Ocean Garbage Patches and GPGP

Ocean Garbage Patches and GPGP

  • The ocean garbage patches are regions where the floating trash and debris accumulate, formed by the world’s five large systems of circular ocean currents called the gyres.

  • The largest one is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), located between Hawaii and California, 1,200 nautical miles offshore, with an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France.

  • More than 1.8 trillion pieces of plastics are in the GPGP weighing an estimated 80,000 tons.

  • Majority of the debris accumulated are plastics that are not biodegradable. Joint reaction from sunlight and tidal forces breaks down the debris into micro-plastics which is harmful to marine life if consumed and food chain ecosystem.

Facts of GPGP

“It's not a mass. It's nothing you can see from space. It’s just a giant soup, a gyre. It's a whirlpool of tiny fragments of plastic in the ocean at various depths.” - The GPGP isn't what you think, CBS News

  1. Instead of a floating patch twice as big as Texas, it is actually not visible when seeing from the aerial picture taken by the satellite.

  2. It would take 67 ships one year to clean up one percent of it, according to calculations run by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

  3. It’s extremely dispersed with very low density, at merely ~100 kilograms per sguare meter in its densest area. The mega-plastics (>0.5 meter) are more scattered than the smaller plastics, seen from picture taken at an aerial expedition by a Hercules C-130 aircraft.

Composition of GPGP

~80% of the plastics in the ocean is estimated to come from land-based sources, with the remaining ~20% coming from boats and other marine sources.

Most plastics in the ocean breakup into very small particles called “micro-plastics,” less than five millimeters in length.

A 2018 study found that synthetic fishing nets made up nearly half of the mass of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, due to its “longevity” in the seawater.



  • Plastics found in EVERY seafood sample tested

  • Linked to a variety of health problems, including reproductive harm and obesity

  • Unknown risk on organ problems and developmental delays in children


  • Toxic source of food causing ruptured organs and death

  • Entanglement of sea animals

  • Blocking sunlight needed for photosynthesis of algae and plankton


  • Contaminating soil and waterbody by leaching out colorants and chemicals

  • Absorbing harmful pollutants such as PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyl) from the seawater