This summer, two research expeditions are headed to the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch between California and Hawaii. Twice the size of Texas, the Garbage Patch is a massive dump of discarded plastic, much of which has deteriorated into tiny bits. Fish and birds eat the material, and die. With 70 percent of the Garbage Patch's plastic sunk under the surface, cleaning it up isn't a matter of skimming the surface of the vortex. From National Geographic:
"We need to do the chemistry and see how much plastic is reaching the water and the ocean sediments, how much is being broken into [these] tiny particles and ingested by marine life at rates we can't imagine," said (Jim Dufour of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego)."Giant Ocean-Trash Vortex Attracts Explorers"
The project will also explore clean up options, which aren't as easy as simply scooping up waste.
"It's a tough job. [Open-ocean] fish live under things like Styrofoam cups. If you simply drag a net you'll end up killing off a lot of the resources that you want to protect," Dufour said.