Floating 'garbage patch' doubles in size
Published 08/03/2010 | 05:00
Oceanographers have found that a vast floating island of rubbish in the Pacific has doubled in size over a decade and is now twice as large as Texas.
The giant waste collection, known as the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch', lies between California and Hawaii and has been growing gradually for 60 years.
It contains everything from plastic bags to shampoo bottles, flip-flops, children's toys, tyres, drink cans, Frisbees and plastic swimming pools.
Older debris has slowly broken down under the sun's rays into small particles which settle and are suspended just below the ocean surface.
The soupy water is heavy with toxic chemicals and the broken-down plastic particles are now turning up inside fish.
Up to 26 pieces of plastic were recently found inside a single fish and researchers have warned that the chemicals will work their way into the human food chain.
Beginning 500 miles off the Californian coast the affected area, also known as the 'plastic vortex', constitutes the world's largest heap of rubbish. The amount of debris is estimated at up to 100 million tonnes.
Now there are hopes of converting the waste into fuel. A feasibility study will be undertaken using samples to be collected this summer.
Volunteers from Project Kaisei, a conservation project based in San Francisco and Hong Kong, plan to send two ships into the area to bring back some of the waste.
Doug Woodring, a member of the team, compared visiting the area to "going into outer space".
Richard Pain, an Australian filmmaker, plans to cross the rubbish patch in a craft made of plastic bottles to raise awareness of the problem.
The area is one of the world's five major ocean gyres -- huge systems of rotating currents which draw in waste from thousands of miles away. (©Daily Telegraph, London)