Why 99% of ocean plastic pollution is “missing”

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The plastic we dump into the ocean might be hiding in plain sight.

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For the past several years scientists have been trying to account for the 8 million metric tonnes of plastic that we dump into the ocean each year. The assumption was that a large portion of it was floating out in one of the large garbage patches, where swirling debris accumulates thanks to ocean gyres. But recent measurements of the amount of trash in the patches fell far short of what’s thought to be out there.

Scientists are getting closer to an answer, which could help clean-up efforts and prevent further damage to marine life and ocean ecosystems.

In a previous version of this video, we mistakenly compared the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the area of Australia. It is in fact roughly 1.6 million square kilometers, a little more than twice the size of the state of Texas. A huge area, but not nearly as big as Australia. Source:

For more reading, check out this New Yorker article on the missing plastic problem, which inspired this video:

Laurent Lebreton’s research that estimates the amount of debris in the garbage patches is here:

For more about Ocean Conservancy’s work, and their annual international beach cleanup events:

For more reading about Erik Van Sebille’s work:

For more reading about Melanie Bergmann’s work:

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