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Asia Minute: Pacific Garbage Patch Swelling in Size and Weight

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There is more news today about what scientists have called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” A team of researchers has found that the mass of floating trash is even bigger than previously estimated. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Stunning news about that floating patch of garbage comes from a paper just published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Scientific Reports.

It’s based on the most comprehensive study yet on the size and composition of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

And according to the lead researcher, the amount of plastic in that gooey mass is growing “exponentially.” The overall size of the floating trash pile: now more than 600,000 miles. That’s twice the size of Texas, three times the size of France, and as much as 16 times the size of previous estimates.

The weight: some 88,000 tons. That’s the equivalent of 500 jumbo jets – or more than 43,000 cars.

By any measure, the floating mass between California and Hawaii is growing, and has more plastic in it than ever before—it’s the top component of the garbage patch by far.

Credit Justin Dolske / Flickr

A non-governmental agency called the Ocean Cleanup Foundation led the latest research.

Based in the Netherlands, the group’s top scientist says the size of the mass was also boosted by debris washed out to sea during the Japanese tsunami of 2011.

The Ocean Cleanup Foundation is raising money to develop technologies it says can clean up half of the mass of trash in five years.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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