I was surprised to talk to a bunch of people today and find out they didn’t know about this, so I figured this is definitely something worth knowing. Here’s the deal.


There’s a whole lot of garbage floating around; a whole lot ! Some are above the surface, some are below. What happens is they get sucked in by oceanic currents, and tangle up with other garbage (mostly plastic). But you shouldn’t think only about bottles and such; most of the times, the plastic particles are hard to see even from a boat, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous – on the contrary. It’s been proved that albatross and other sea creatures ingest way more plastic this way. The total amount of ‘plastic soup’ is hard to quantify, varying from twice the size of Texas (or France) to twice the size of the USA. It’s also expanding – fast. Stretching from Hawaii to Japan the biggest such patch is estimated to weigh around 100 million tons, according to American oceanographer Charles Moore, who also explains:

“The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States.”


There’s also a missconception that it has well defined borders, like an island. There’s just a gradient of particle density, with most particles being as big as 1-3 mm. According to wikipedia, 80% is a result of terrestrial pollution, and the 20% left comes from ships. As you probably guessed, any effort towards cleaning the area is not going to happen any time soon, as it would require massive efforts and collaborations, and an estimated (very rough) cost of 10 billion dollars. No nation has made a step forward in taking responsability, and I can’t see anyone doing this in the near future.

“At this point, cleaning it up isn’t an option. It’s just going to get bigger as our reliance on plastics continues. … The long-term solution is to stop producing as much plastic products at home and change our consumption habits.”, said Chris Parry, public education program manager with the California Coastal Commission in San Francisco.

The effects are hard to estimate, varying from extremely harmful to catastrophic. Without even taking into consideration the long term effects and what will happen when it becomes even bigger (which quite frankly, won’t take that long if things continue to move the way they have), the short and medium term effects are devastating. Marine animals and birds ingest plastic which just doesn’t go away from their stomach. Eventually, it starts filling it up, and if it’s not toxic, and kills them, it fills their stomach and basically causes the animals to starve to death – a quite painful and tragic death. It can be harmful even for humans because we too eat the animals which ingest the plastic.


In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t think there’s anything you can do to help clean the patch up (even if you wanted to). But you can limit it’s ever growing size, as well as the size of land garbage. Just do the basic stuff:

– Limit your use of plastic whenever possible. Take your canvas bags to the supermarket or just don’t take plastic bags whenever possible.

– Throw your garbage where it should belong; don’t leave it on the beach or on the street or whatever.

– Tell other people. Make it spread. Many people don’t care about this at all; but many do, and they just need a small push to act. Be that push !

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Copyright 2010 ZME Science

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  1. 3

    I don’t think people realize just how important alternative energy and solar energy in particular is. Just wanted to say thanks for posting this.

  2. 6

    So this “Island” is twice as big as Texas but we’re unable to see it from the sky. It’s also somewhere in the North Pacific Gyro, but now one can pin point it’s exact location….. Hmmm sure sounds like B.S. too me.

  3. 7

    Freddy, I think you misunderstood the article. The ‘island’ isn’t an actual mass floating in the ocean, it is a concept that illustrates the vast volume of plastic trash that is floating in the ocean – and IF it were to congeal into a singular body, it would be huge.

  4. 8
  5. 9

    We have our own garbage island called “Thilafushi ” in the Maldives .. And it is a big problem now

  6. 10

    Thank you for sharing valuable information. Nice post. I enjoyed reading this post. The whole blog is very nice found some good stuff and good information here,Thanks..Also visit my page life sciences . Recruitment & Executive Search Consultancy..

  7. 11

    How am I supposed to read this article on my smartphone with those share icons blocking the words?

  8. 12

    Instead of throwing up your hands and saying “nothing can be done about this”
    , check out this article about Boyan Slat, a Dutch former aerospace engineering student, said his plastic-capturing concept that can clean half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in a decade. http://truththeory.com/2015/04/08/20-year-old-claims-he-can-rid-the-worlds-oceans-of-plastic/

  9. 14

    The title says –

    “there’s a garbage island twice as big as France”

    Then to illustrate it we have a picture of a man on a litter strewn beach;

    but its a deception…so why would you expect anyone to believe the rest of the artical ??

    There’s enough facts about plastic in the ocean to get people involved without sexing it up & driving people away with lies.

  10. 15

    First of all, your title and the picture are deceiving. This article is a great example of the tremendous amount of people offering "content" on the internet without actually offering anything. Nice. Also, at least don't be so lazy and try to come up with some sort of solution to offer at the end of your half-assed article. A quick Google search would let you know that there are people doing things about this while you sit around and write shitty articles. http://www.oceanaero.us/ Take F.R.E.D. for example, which stands for Floating Robot for Eliminating Debri. Get a life dude.

  11. 16

    The problem is then you'd have to collect it first. Which frankly if all this garbage had been collected in the first place it would have been disposed of either as landfill or recycled or otherwise where it was at, and we wouldn't have it out in the middle of the ocean.

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