Scientists say there’s more to the pollution problem than the huge masses of debris that grab public attention.
The crisis of plastics filling up the world’s oceans is more complex than it appears. Contrary to popular belief, marine plastic debris does not simply cluster in large floating patches. In fact, only a tiny amount of the plastic in the seas drifts on the surface. So, where’s the rest of it?
“We really don’t know where most of the plastic is ending up in the ocean,” said Kara Lavender Law, an ocean plastic scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Decades of surveying the oceans have found only a quarter of a million metric tons of floating plastic debris worldwide, whereas in 2015, Law and collaborators estimated that between 4 and 12 million metric tons of plastics were moving from land to the coasts and oceans each year.