The dump floating has 3 times the size of France

News 22 March, 2018
  • AFP

    Thursday, march 22, 2018 13:36

    Thursday, march 22, 2018 13:42

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    Billions of pieces of plastic, 80 000 tons of waste: the giant dump floating in the Pacific is much larger than previously estimated, and covers an area three times the size of France, according to a study published Thursday.

    While plastic production exceeds 320 million tonnes per year, a portion of these bags, bottles, wrappers, discarded fishing nets and microparticles degraded agglutinate in several areas of the oceans, under the effect of vortices giants trained by the marine currents, and they threaten animals and ecosystems.

    This is the most important of these vortices, known as the “large area of garbage in the Pacific” (Great pacific garbage patch (gpgp keys), went to examine it, mid-way between Hawaii and California, the authors of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

    Considering that everything km2 containing more than a kilo of plastic is part of this trash in the Pacific, they assess its size to approximately 1.6 million km2, three times the mainland France, even if it is not a compact mass.

    And based on the harvest of 1.2 million samples and aerial surveys, they also conclude that 1800 billion pieces of plastic, weighing a total of approximately 80 000 tonnes, are floating in the magma, which “exponentially increases”.

    These estimates are 4 to 16 times higher than in two previous studies of this vortex, underline the researchers. As a result, in part, linked to methods of analysis “more reliable”, the previous being primarily focused on microplastics. But that might also be attributed to the increase of pollution, plastic oceans in the zone”, in particular in connection with the debris from the japanese tsunami of 2011.

    In general, the plastic accounted for 99.9% of the waste collected, but not necessarily in the form microscopic as expected, the scientists. They were surprised to discover that in weight, more than three-quarters of this discharge were made up of debris larger than 5 cm, and almost half of fishing gear to be abandoned.

    These strings and these nets as “ghost” killing a lot “of fish, turtles, and even mammals”, which floundered in, explains to AFP the main author Laurent Lebreton, of the foundation the Ocean Cleanup.

    But it is in spite of “rather good news” because “the large pieces of debris are much easier to collect than the microplastics”, he says.

    “These results provide key data to develop and test our technology of cleaning, but it also highlights the urgency of tackling the problem of pollution to plastics,” he added in a press release Boyan Slat, founder of Ocean Cleanup.

    The young Dutchman, who started this adventure to 18 years of age, develops with its 75 engineers a system of barriers floating designed to catch the plastic. Once it is operational, he hopes to empty 50% of the discharge of the Pacific in 5 years.

    But these barriers will not be able to pick up the pieces less than a centimeter, which leaves whole the problem of microplastics, particles that are harmful to health: ingested by the fish, they then enter into the food chain.

    How much time will they disappear? “It depends on the type of polymer, of environmental conditions, but the honest answer is that we don’t really know,” admits Laurent Lebreton.

    The study also asks about the risk that these particles eventually sink. “The level of the pollution of plastic in the deep sea and on the seabed under the gpgp keys remains unknown”, write the researchers, who call to other samples.

    Despite the unsettling situation, Laurent Lebreton refuses to appoint a guilty party. “People see the amount of fishing gear and point the finger at the fishing industry, but they also eat fish. This is not the question of a sector or a region, it is primarily our way of life and consumption, the single-use plastics, the society of disposability”, he says.

    “We need to take important steps in the matter. We will solve this problem on a global scale”.