The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is and isn't what it sounds like.

The Patch, in the northern Pacific Ocean, is a very, very large amount of plastic floating in the world's largest body of water. The largest estimates put the size of the Patch at twice the size of the continental United States.

But according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the name is a bit of a misnomer in that the proliferation of plastic isn't in the form of a landfill; rather, it more resembles flecks of pepper in a bowl of soup.

The Pacific Ocean, and all of the world's oceans, are havens for plastic bags, bottles, cups and other receptacles that take many years to break down; when they break down, they take the form of microplastics, which are even more prominent and can cause even more harm for wildlife who might ingest the microplastics unintentionally and then pass it on up the food chain, assuming that the ingestion of that plastic doesn't result in the death of the bird of marine life that does the ingesting.

Also to be found in the Garbage Patch are discarded fishing nets (which are particularly damaging to dolphins, whales, and other large marine life) and other debris from ships and boats and all manner of other debris, large and small, cast into the water by people on land. In some cases, entire shipping containers that fall from or are discarded from ships contribute to the problem.

Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research and Education Foundation is said to be the discoverer of the Garbage Patch. He first brought it to the world's attention in 1997.

Efforts to combat the problem, including actions by the Ocean Cleanup foundation, continue.

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