Where is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located?
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. Also known as the Pacific trash vortex, the garbage patch is actually two distinct collections of debris bounded by the massive North Pacific Subtropical Gyre.
Marine debris is litter that ends up in oceans, seas, and other large bodies of water. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch spans waters from the West Coast of North America to Japan.
It is estimated that 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers. More than half of this plastic is less dense than the water, meaning that it will not sink once it encounters the sea.
Stronger plastics show resiliency in the marine environment, allowing them to be transported over extended distances. Once these plastics enter the system they are unlikely to leave the area until they degrade into smaller microplastics under the effects of sun, waves and marine life. As more and more plastics and chemicals are discarded into the environment, microplastic concentration in the GPGP will only continue to increase.
The GPGP covers an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France. GPGP was estimated to be approximately 80,000 tonnes, which is 4-16 times more than previous calculations, as of 2019. This weight is also equivalent to that of 500 Jumbo Jets and can be seen from outer space.