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New Map Shows Global Distribution of Plastic Pollution

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Dumparks interactive map highlights the distribution of the world's plastic pollution (picture: dumpark.com)

New Zealand data visualisation experts Dumpark have produced an interactive map highlighting the distribution of plastic pollution in the worlds oceans.

Based on a 2014 report by oceanographer Marcus Erikson et. al. the 'Sailing Seas of Plastic' map shows how the report's estimated 5.25 trillion plastic particles are driven around the globe by prevailing oceanic currents.

Erikson's report was based on 24 expeditions between 2007 and 2013 across all five sub-tropical ocean gyres, coastal Australia, the Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean Sea. Each white dot on the map represents an estimated 20 tons of plastic, of which 92% is 'miscroplastic', small particles measuring only a few millimetres in size and which constitute one of the greatests threats to oceanic life as they are often too small to be distinguished from regular food sources and are therefore ingested by marine life.

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The Dumpark map clearly shows the spread of plastic through the north Pacific (top L) and north Atlantic (top R) gyres, with particular hotspots in the Indian Ocean (bottom L) and the southern Mediterranean (bottom R) 

Based on the survey, Erikson calculates that the 5.25 trillion particles floating in our oceans weigh a combined 268,940 tons. The report notes, however, that 'a tremendous loss of microplastics is observed from the sea surface compared to expected rates of fragmentation, suggesting there are mechanisms at play that remove [plastic particles smaller than 4.75 mm] from the ocean surface.' Thus meaning the data are not entirely representative of the amount of plastic that is actually present in our oceans.

The factors involved in the disappearance of plastic particles range from degradation into pieces too small to be trapped by the research expeditions 0.33mm mesh nets, sinking, beaching and ingestion by marine life.

The 2016 Plastic Oceans campaign estimates that of the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year, up to 8 million tons finds its way into the world's oceans.

 

 

 

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