Plastic Dumped in the Ocean Travels Far, New Research Reveals

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For a few years now the world has been aware of the poisoning of our oceans with plastic. The image of spiral-shaped debris island in Pacific off the Californian coast, called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is a haunting one as is the image of decomposing dead birds whose bodies have become plastic dumpsters.

Recent research carried out by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, based at UNSW shows that plastic travels a long way. The research looked at the Australian case and it showed that plastic dumped in the ocean by Australians can have ended up in any of the five ocean basins.

The research also showed that the longevity of plastic is so implacable that even we managed to stop dumping plastic into the ocean (which doesn’t seem likely to happen any time soon), trash patches would continue to form for hundreds of years.

“There are five known garbage patches in the subtropical oceans between each of the continents. Each contains so much plastic that if you were to drag a net through these areas you would pull up more plastic than biomass,” said lead author Erik Van Sebille, a research fellow at the Center.

He said a smaller sixth garbage patch may form within the Arctic Circle in the Barents Sea, but not before another 50 years. Oceanic eddies were also shown to move plastic between patches that were thousands of miles apart in different oceans.

Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.

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About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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