Scientists recently announced the existence of a garbage patch in the Indian Ocean – the third major collection of plastic garbage discovered in the world’s oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located in the North Pacific Ocean gyre, is well known. And more recently scientists confirmed the existence of a second garbage patch in the North Atlantic gyre.
Marcus Eriksen, cofounder of 5 Gyres Institute, reports that all of the 12 water samples collected in the 3,000 miles between Perth, Australia, and Port Louis, Mauritius (an island due East of Madagascar), contain plastic.
The five large subtropical gyres (powerful rotating ocean currents) are located in the North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian oceans. Once plastic makes its way into the ocean (through sewers, streams, rivers, or from the coast), it is ultimately swept up and trapped in these gyres and forms a swirling soup of garbage.
This Indian Ocean garbage patch discovery means there are now three confirmed ocean zones of plastic pollution, and others in the South Pacific and South Atlantic gyres also.
It’s hard to visualize what these multiplying zones of plastic pollution look like. There is a common misconception that a Texas-sized island of garbage exists off the coast of California.
“There is no island of trash. Instead, the garbage patches resemble plastic soup or confetti. “We now have a third accumulation zone of plastic pollution that shows compounding evidence that the trash isn’t condensed to an island. “It’s spread out across the entire gyre from coast to coast. The world’s oceans are covered with a thin plastic soup that’s thickest in the middle of the gyres.”
It would be far easier to clean up the oceans if the trash were forming islands. it isn’t practical to try to recover the plastic from sea because most is fragmented and widely distributed.