An overwhelming amount of plastics hauled from the patch trace back to fishing industries in Japan, China, South Korea, and the US.
Most of the litter in the ocean is delivered by rivers that carry waste and human pollution from land to sea. But the origins of floating debris in offshore patches haven’t been fully understood.
Between 75 to 86 percent of the plastics floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch come from offshore fishing and aquaculture activities, according to an analysis of the trash collected by nonprofit project the Ocean Cleanup.
Major industrialized fishing nations, including Japan, China, South Korea, the US, Taiwan, and Canada, were the main contributors of the fishing waste.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a region twice the size of Texas between the West Coast of North America and Japan, is one of several vortexes in the ocean where waste accumulates. Created by spinning currents, or gyres, each vortex churns and crushes plastics into tiny undegradable bits that are tricky for cleanup efforts to scoop up.
Plankton nets are used to collect these microplastics, often no more than 5 millimeters in size, says Lebreton. “But it is currently impossible to retrace an accurate origin for this pollution,” he says.