Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A new garbage patch

Posted By on Wed, Mar 3, 2010 at 1:04 PM

Well, it's not new — but it's newly discovered. Now we know the Earth has matching garbage patches, like a couple of toxic earrings.

Ever heard of the food chain, you know that thing we're on top of? Guess who ultimately ends up eating this crap? Yeah, you.

Hey ... enjoy that tuna.

Billions of bits of plastic are accumulating in a massive garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean—a lesser known cousin to the Texas-size trash vortex in the Pacific, scientists say.

"Many people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch," said Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. (See pictures of the Pacific Ocean trash vortex.)

"But this issue has essentially been ignored in the Atlantic."

The newly described garbage patch sits hundreds of miles off the North American coast. Although its east-west span is unknown, the patch covers a region between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude—roughly the distance from Cuba to Virginia (see a U.S. map).

In some places the students found more than 200,000 bits of trash per square kilometer (520,000 bits per square mile). The vast majority of these fragments come from consumer products that were blown out of open landfills or were tossed out by litterbugs.

Read the rest of this National Geographic article, by Richard A. Lovett, here.

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