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Oceanic 'garbage patch' not nearly as big as portrayed in media
Date:1/4/2011

mmensely more abundant than plastic debris."

The relationship between microbes and plastic is what drew White and her C-MORE colleagues to their analysis in the first place. During a recent expedition, they discovered that photosynthetic microbes were thriving on many plastic particles, in essence confirming that plastic is prime real estate for certain microbes.

White also noted that while plastic may be beneficial to some organisms, it can also be toxic. Specifically, it is well-known that plastic debris can adsorb toxins such as PCB.

"On one hand, these plastics may help remove toxins from the water," she said. "On the other hand, these same toxin-laden particles may be ingested by fish and seabirds. Plastic clearly does not belong in the ocean."

Among other findings, which White believes should be part of the public dialogue on ocean trash:

  • Calculations show that the amount of energy it would take to remove plastics from the ocean is roughly 250 times the mass of the plastic itself;

  • Plastic also covers the ocean floor, particularly offshore of large population centers. A recent survey from the state of California found that 3 percent of the southern California Bight's ocean floor was covered with plastic roughly half the amount of ocean floor covered by lost fishing gear in the same location. But little, overall, is known about how much plastic has accumulated at the bottom of the ocean, and how far offshore this debris field extends;

  • It is a common misperception that you can see or quantify plastic from space. There are no tropical plastic islands out there and, in fact, most of the plastic isn't even visible from the deck of a boat;

  • There are areas of the ocean largely unpolluted by plastic. A recent trawl White conducted in a remote section of water between Easter Island and Chile pulled in no plastic at all.

There are other issues with plastic, W
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Contact: Angel White
awhite@coas.oregonstate.edu
541-737-6397
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3 4

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