languages: one third Chinese, one third Japanese, and the rest spread across other languages.
The researchers think that almost half of the 80,000 metric tons of garbage came from discarded fishing nets, while 20 percent was debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Microplastics, defined as those between 0.05–0.5 cm, made up 8 percent of the mass.
“We were surprised by the amount of large plastic objects we encountered,” Chief Scientist Julia Reisser said in a statement. “We used to think most of the debris consists of small fragments, but this new analysis shines a new light on the scope of the debris.”
Trash enters the ocean in a variety of ways: storm drains, litter on beaches, improper or illegal trash disposal, waste from ships, lost or discarded fishing gear, and debris that’s carried into the ocean during natural disasters.
Large plastic items discarded into the ocean can break down into microplastics, posing a threat to marine life, which can mistake plastic fragments for food. But debris of all sizes poses hazards for the world’s ocean life.
Map of the GPGP used in the study
The Ocean Cleanup Foundation has plans to start reducing the garbage patch in 2018 with large floating structures that it says could remove about half of the garbage within five years. Still, not everyone is convinced the plan is feasible.
Either way, there’s steps everyone can take to slow the growth of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
“Plastic pollution in the ocean is visible and trackable,” Britta Denise Hardesty, a principal research scientist for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia, told CNN. “We can definitely make a difference in how we vote with our pocketbook and think about each decision we make, whether we take our own bags to the supermarkets, refuse straws, bring our own coffee cups, accept single-use items or think about mindful alternatives.”
The new version's battery has a shorter range and a price $4,000 lower than the previous starting price.
- Tesla's new version of the Model 3 costs $45,000 and can travel 260 miles on one charge.
- The Model 3 is the best-selling luxury car in the U.S.
- Tesla still has yet to introduce a fully self-driving car, even though it once offered the capability as an option to be installed at a future date.
What makes an excellent educator?
- When it comes to educating, says Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, a brave failure is preferable to timid success.
- Fostering an environment where one isn't afraid to fail is tantamount to learning.
- Human beings are complicated and flawed. Working with those complications and flaws leads to true knowledge.
Drinking home alone in your underwear just might be what you need to be as relaxed as the Finnish.
- Päntsdrunk is the latest trend to come out of Scandinavia and it involves drinking alone at home.
- Finnish writer Miska Rantanen outlines the philosophy in his newest book titled: Pantsdrunk: Kalsarikanni: The Finnish Path to Relaxation.
- Kalsarikänni is a word in Finnish that literally means "drinking at home and alone in your underwear."
We all know sleeping with your ex is a bad idea, or is it?
- In the first study of its kind, researchers have found sex with an ex didn't prevent people from getting over their relationship.
- Instead of feeling worse about their breakup after a hookup, the new singles who attempted sexual contact with their ex reported feeling better afterwards.
- The findings suggest that not every piece of relationship advice is to be taken at face value.
It's hard to imagine such a number. But these images will help you try.
The Mega Millions lottery just passed $1 billion for tonight's drawing.
What does that even look like, when represented by various currencies?
It takes just 6 numbers to win. You can only, however, purchase tickets up until 10:45 ET tonight.
"It's about having employees that are empowered."
Denmark may be the birthplace of the Lego tower, but its workplace hierarchy is the flattest in the world.
According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2018, the nation tops an index measuring "willingness to delegate authority" at work, beating 139 other countries.
Want a happy, satisfying relationship? Psychologists say the best way is to learn to take a joke.
- New research looks at how partners' attitudes toward humor affects the overall quality of a relationship.
- Out of the three basic types of people, people who love to be laughed at made for better partners.
- Fine-tuning your sense of humor might be the secret to a healthy, happy, and committed relationship.
Tiny and efficient, these biodegradable single cells show promise as a way to target hard-to-reach cancers.
- Scientists in Germany have found a potential improvement on the idea of bacteria delivering medicine.
- This kind of microtargeting could be useful in cancer treatments.
- The microswimmers are biodegradable and easy to produce.
Metin Sitti and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Germany recently demonstrated that tiny drugs could be attached to individual algae cells and that those algae cells could then be directed through body-like fluid by a magnetic field.
The results were recently published in Advanced Materials, and the paper as a whole offers up a striking portrait of precision and usefulness, perhaps loosely comparable in overall quality to recent work done by The Yale Quantum Institute. It begins by noting that medicine has been attached to bacteria cells before, but bacteria can multiply and end up causing more harm than good.
A potential solution to the problem seems to have been found in an algal cell: the intended object of delivery is given a different electrical charge than the algal cell, which helps attach the object to the cell. The movement of the algae was then tested in 2D and 3D. (The study calls this cell a 'microswimmer.') It would later be found that "3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers increased more than twofold compared to their 2D mean swimming speed." The study continues —
More interestingly, 3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers in the presence of a uniform magnetic field in the x-direction was approximately threefolds higher than their 2D mean swimming speed.
After the 2D and 3D speed of the algal was examined, it was then tested in something made to approximate human fluid, including what they call 'human tubal fluid' (think of the fallopian tubes), plasma, and blood. They then moved to test the compatibility of the microswimmer with cervical cancer cells, ovarian cancer cells, and healthy cells. They found that the microswimmer didn't follow the path of bacteria cells and create something toxic.
The next logical steps from the study include testing this inside a living organism in order to assess the safety of the procedure. Potential future research could include examining how effective this method of drug delivery could be in targeting "diseases in deep body locations," as in, the reproductive and gastrointestinal tracts.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.