News Stories

More Trash in the Ocean Than We Thought

There are more than just cracks in the ocean floor: While working on a research sailboat gliding over glassy seas in the Pacific Ocean, oceanographer Giora Proskurowski noticed something new: The water was littered with confetti-size pieces of plastic debris, until the moment the wind picked up and most of the particles disappeared. In other words, the ocean is a gigantic, deep trash can.

Proskurowski discovered that wind was pushing the lightweight plastic particles below the surface. He says, "Almost every tow we did contained plastic regardless of the depth." This means that the bottom of the ocean must be a littered with sunken trash, and that we vastly underestimate the true amount of plastic debris in the oceans.

Plastic waste in the oceans is a concern because of the impact it might have on the environment. For instance, when fish ingest the plastics, it may degrade their liver functions. In addition, the particles make nice homes for bacteria and algae, which are then transported along with the particles into different regions of the ocean where they may be invasive and cause problems.

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