We know about space trash, but we are turning something much closer to us into a gigantic rubbish dump as well: the ocean. Held in place by underwater currents, it stretches from the California coast, past Hawaii, almost to Japan. It’s the world’s biggest dump.

In the February 5 edition of the Independent, Daniel Howden writes that “a ‘plastic soup’ of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States?” Howden quotes oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer as saying, “It moves around like a big animal without a leash.” When it comes close to land, “the garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic.” Most of it floats into the ocean from the land, but about 1/5 of the trash is thrown directly into the water by ships and oil rigs.

But the ocean still looks pristine when viewed from NASA satellites. Oceanographer Charles Moore explains that this is because the plastic trash is translucent and lies just below the water’s surface, so it does not show up on satellite images. Howden quotes Moore as saying, “You only see it from the bows of ships.”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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