August 28, 2009

Pacific ‘garbage patch’ is size of Texas

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography says it's investigating whether a Texas-size vortex of trash in the Pacific Ocean could be turned into fuel.

Scripps researchers recently returned from the area, dubbed the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, about 1,000 miles of the California coast.

The patch, officially known as the North Pacific gyre, is one of five places in the world's oceans where trade winds trap floating debris and damage ecosystems, The San Diego Union Tribune reported Friday.

Though we'd been pulling up plastic in our nets for days, seeing it freely floating about was shocking, researcher Miriam Goldstein said. The magnitude of the problem suddenly came crashing down on me.

Scripps is studying the feasibility of collecting the trash and turning it into fuel while educating the public to the enormity of the problem, Scripps director Tony Haymet said.

Public awareness about the Pacific gyre could drive home the importance of not discarding pieces of plastic at the beach or into waterways, Haymet said.