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'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' Far Bigger Than Imagined, Aerial Survey Shows (theguardian.com) 220

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The vast patch of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean is far worse than previously thought, with an aerial survey finding a much larger mass of fishing nets, plastic containers and other discarded items than imagined. A reconnaissance flight taken in a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft found a vast clump of mainly plastic waste at the northern edge of what is known as the "great Pacific garbage patch," located between Hawaii and California. The density of rubbish was several times higher than the Ocean Cleanup, a foundation part-funded by the Dutch government to rid the oceans of plastics, expected to find even at the heart of the patch, where most of the waste is concentrated. The heart of the garbage patch is thought to be around 1m sq km (386,000 sq miles), with the periphery spanning a further 3.5m sq km (1,351,000 sq miles). The dimensions of this morass of waste are continually morphing, caught in one of the ocean's huge rotating currents. The north Pacific gyre has accumulated a soup of plastic waste, including large items and smaller broken-down micro plastics that can be eaten by fish and enter the food chain. Following a further aerial survey through the heart of the patch on Sunday, the Ocean Cleanup aims to tackle the problem through a gigantic V-shaped boom, which would use sea currents to funnel floating rubbish into a cone. A prototype of the vulcanized rubber barrier will be tested next year, with a full-sized 100km (62-mile) barrier deployed by 2020 if trials go well. "Normally when you do an aerial survey of dolphins or whales, you make a sighting and record it," said Boyan Slat, the founder of the Ocean Cleanup. "That was the plan for this survey. But when we opened the door and we saw the debris everywhere. Ever half second you see something. So we had to take snapshots -- it was impossible to record everything. It was bizarre to see that much garbage in what should be pristine ocean."
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'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' Far Bigger Than Imagined, Aerial Survey Shows

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  • But... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 )
    Wouldn't a huge sieve designed to strain out the plastic catch everything else as well? Like, you know, fish and seabirds and other critters?
    • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by BlueLightning ( 442320 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2016 @12:17AM (#53015427) Homepage Journal

      Wouldn't a huge sieve designed to strain out the plastic catch everything else as well? Like, you know, fish and seabirds and other critters?

      Having read the FAQ on the Ocean Cleanup website, what they are proposing is not a seive, more of a barrier - it's intending to collect the larger floating pieces, not the smaller ones.

    • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

      by No Longer an AC ( 4611353 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2016 @12:37AM (#53015467) Journal

      That was what I was wondering too but it's not going through a sieve.

      From the Ocean Cleanup site: https://www.theoceancleanup.co... [theoceancleanup.com]

      Building an artificial coastline in the center of the Garbage Patch.

      Instead of using nets, The Ocean Cleanup uses solid screens which catches the floating plastic, but allows sea life to pass underneath the barrier with the current.

      It's all detailed there, but basically the current goes around in a big circle, they build the "artificial coastline", funnel it to a central point and collect it.

      • ...than their webpage.

        Most of useful... no... ALL of the useful info on it is textual.
        Yet it features 2 megabyte .jpeg headers and images of similar file size scaled down to 1/8th of their pixel dimensions - like a 5000 by 3333 pixel image scaled down to a 660 by 440 display size.
        And then there's a 20 (TWENTY) megabyte .gif of a diagram of a floating ball.

        For a moment there it felt like I was using dial-up again.

        • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

          Your numbers are trumped-up.
          There largest file is 854KB at 1920x1280, scaled down to about 70% on my 1920x1080 screen. It's probably scaled up on a high-resolution screen.
          The entire frontpage combined is slightly below 4MB.
          For comparison, Apple's frontpage is 6MB.

          • I never said "frontpage".
            Which at 4 megabytes would be INSANELY HUGE.
            Even at 3.37 megabytes it's still insane.
            BTW, Apple is a "mere" 1.14 megabytes, which is tiny in comparison.

            But do feel free to enjoy the wonders of this [theoceancleanup.com] scaled down to 660 by 440 pixels while this [theoceancleanup.com] keeps loading and loading and loading...
            If they're gonna have a 3-30 MB page where all actual info is text... why not just put up a pdf? Preferably a high resolution one, so it's even bigger.

            Without images their "frontpage" is actually ~400 kilo

    • Wouldn't a huge sieve designed to strain out the plastic catch everything else as well? Like, you know, fish and seabirds and other critters?

      Yes, but in the garbage patch, they are probably dead already.

      Humanity is like a dog that shits on his dinner plate.

  • but - (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 04, 2016 @11:38PM (#53015305)

    "there is no island of trash in the pacific"

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_next_20/2016/09/the_great_pacific_garbage_patch_was_the_myth_we_needed_to_save_our_oceans.html

    • Re:but - (Score:5, Funny)

      by lucm ( 889690 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2016 @11:47PM (#53015335)

      Can you stop providing factual information, you're hurting the funding drive of those who make a living pretending to save the environment.

      • Frankly I think it's more a natural media reporting distortion thing at work, as happens with almost all science articles. To get an article published and make it go viral, you have to exaggerate and conjure an image of something visually dramatic.

        • by lucm ( 889690 )

          you have to exaggerate and conjure an image of something visually dramatic.

          that same strategy, when employed by Big Oil or Big Tobacco, is called FUD.

      • Calling this area a "Island" where the oriArticle does not is not "factual" but misleading at best. The best way to describe this are might be a thin plastic soup. With occasional bigger floating plastic dumplings. The article calls it a "patch", nobody but clueless lazy media calls this a "Island".

        Calling people who actually try to do (as little as we can) something, in a non profit, "pretenders trying to make a living" is down right malicious.

        • by lucm ( 889690 )

          Calling people who actually try to do (as little as we can) something, in a non profit, "pretenders trying to make a living" is down right malicious.

          Non-profit doesn't mean that people are not making money, it means that the organization doesn't aim at making a profit. Those are completely unrelated.

          For instance, go on glassdoor.com and look at how many people pull a six-figure salary at greenpeace. I'm sure all those people have lots of expenses like Starbucks coffee or Macbooks, but you can bet that their savings account gets bigger year after year.

          There's a reason why those organizations don't tackle unpopular environmental problems (like greenhouse

      • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
        lol. So your position is that there is no problem and it's all made up? I wonder if there's a human effect on the environment that slashdot geniuses accept as real. I strongly suspect not.
      • Can you stop providing factual information, you're hurting the funding drive of those who make a living pretending to save the environment.

        Your comment has been moderated to Score:-1, Funding

    • Re:but - (Score:5, Interesting)

      by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2016 @11:57PM (#53015357)
      That explains why none of the links in the summary actually have any photos of A MILLION SQUARE KILOMETERS of trash floating in the Pacific. Just one photo would help us to understand.

      Maybe they can also get the photo with a Dolphin crying in the foreground.
    • That's true (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Namarrgon ( 105036 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2016 @12:23AM (#53015441) Homepage

      All that plastic rubbish is not collected into a huge floating island, nor does it look at all impressive on photos (which is why there are none in the articles). It isn't clumped together - it's more like flecks of plastic floating in a soup.

      That does not lessen the problem. There's still a vast amount of debris out there, just spread out a lot [noaa.gov], over multiple areas. And any plastics that do break down form "microplastics" that have now found their way into more than a quarter [independent.co.uk] of fish sold in Indonesia and China.

      • >That does not lessen the problem. There's still a vast amount of debris out there, just spread out a lot [noaa.gov], over multiple area

        How do you know? Dilution lessens the problem of many toxins. Why not this? Have you got a control Earth on the other side of the Sun where you tried it without the plastics?

        • Dilution lessens the problem of many toxins

          Homeopathy disagrees :-)

          • But then it would cure plastic poisoning, so we're OK.

          • Homeopathy does not disagree.
            Perhaps you want to read up how it is supposed to work?

            • Homeopathy does not disagree.
              Perhaps you want to read up how it is supposed to work?

              Homeopathy doesn't work.

              Hormesis certainly does work. Don't confuse the two.

          • by Xtifr ( 1323 )

            Actually, homeopathy doesn't disagree. Homeopathy says they magically turn into cures if they're sufficiently dilute.

            Too many people mock homeopathy merely for its magical increasing-dilution-is-stronger claims, and forget to mock it for its toxins-reverse-effect-at-a-certain-dilution-level claims. :)

            And really, if you think about it, it's all perfectly logical. Diluting lessens the problem, so if you keep diluting, eventually the problem becomes zero, and therefore, if you keep diluting, simple extrapolati [xkcd.com]

        • Granted, less microplastic per cubic metre does reduce its effect on fish (according to this study [squarespace.com], which did use a control). But spreading it out affects correspondingly more fish.

          And in the cited study, many of the effects were non-linear - testing with 1/8th the microplastic concentration still produced 1/2 the negative effects (compared to the control), which would indicate a wider distribution of debris may actually worsen the overall problem.

          But my main point stands: oceanic plastic debris is getting

        • How do you know? Dilution lessens the problem of many toxins.

          Dilution doesn't work for a number of reasons. It doesn't work here at all and it doesn't work in general as well as you think it does. Currents, for one. Bioconcentration, for another. The persistent nature of the compounds (or indeed particulates) in question, for another.

          • How do you know? Dilution lessens the problem of many toxins.

            Dilution doesn't work for a number of reasons. It doesn't work here at all and it doesn't work in general as well as you think it does. Currents, for one. Bioconcentration, for another. The persistent nature of the compounds (or indeed particulates) in question, for another.

            So once more - How do you know? You're telling me stuff that happens, not how it is a problem or evidence for that problem..

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      "there is no island of trash in the pacific"

      http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_next_20/2016/09/the_great_pacific_garbage_patch_was_the_myth_we_needed_to_save_our_oceans.html

      I took as some kind of information, the total lack of pictures of the 'garbage patch' in articles about the garbage patch. How hard would it have been for the people who have been there to pull out their phone and take a picture?

      There are good reasons to be concerned about digging carbon out of the ground and burning it. I'm not so sure a patch of microbead pollution in the middle of a huge ocean is something to be concerned with. Certainly nobody has put forth a compelling mechanism by which it will bring

    • Re:but - (Score:5, Informative)

      by Guy Harris ( 3803 ) <guy@alum.mit.edu> on Wednesday October 05, 2016 @03:29AM (#53015799)

      "there is no island of trash in the pacific"

      http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_next_20/2016/09/the_great_pacific_garbage_patch_was_the_myth_we_needed_to_save_our_oceans.html

      Yes, as the article you cite [slate.com] says, it's mostly, well, smaller broken-down micro plastics that can be eaten by fish and enter the food chain, not large items.

      So it's not as if there's nothing wrong with that part of the Pacific, it's that what's wrong is not a just floating obvious garbage dump.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2016 @04:15AM (#53015923)
      Calling a lot of floating bits of garbage an island is indeed a lie, but the lie is coming from the person framing it this way for a "goalpost shift" and not those actually talking about water dense with garbage.
      I can see why the poster with the goalpost shift was far too ashamed of their action to even post under a username.
    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      firstly, you should read the article before commenting.

      "there is no island of trash in the pacific" != "there is no concentrated area of garbage in the pacific"

      No, it's not an island of trash, and yes the name may be a bit fanciful.

      But the natural currents of the ocean do create areas where floating garbage does congregate in far higher concentrations than in the rest of the ocean.
      Specifically the major ocean gyres, of which there are 5 world wide, each become collecting points where this garbage accumulate

    • I would point out Ocean Cleanup makes no mention about a control sample of ocean. They surveyed a portion of ocean they believe to have a high concentration of garbage. Do they have data on the amount of garbage in the rest of the ocean?
      • by Etcetera ( 14711 )

        I would point out Ocean Cleanup makes no mention about a control sample of ocean. They surveyed a portion of ocean they believe to have a high concentration of garbage. Do they have data on the amount of garbage in the rest of the ocean?

        ^ Mod parent up

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      The notion that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an "island" of trash is how the media spun it. In fact it's quite a bit worse than such a floating landfill would be, as explained in this video [slashdot.org] from NOAA.

      The Wikipedia entry is likewise very informative:

      The patch is characterized by exceptionally high relative concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.[2] Because of its large area, it is of very low density (4 particles per cubic meter), and therefore not visible from satellite photography, nor even necessarily to casual boaters or divers in the area. It consists primarily of a small increase in suspended, often microscopic, particles in the upper water column.

      It is this combination of massive extent, depth, and modest concentration (typically four pea-sized pellets in 250 gallons of water) that make it impossible to remedy, but the ecological impact is nonetheless massive -- and likely to grow as human populati

  • Why doesn't the original article have any pictures of this giant patch?
    • And speaking of pictures, I heard that in USA, there is a big tumbleweed problem. I have seen a picture of one, or several of them, but why isn't there a picture of ALL OF THEM?

    • Re:No Pics? (Score:4, Funny)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2016 @12:13AM (#53015409) Journal

      Why doesn't the original article have any pictures of this giant patch?

      Because it's really a tiny garbage patch. A complete loser garbage patch. A weak garbage patch.

      When I'm president, we'll have a garbage patch that'll make your head spin. A big, classy garbage patch that Americans can finally be proud of.

      • Are we refurbishing old Soviet jokes again? Like the one where Brezhnev did a factory inspection and was told by the proud workers that they didn't have boiler scale in five years. And dear Leonid said "I know you're doing what you can with the little you have, but I will do what I can to make sure that you will have much more boiler scale very soon!"

    • Re:No Pics? (Score:4, Informative)

      by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2016 @12:18AM (#53015429)

      Why doesn't the original article have any pictures of this giant patch?

      Because the patch is not actually visually distinctive.

      People read these stories and think we're talking about something that looks like a floating landfill - but, by all accounts, that's not the case. You still mostly just see water and only occasionally see a piece of trash.

    • Re:No Pics? (Score:5, Informative)

      by brantondaveperson ( 1023687 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2016 @03:57AM (#53015865) Homepage

      Because it is a very large area of the ocean in which plastic particulates float. It probably doesn't look much different from the rest of the ocean to the naked eye.

      You don't realise that, because you haven't read the article, nor any of the linked articles that might help further your understanding of the problem. That's ok, you're probably busy. I've taken the following quote from here [noaa.gov], to help you out a bit.

      The debris is continuously mixed by wind and wave action and widely dispersed both over huge surface areas and throughout the top portion of the water column. It is possible to sail through the “garbage patch” area and see very little or no debris on the water’s surface. It is also difficult to estimate the size of these “patches,” because the borders and content constantly change with ocean currents and winds. Regardless of the exact size, mass, and location of the “garbage patch,” manmade debris does not belong in our oceans and waterways and must be addressed.

    • Came here to ask this exact question. Taking and posting photos cost next to nothing these days. Hell, they can even be geotagged to show precisely where they were taken to prove their case. Instead, they take a photo of some jetsam on the airport ramp. Seriously? That's almost as bad as giving people lab coats to wear for a political photo op claiming doctors support socialized medicine.

  • As others have said.....they have many names for this elusive garbage collection in the pacific such as garbage patch and Plastic vortex, and yet, no one actually has a picture of said trash. Just infographics.

    • It's tiny fragments of plastic floating in the sea. Please try to keep up.
    • As others have said.....they have many names for this elusive garbage collection in the pacific such as garbage patch and Plastic vortex, and yet, no one actually has a picture of said trash. Just infographics.

      I bet you're waiting for a picture of atmospheric CO2 before you believe in global warming, too.

  • Every half second you see something.

    So, a plane cruising covers 500+ ft/s. So "one item per half second" is one item every 250 feet. The descriptions make it sound like a floating island of plastic you could walk across, but the reality from their description is a thinly spread cluster of debris over millions of square km.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You might recall that a type of bacteria has evolved that eats plastic bottles. Since plastics are a rich source of energy, they are like cellulose. But for that to work, there needs to be a concentration of smaller plastic particles, the Japanese researchers who found the bacteria, found it in a dump.

      The whole issue with plastics was the lack of decay, yet even this lot admit that's not the reality:
      “Most of the debris was large stuff. It’s a ticking time bomb because the big stuff will crumble

  • Pics or GTFO
    • Pics or GTFO

      Will scans of the cancerous tumors growing inside you from eating a food supply laced with plastic suffice?

      Just curious, since the real damage isn't 10,000 feet in the air.

  • So they install net/catcher/whatever things to scoop up all the rubbish, then what? Pick it all up and bring it to a landfill? Burn it? Contain it in a smaller section of ocean? It's all so well and good saying let's clean up the ocean but what do you do with the stuff after that?
  • Yann Martel's book, Life of Pi, and the movie based on it feature a puzzling algae island .

    The algae island might be the second weirdest part of the book. (Second only to Pi's conversation with the blind Frenchman.) It's an island made entirely of seaweed, full of meerkats and freshwater ponds. It gets even stranger: dead fish rise to the surface of the ponds at night and disappear by morning

    (http://www.shmoop.com/life-of-pi/algae-island-symbol.html)

    Maybe the island is made of plastic.

  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Wednesday October 05, 2016 @10:48AM (#53017135)

    All the sea creatures poop and pee in the ocean. It only looks pristine from a distance. Up close there's all kinds of shit in the ocean.

  • They're going to set up their own floating kingdom

    https://muse.jhu.edu/article/593369/summary [jhu.edu]

  • The durability of the booms, emptying of the booms, safety to wildlife, the ineffectiveness of the booms since the patch is so huge... all of these issues have pointed to the fact this can't work. Basically this kid is pitching Solar Freakin' Roadways, but somehow got lots of money and a international coverage anyway. I think its the culture of celebrity getting behind this, along with the: screw the problem, lets treat the symptom strategy deployed when the problem is simply too big to address.

  • I can't wait for millions of lost/broken lightning port dongles and millions of wireless headphones with dead batteries to be added to the mix.

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