The Great Pacific Garbage Patch — Now Twice the Size of Texas — Is Up to 16 Times Larger Than Previously Thought

Researchers modeled the mass concentration of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which has grown to twice the size of Texas. (Credit: Ocean Cleanup)

Researchers modeled the mass concentration of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which has grown to twice the size of Texas. (Credit: Ocean Cleanup)

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is getting greater. Twice the size of Texas, the floating mass is up to 16 times larger than previously thought — carrying about 79,000 metric tons of plastic — according to scientists who performed an aerial survey.

A photo showing some of the garbage mass. (Credit: Ocean Cleanup)

A photo showing some of the garbage mass. (Credit: Ocean Cleanup)

The discovery, published in the journal Scientific Reports, reveals that this plastic blight in the Pacific Ocean is still growing at what the researchers called an “exponential” pace.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or GPGP for short, is an accumulation of plastic products that has collected in the eastern Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. Much of it is hidden from the naked eye, partly because some of the plastic has been broken down into smaller and smaller bits over time. (It is not, as its name may suggest, an island.) The concentration of floating plastic in the patch ranges from tens to hundreds of kilograms per square kilometer.

“It’s quite frightening … we’re so far from any human activity, there’s nothing out there, and we still leave traces as a society,” said lead author Laurent Lebreton, an oceanographer with the Ocean Cleanup Foundation based in the Netherlands. Out in the stretch of these blue seas, the plastic is a jarring reminder of human impact.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.