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Are more plastics accumulated in the deep ocean?

Posted on October 26 2012

Question submitted by Falmouth Academy

We do not know if more plastic has accumulated in the deep ocean than at the sea surface.  Right now we are studying plastic on the surface of the water in the North Pacific subtropical gyre, which is a huge area of ocean where prevailing winds, currents, and the rotation of the Earth cause the surface ocean to move in a clockwise rotation in the northern hemisphere (and counter-clockwise in the subtropical southern hemisphere).  The plastics that float are carried by the gyre currents towards its center.  The time it takes to transport the plastic from land to the gyre can take weeks to years, which gives the sun and wind plenty of time to break plastic down into the tiny pieces we see most frequently.