How Much Garbage Is in the Ocean?

The world's oceans contain 7,000 to 35,000 tons of floating garbage, mostly plastic. Areas of the ocean where waste tends to concentrate are called "garbage patches." These patches are created when marine debris is carried and then trapped by ocean currents. Currently, each ocean has at least one garbage patch.

More about garbage in the ocean:

  • The Pacific Ocean contains two garbage patches: the Western Garbage Patch, southeast of Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California.
  • Microbes have been found to live on plastic garbage, mainly the cholera bacteria, Vibrio.
  • The size of garbage patches varies greatly and is difficult to determine. This is due to plastics breaking down into smaller pieces that cannot be detected by satellites.
More Info: NOAA

Discussion Comments


I would have liked a map that pinpointed the areas of concentration to show to my kindergarten science classes. It's my opinion that small children have to be the target audience to begin to alleviate this horrid problem.


Whether we realize it or not, as the world gets bigger, and more and more people throw their garbage away on a day to day basis, the trash keeps piling up. In my opinion, landfills and garbage patches are something that aren't covered enough, and many people aren't quite aware of. I mean sure, we all know where our trash goes in the morning, but have most people even seen a landfill? They're absolutely huge. Unless we work together to ensure that things like this are reduced, it will only be a matter of time before we run out of room.


@Krunchyman - You do make a good point about the media not covering this as much as they should. Overall though, it may be because they have other issues to worry about as well. On the other hand though, I feel that sometimes, they only show you what they want you to see. Obviously, this isn't always the case, but it's definitely something to take into consideration. There are a lot of things about our planet we're not quite aware of, and that's because the media doesn't spend enough time covering it, if any at all.


Perhaps, someone should go out there with a garbage scow and clean up the patches. Although it just may be the scows that are dropping it in the first place. I would have thought the environmentalist groups would have been all over this issue.


Wow, before reading this article, I had no idea that there was so much garbage in the ocean, and I find that very intriguing, if not a bit disturbing. Not to mention that this also leads me to wonder how all the trash ends up in the ocean in the first place. After all, isn't most (if not all) of our garbage taken to landfills? Taking this into consideration, there's no excuse that our ocean has so much trash. Just my thoughts, but perhaps one problem is because some landfills are close to the sea, some of it spills out there, drifting off into the unknown. An issue like this is certainly something the media should cover more often.

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