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New York Times reporter Lindsey Hoshaw filed a story this week from the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Gyre. Yes, the same garbage patch that voiceofsandiego.org contributing writer Rebecca Tolin wrote about when a group of Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers visited in the summer.
For the uninitiated, the garbage patch is a collection of floating trash piles — thanks to litterbugs from around the world — that have been caught up in the gyre, a vortex of currents about 1,000 miles northeast of Hawaii. It’s accumulated an estimated 3.5 million tons of plastic debris — bottles, bags, and other litter from North America and Asia.
The Times story doesn’t mention the Scripps mission, but it does feature Charles Moore, the ship captain who first discovered the garbage patch about a decade ago. It also discusses the possibility of several garbage patches existing worldwide:
Scientists say the garbage patch is just one of five that may be caught in giant gyres scattered around the world’s oceans. Abandoned fishing gear like buoys, fishing line and nets account for some of the waste, but other items come from land after washing into storm drains and out to sea.
Plastic is the most common refuse in the patch because it is lightweight, durable and an omnipresent, disposable product in both advanced and developing societies. It can float along for hundreds of miles before being caught in a gyre and then, over time, breaking down.
The Scripps researchers are now busy culling through the debris and data they gathered on their trip, and Tolin will check back with them when they are ready to release their findings.
Update: The Times story was partially funded by Spot.us, a nonprofit that organizes community-funded journalism projects.