An estimated 8 million tons of trash -- mostly floatable plastic -- thrown away each year eventually wash into the earth's oceans and follow a path to 5 'garbage islands' that have formed around the globe, according to a NASA study.
The plastic waste added to the oceans each year "would cover an area 34 times the size of Manhattan ankle-deep in plastic waste," according to Roland Geyer, a researcher at the University of California Santa Barbara's School of Environmental Science & Management. "Eight million metric tons is a vast amount of material by any measure. It is how much plastic was produced worldwide in 1961."
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio created a computer simulation to show how the plastic trash migrates to five major 'garbage islands' in the oceans around the world. NASA's Greg Shirah said it was based on buoys released and tracked over the last 35 years. "The buoys migrate to 5 known gyres also called ocean garbage patches."
The only way to slow the growth of the garbage patches is to sharply cut back on plastics dumped into the oceans, Geyer said. More than 80% of the trash comes from just 20 countries.
"Large-scale removal of plastic marine debris is not going to be cost-effective and quite likely simply unfeasible," said Geyer. "This means that we need to prevent plastic from entering the oceans in the first place through better waste management, more reuse and recycling, better product design and material substitution."
The plastic debris threatens 660 marine species -- from the smallest of zooplankton to the largest whales, including fish destined for the seafood market , according to Geyer's UCSB study.
Lead Stories' Trendolizer is constantly scour social networks for the hottest trending stories about ocean pollution. Scroll down to see the latest.