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Just a year ago, scientists and ecologists from all across the world were looking for the solution to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Path but failed to find one. The thing is that the garbage patch was about the size of France, or at least we thought it was. And we were very wrong as the reality turned out to be even worse than we thought.
According to a three-year study published in the journal Scientific Reports, the garbage patch that floats somewhere between California and Hawaii has a size of two Texas, and two Texas are three Frances instead of one that we thought it was. Such outrageous mistake was possible because never before scientists used aircraft to get a full picture of the size of this floating-trash graveyard from above. So when the Ocean Cleanup team used a former military aircraft as a research plane and took some aerial images, it turned out that larger pieces of trash floating among the billions of tinier pieces.
It took three years for researchers to calculate that the garbage patch in the ocean covers 1.6 million square km and weights about 80, 000 tons – 16 times more than we thought. The worst thing is that there is a lot of floating plastic that breaks into “microplastics” (pieces between 0.05 centimeters to 0.5 cm in diameter) after a few years at sea. What is worse, the study showed that ocean plastic pollution is increasing exponentially. So if there is a right time to start solving the problem – it is now.
Thankfully there are people who are working hard to release the ocean from the garbage patch. The non-profit organization, known as The Ocean Cleanup, introduced a cleanup system that is aimed to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to just five years. It was developed by the group of more than 70 engineers, researchers, scientists and computer modelers and is set to be deployed in the middle of this year.
The founder of the Ocean Cleanup and the co-author of the study states that in order to be able to solve a problem, it is important to understand it. In other words, although it is a chance that the problem can be partly solved due to the hard work of The Ocean Cleanup group, it is important to face the urgency of dealing with the plastic pollution problem.