The so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a stewy body of plastic and marine debris that floats an estimated 1,000 miles west of San Francisco, is a shape-shifting mass far too large, delicate and remote to ever be cleaned up, according to a researcher who recently returned from the area.
But that might not stop the federal government from trying.
Charles Moore, the marine researcher at the Algalita Marina Research Foundation in Long Beach who has been studying and publicizing the patch for the past 10 years, said the debris - which he estimates weighs 3 million tons and covers an area twice the size of Texas - is made up mostly of fine plastic chips and is impossible to skim out of the ocean.
"Any attempt to remove that much plastic from the oceans - it boggles the mind," Moore said from Hawaii, where his crew is docked. "There's just too much, and the ocean is just too big."
The trash collects in one area, known as the North Pacific Gyre, due to a clockwise trade wind that circulates along the Pacific Rim. It accumulates the same way bubbles gather at the center of hot tub, Moore said.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
San Francisco Chronicle: