How Does Plastic Debris Make Its Way Into Ocean Garbage Patches?

Researchers in the U.S. and Germany decided to explore which pathways transport debris to the middle of the oceans, causing garbage patches, as well as the relative strengths of different subtropical gyres and how they influence long-term accumulation of debris. In Chaos, they report creating a model of the oceans’ surface dynamics from historical trajectories of surface buoys. Their model describes the probability of plastic debris being transported from one region to another.

Simulated Sunlight Reveals How 98 Percent of Plastics at Sea Go Missing Each Year

A new study helps to solve the mystery of missing plastic fragments at sea. Scientists selected microplastics prevalently found on the ocean surface and irradiated them with a solar simulator system. They found that simulated sunlight increased the amount of dissolved carbon in the water, making those tiny plastic particles tinier. Direct, experimental proof of the photochemical degradation of marine plastics remains rare. This work provides novel insight into the removal mechanisms and potential lifetimes of a select few microplastics.