SANTA MONICA, Calif., Dec. 14 (UPI) — According to a new study, there are over 5 trillion plastic particles floating in the Earth’s oceans, weighing nearly 270,000 tons combined.
The researchers say their estimates are “highly conservative,” meaning there is likely much more plastic in the ocean. The figure was found by using nets to collect plastic debris and observations of larger plastic debris not collected with the nets. They went on 24 trips and sampled the waters of the North Pacific, the South Pacific, the South Atlantic and Indian oceans during a six-year period.
Scientists have long known of large amounts of trash floating in the ocean that is polluting the water and killing animals. An area known as the “great Pacific garbage patch,” a mass of plastic and trash in the Pacific Ocean, is mostly invisible to the naked eye.
“A lot of people hear the word patch and they immediately think of almost like a blanket of trash that can easily be scooped up, but actually these areas are always moving and changing with the currents, and it’s mostly these tiny plastics that you can’t immediately see with the naked eye,” says Dianna Parker of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration Marine Debris Program.