The Dirt on Ocean Garbage Patches

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Science  18 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5985, pp. 1506
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5985.1506

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Chances are you've heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the vast mass of floating debris midway between Hawaii and California that is twice the size of Texas. Although many media stories conjure up a chunky soup of bottles and tires, it is mostly an unstrained consommé of small bits of floating plastic. And it isn't the only one. A similar accumulation of plastic particles—which include weathered fishing line, Styrofoam, wrappers, and raw resin pellets—has shown up in the North Atlantic Ocean. But the potential harm to marine life is far from clear.