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Posted Mon Jan 30 2012: from Earth Magazine:
Tracking plastic in the oceans
Despite worldwide efforts to curtail plastic use -- to ban plastic grocery bags, to switch to reusable water bottles instead of disposable plastic bottles, and to get rid of the microplastics in cosmetics, for example -- we still produce more than 260 million tons of plastic each year. Almost a third of that plastic goes into disposable, one-time-use items. Only about 1 percent of it is recycled globally, so much ends up in landfills. Worse still, some of the plastic winds up in the world's oceans. No one knows exactly how much plastic is in the ocean. Studies over the past few decades have suggested that millions of square kilometers of ocean surface may be covered with floating garbage "patches." And there are at least five known patches: three in the Pacific, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that floats near Hawaii, a patch near Baja California, and one near Chile; and two in the Atlantic, including one in the North Atlantic near Bermuda and one between South America and South Africa. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is perhaps the best known, estimated by some researchers to be roughly the size of Texas.
[Read more stories about: plastic gyre, plastic problems, toxic buildup]
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