Oceanography

What goes in does not come out

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Science  23 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6186, pp. 869
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6186.869-e

Vast swaths of floating plastic debris in a northern Pacific Ocean region have earned it a grim nickname: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But how much plastic really floats in the Pacific? Different research teams use different methodologies, and coverage is often patchy, making data notoriously difficult to obtain and compare. Using data spanning over 40 years, Law et al. report maps of plastic debris concentrations in the Eastern Pacific and estimate that at least 21,000 metric tons of microplastic are floating in the region. However, despite increased plastic production over the past decade, they could not detect an increase in plastic debris over time. Data coverage may be insufficient for capturing such trends.

Environ. Sci. Technol. 10.1021 es4053076 (2014).

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