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05 Jan 2011: Size of Pacific Garbage Patch
Is ‘Grossly’ Exaggerated, New Study Says

Claims that a patch of plastic debris and other trash in the Pacific Ocean is twice the size of Texas are “grossly exaggerated” and misleading, according to a new study. Following a literature review and an expedition to better understand the abundance of plastic in the North Pacific, Oregon State University researcher Angelicque White concluded that the “cohesive” plastic patch is actually less than 1 percent of the size of Texas, contrary to other estimates about the extent of the so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” Related claims that the oceans contain more plastic than plankton, and that the patch has grown tenfold each decade since the 1950s, are also incorrect, White said. “There is no doubt that the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans is troubling, but this kind of exaggeration undermines the credibility of scientists,” White said. According to her findings, the amount of energy it would take to remove plastics from the ocean is about 250 times the energy that went into making the plastic itself. She also reported that the amount of plastic debris covering a swath of the ocean floor off the California coast is only about half the size of the fishing gear deployed in the same location.

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