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Floating Rubbish Dump 'Bigger Than US'
By Matt J. Weiss, February 4, 2008 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: News.com.au
It has been described as the world's largest rubbish dump, or the Pacific plastic soup, and it is starting to alarm scientists.

It is a vast area of plastic debris and other flotsam drifting in the northern Pacific Ocean, held there by swirling ocean currents.

Discovered in 1997 by American sailor Charles Moore, what is also called the great Pacific garbage patch is now alarming some with its ever-growing size and possible impact on human health.

The "patch" is in fact two massive, linked areas of circulating rubbish, says Dr Marcus Eriksen, research director of the US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, founded by Moore.

Although the boundaries change, it stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the coast of California, across the northern Pacific to near the coast of Japan.

The islands of Hawaii are placed almost in the middle, so piles of plastic regularly wash up on some beaches there.

"The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup," Dr Eriksen says.

"It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States," he says.

The concentration of floating plastic debris just beneath the ocean's surface is the product of underwater currents, which conspire to bring together all the junk that accumulates in the Pacific Ocean.

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