I have heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the north Pacific Ocean. How big is it? Are there any plans to clean it up?
— Thomas, Chicago
The name is misleading because it conveys an image of floating junk in the north Pacific. This is not the case. The patch consists mainly of tiny pieces of plastic practically invisible to the naked eye and mainly below the surface of the ocean; it does not consist of islands of floating trash. The size of the patch is estimated to range from the size of Texas (270,000 square miles) to 6 million square miles (8 percent of the entire Pacific Ocean). However, no standard exists for determining the difference between normal and elevated levels of ocean pollutants, and so no firm estimate can be made of the size of the patch. No plans exist for cleaning the patch other than to reduce the entry of pollutants into the ocean.
The name Great Pacific Garbage Patch is misleading because it conveys an image of floating junk in the north Pacific. This is not the case.