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Popular Science – The Great Pacific garbage patch now has a South Pacific cousin

Follow up to – Research – Humans produce almost 20,000 plastic bottles every second – the article by Kendra Pierre-Louis: “We are living in a plastic age,” Captain Charles Moore tells PopSci. “We’re ignorant of its dangers, and we haven’t learned properly to fear or to respect it.” Moore, the founder and research director of the Algalita Marine Research and Education Foundation, is fresh off of a six-month excursion investigating plastic pollution in the South Pacific. He found that the waters in the South Pacific Gyre—a remote location that begins some 3,800 miles east of Latin America—are currently choked with plastic. That our waste has such a strong presence is disheartening, but not wholly surprising. A recent study found that since the 1950s humans have made 9.1 billion tons of plastic; equivalent to the weight of 93,000 of the world’s heaviest aircraft carriers. But this new garbage patch shows just how far we’ll have to go to clean up our act. Moore estimates that the new patch could cover one million square kilometers, making it 1.5 times bigger than the state of Texas, but the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration cautions that the sizes of these patches can’t be determined with scientific rigor. Gyres are large systems of circulating ocean currents, kind of like slow-moving whirlpools. Though the oceans are home to many gyres, there are five—the North Atlantic Gyre, the South Atlantic Gyre, the North Pacific Gyre, the South Pacific Gyre, and the Indian Ocean Gyre—that have a significant impact on the ocean. The big five help drive the so-called oceanic conveyor belt that helps circulate ocean waters around the globe. But in doing so, they also draw in the pollution that we release in coastal areas….”

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