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5 Gyres of Plastic Trash Pollutes the World's Oceans

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5 Gyres of Plastic Trash Pollutes the World's Oceans

It's the silver lining of a tragedy when it takes a plane crash and the death of all its passengers to bring attention to an environmental catastrophe unfolding on a different time scale. 5 Gyres Institute has traveled 40,000 miles through all 5 gyres, including the Indian Ocean gyre, to discover each one contains a garbage patch filled with plastic pollution.  

In 2010, we sailed from Perth, Australia to Mauritius, straight through the Indian Ocean gyre, to discover that garbage patch. What we found is the same junk that's confusing rescue workers looking for remnants of the Malaysian Airlines lost aircraft. Plenty of fishing floats, tangled nets, bottles, crates, buckets, bags and everything else made in plastic. 

One year ago we crossed the Bay of Bengal, a feeder region for the Indian Ocean Garbage Patch. I caught my first sea snake in a net, along with a bendy straw.

Photo credit: 5 Gyres Institute

That's our new reality. What was wild space in the 20th century can now be dubbed "waste space." Welcome to the Plastisphere.

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Kevin Maillefer / Unsplash

By Lynne Peeples

Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.

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