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Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic

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      Abstract

      Ocean plastic can persist in sea surface waters, eventually accumulating in remote areas of the world’s oceans. Here we characterise and quantify a major ocean plastic accumulation zone formed in subtropical waters between California and Hawaii: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). Our model, calibrated with data from multi-vessel and aircraft surveys, predicted at least 79 (45–129) thousand tonnes of ocean plastic are floating inside an area of 1.6 million km 2; a figure four to sixteen times higher than previously reported. We explain this difference through the use of more robust methods to quantify larger debris. Over three-quarters of the GPGP mass was carried by debris larger than 5 cm and at least 46% was comprised of fishing nets. Microplastics accounted for 8% of the total mass but 94% of the estimated 1.8 (1.1–3.6) trillion pieces floating in the area. Plastic collected during our study has specific characteristics such as small surface-to-volume ratio, indicating that only certain types of debris have the capacity to persist and accumulate at the surface of the GPGP. Finally, our results suggest that ocean plastic pollution within the GPGP is increasing exponentially and at a faster rate than in surrounding waters.

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      Most cited references 49

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      The NCEP/NCAR 40-Year Reanalysis Project

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        A global map of human impact on marine ecosystems.

        The management and conservation of the world's oceans require synthesis of spatial data on the distribution and intensity of human activities and the overlap of their impacts on marine ecosystems. We developed an ecosystem-specific, multiscale spatial model to synthesize 17 global data sets of anthropogenic drivers of ecological change for 20 marine ecosystems. Our analysis indicates that no area is unaffected by human influence and that a large fraction (41%) is strongly affected by multiple drivers. However, large areas of relatively little human impact remain, particularly near the poles. The analytical process and resulting maps provide flexible tools for regional and global efforts to allocate conservation resources; to implement ecosystem-based management; and to inform marine spatial planning, education, and basic research.
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          Marine pollution. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean.

          Plastic debris in the marine environment is widely documented, but the quantity of plastic entering the ocean from waste generated on land is unknown. By linking worldwide data on solid waste, population density, and economic status, we estimated the mass of land-based plastic waste entering the ocean. We calculate that 275 million metric tons (MT) of plastic waste was generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7 million MT entering the ocean. Population size and the quality of waste management systems largely determine which countries contribute the greatest mass of uncaptured waste available to become plastic marine debris. Without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste available to enter the ocean from land is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, Martinus Nijhofflaan 2, Delft, 2624 ES The Netherlands
            [2 ]The Modelling House, 66b Upper Wainui Road, Raglan, 3297 New Zealand
            [3 ]Teledyne Optech, Inc., 7225 Stennis Airport Road, Kiln, MS 39556 USA
            [4 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0728 6636, GRID grid.4701.2, School of Civil Engineering and Surveying, Faculty of Technology, , University of Portsmouth, Portland Building, ; Portland Street, Portsmouth, PO1 3AH UK
            [5 ]ISNI 0000 0000 9561 4638, GRID grid.262627.5, Department of Biology, , Marine Biology and Environmental Science, Roger Williams University, ; 1 Old Ferry Road, Bristol, RI 02809 USA
            [6 ]Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, CNRS, Laboratoire d’Océanographie Microbienne (LOMIC), Observatoire Océanologique, F-66650 Banyuls/mer, France
            [7 ]ISNI 0000000123222966, GRID grid.6936.a, Department of Civil, Geo and Environmental Engineering, , Technical University Munich, Arcisstraße 21, ; Munich, 80333 Germany
            [8 ]ISNI 0000 0001 1009 3608, GRID grid.5560.6, ICBM-Terramare, , Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, ; Schleusenstr. 1, Wilhelmshaven, 26382 Germany
            [9 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0742 471X, GRID grid.5117.2, Civil Engineering Department, , Aalborg University, ; Fredrik Bajers Vei 5, Aalborg, 9100 Denmark
            Contributors
            laurent.lebreton@theoceancleanup.com
            Journal
            Sci Rep
            Sci Rep
            Scientific Reports
            Nature Publishing Group UK (London )
            2045-2322
            22 March 2018
            22 March 2018
            2018
            : 8
            29568057 5864935 22939 10.1038/s41598-018-22939-w
            © The Author(s) 2018

            Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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