To clean up ocean plastics focus on coasts, not the Great Pacific garbage patch

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Nicolas Montana

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/icl-tcu011516.php

According to a new study, the most efficient way to clean up ocean plastics and avoid harming ecosystems is to place plastic collectors near coasts. Plastic floating in the oceans is a widespread and increasing problem. Plastics including bags, bottle caps and plastic fibres from synthetic clothes wash out into the oceans from urban rivers, sewers and waste deposits. One area of open ocean in the North Pacific has an unusually large collection of microscopic plastics, or microplastics, and is known as the Great Pacific garbage patch. The patch is enclosed by ocean currents that concentrate the plastics into an area estimated to be larger than twice the size of the United Kingdom. The patch has gained international attention, and there is now a project called The Ocean Cleanup that plans to deploy plastic collectors to clean up the region. However, a new analysis by Dr Erik van Sebille and undergraduate physics student Peter Sherman from Imperial College London suggests that targeting the patch is not the most efficient way to clean up the oceans. They found that placing plastic collectors like those proposed by The Ocean Cleanup project around coasts was more beneficial than placing them all inside the patch. “It makes sense to remove plastics where they first enter the ocean around dense coastal economic and population centres,” added Dr van Sebille.

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