Great Pacific Garbage Patch: it weighs 8,000 tons, the equivalent of 500 Jumbo Jets | Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is the largest accumulation zone of ocean plastic in the world.

It is located halfway between California and Hawaii. And it is getting worse, fast.

Scientists have been mapping plastic in the area since then the 1970s. However, the phenomenon started to grow, possibly, in the 1950s.

The vast majority of the plastic mass found in the GPGP are large objects. However, if not collected, and because of UV lights, they are destined to break down into dangerous microplastics over the next few decades.

Unless we clean it up. Fortunately, around 2011, a simple, yet the ingenious idea was born in Europe.

The Ocean Cleanup was founded by Boyan Slat, a Dutch inventor who, at the age of 16, decided he wanted to develop a technology that could address the problem of plastic pollution in the world's oceans.

Ocean Cleanup: there will be 50 one-to-two-kilometer floating screens collecting plastics from the Pacific Ocean | Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

He and his team envisioned a network of long floating screens that would concentrate the plastic so that we could then extract, store it, and ship it to land.

The dream has become a reality, and the Ocean Cleanup will deploy its first floating barriers in 2018. The GPGP may have its days numbered.

But, what exactly is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

1. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch measures 1.6 million km2;

2. 99 percent of all trash found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is plastic;

3. The GPGP contains over 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, which equals 250 pieces for every human in the planet;

4. The total mass weighs 8,000 tons, the equivalent of 500 Jumbo Jets, and four to six times more than previous estimates;

An island of plastic: the mass concentration reveals the size of the problem | Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

5. 92 percent of the mass is comprised of large plastic items;

6. From an absolute count perspective, only 6 percent of all plastic objects are larger than 5mm;

7. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is three times the size of France, or two times the size of Texas;

8. In 2015, the Ocean Cleanup project crossed the patch with 30 boats and collected 1.2 million plastic samples;

Mega Expedition: the Ocean Cleanup initiative got 30 boats collecting trash from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch | Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

9. The Mega Expedition also retrieved a large number of ghost nets, one of the biggest threats to marine life;

10. The first aerial reconnaissance mission of the GPGP took place in October 2016. The Ocean Cleanup team was able to get a 3D analysis of the debris;

11. 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch's mass is comprised of ghost nets and discarded fishing gear;

12. The total mass of plastic found in the GPGP is four to 16 times higher than previous studies have shown;

13. Among thousands of unlikely objects floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Ocean Cleanup researchers retrieved a 1977 plastic crate;

A plastic crate produced in 1977: one of the 1.2 million plastic samples collected in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by the Ocean Clean team | Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

14. The waters of the GPGP hold 180 times more plastic than marine life by weight;

15. The concentration levels in the center of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch feature the highest density, reaching hundreds of kg/km2, and decreasing down to 10 kg/km2 in the outermost region;

16. The vast majority of plastics found in the GPGP are made of rigid or hard polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and fishing gear;

17. 84 percent of the plastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch contain, at least, one type of Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic (PBT) chemical;

Plastics: the waters of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch hold 180 times more plastic than marine life by weight | Photo: The Ocean Cleanup

18. Most buoyant microplastics in the GPGP are present on or near the surface of the water, between zero and five meters of depth;

19. The Ocean Cleanup technology hopes to remove half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years using 50 one-to-two-kilometer High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) floating systems;

20. Each system will use the natural ocean currents to collect up to three tons of debris per week;

21. All plastic retrieved from the GPGP will be recycled and used to produce B2C products;

22. The first ocean prototype was successfully tested in 2016 on the North Sea;

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