Two ships are on their way to the Pacific gyre — also known as the Pacific Garbage Patch — to assess the vast island of floating plastic debris. Researchers on the 90-day mission want to try to figure out if it can be, in effect, harvested for recycling. Which would also accomplish the goal of cleaning it up.
One of the two principle sponsors of the mission is the Bureau of International Recycling, an the international federation of recycling industries based in Belgium.
The plastic patch has been estimated to contain about 4 million tons of plastic over an area about twice the size of Texas, although another of the research goals is to measure it more precisely. It’s sometimes referred to as “the eighth continent.”
While some are simply horrified that so much plastic is adrift on what should be a pristine ocean, others are concerned about the effects on wildlife that might ingest some of the stuff. Others are concerned that as the plastic breaks down, pollutants become chemically attached and can also affect wildlife.