The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Turns Out To Be “Grossly Exaggerated” By A Factor Of More Than 200

Trash washes up in Tanzania. (Photo credit: Loranchet / Wikipedia)

We’ve heard about a giant patch of garbage supposedly floating out in the Pacific, yet another unmistakable sign of the scourge that man is to the planet. Read NatGeo here and The Independent here and NPR here, just to name a few.

It turns out that it’s all a huge exaggeration.

Caught red-handed again! Who can believe these media organizations any longer? Sadly this is routine procedure when reporting on climate change and evironment.

Wikipedia here calls it the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and describes it as the Pacific Trash Vortex, which is estimated to be an area the size of the state of Texas to one larger than the continental United States.

There’s just one problem, though. Wikipedia writes: 

Despite its size and density, the patch is not visible from satellite photography.”

Hmmm. Well, there’s a good reason for that. One reason is likely because it’s a heck of a lot smaller than what we have been led to believe. Today Jürgen Schönstein has a piece at science blogs titled The garbage patch is smaller than feared. Schönstein writes that marine biologist Assistant Professor Angel White of Oregon State University has come to the conclusion that the size and growth of the patch is “grossly exaggerated by the media”:

The amount of plastic out there isn’t trivial. But using the highest concentrations ever reported by scientists produces a patch that is a small fraction of the state of Texas, not twice the size.”

You can read the Oregon State Univsersity press release here. Well, you might say, Texas is a big place and even a small fraction is a lot. The press release writes:

The studies have shown is that if you look at the actual area of the plastic itself, rather than the entire North Pacific subtropical gyre, the hypothetically “cohesive” plastic patch is actually less than 1 percent of the geographic size of Texas.”

Simple mathematics tells us that the media exaggerated the patch size by a factor of more than 200. I’m not saying there isn’t problem with marine pollution. It’s just nowhere near as bad as we are told, like many other things – climate to name one.

In the end, pick up your trash and dispose of it properly. Don’t litter! White says:

If there is a takeaway message, it’s that we should consider it good news that the ‘garbage patch’ doesn’t seem to be as bad as advertised,” White said, “but since it would be prohibitively costly to remove the plastic, we need to focus our efforts on preventing more trash from fouling our oceans in the first place.”

One final note: Have you ever compared the aftermath of a Tea Party demonstration to the aftermath of a save-the-planet type of demonstration in terms of garbage left behind? That pretty much tells you who the real big slobs are. The same can be pretty much said about their carbon footprints too, i.e. think Gore, Hollywood, UN bureaucrats, “climate scientists” and activists flying all over the globe and living high on the hog. LIKE HERE.

31 responses to “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Turns Out To Be “Grossly Exaggerated” By A Factor Of More Than 200”

  1. Bernd Felsche

    So; claims are 99.5% garbage.

  2. R. de Haan

    We all know that the UN and their non governmental organizations make use of hype and propaganda to con humanity.

    But that does not discharge us from the responsibility to take care of our environment.

    I really think it is irresponsible that shipping regulations allow cruise ships to dump their litter in open sea and I really think disposable plastics have no place in our oceans.

    When I make a sailing trip I always collect the waste and dispose of it at the next harbor.

    Other sailors simply throw everything overboard, including the plastic that hold a six pack.

    The same goes for a visit on the beach.
    It is no trouble at all to bag your litter and dispose of it at home.

    This is a matter of mentality.

    But introducing a boycott against plastic shopping bags and modern food packaging and disposables is an absolute joke.

    We now have waste burning facilities all over the place.

    Some of them are fighting for garbage because of over capacity and the individual citizen is scammed for much more money than the true costs of the disposal services.

    In the mean time Governments are using new schemes of litter separation and energy saving measures to bug and indoctrinate it’s citizens as an integral part of the new eco doctrine.

    Last week I was stopped by the police for a routine traffic control and although it was freezing the officer asked me to shut down the engine with the argument that it was good for the environment.

    I refused with the argument of the freezing cold and the fact that I had elderly people on board who needed the warmth and told him that the CO2 did no harm to the environment.

    He made some grunting noises, checked my papers and let me go.

    We now have know nothing Bozo’s in uniform promoting the CO2 scam and their number is on the rise.

    It won’t take long before we are living in an eco police state.

    One more reason to pack your bags and find a better place to live.

    1. Evan

      “I really think it is irresponsible that shipping regulations allow cruise ships to dump their litter in open sea and I really think disposable plastics have no place in our oceans.”

      You should check your facts. I worked in cruise ship industry for 10 years and whilst it is true that rubbish dumping used to be allowed that is now long gone procedure.. Cruise ships are state of the art recycling facilities and nothing gets dumped of the ships any longer. Recycling on ships surpasses all the current regulations and we can only wish that will soon be implemented on the land too.

  3. Sundance

    The garbage circulation modelling is very accurate. The experts believe that the missing garbage went into hiding in the deep oceans and after adjustments using untrustworthy data for deep welling garbage are factored in, the garbage patch size now magically agrees with at least one of the 160 garbage circulation models used. Please leave the garbage to the experts!

    1. TinyCO2


  4. R. de Haan

    Pierre, I really don’t care if it’s a law or not.
    I think I am going to build a heater (Standheizung) in my car so I can heat it up before I hit the road under cold conditions but if Al Gore can idle is car
    for many hours during a meeting, I can do the same.

  5. Chris

    R de Hahn @ 14.51.- You are quite wrong! International regulations prohibit the dumping at sea of anything and cruise liners, in particular, take all waste to port. The only thing that may be dumped is waste food, after it has been, pulverized, on the basis that it will be consumed by fish. Everything else is compacted and bailed. Even water is recycled and solids removed. Drinking water is made from seawater. If dumping goes on, which I am sure it does, the it is most likely from cargo vessels, away from the eyes of the public.

  6. R. de Haan

    I Chris, I am not wrong.

    And from Wiki:
    Cruise ships for example are exempt from regulation under the Clean Water Act of 1972 (CWA) point source permitting system that requires compliance with U.S. federal standards through technological requirements.[2] In the Caribbean, many ports lack proper waste disposal facilities, and many ships dump their waste at sea.[11]

    In practice this means they dump all their waste.

    Besides that, I am an eye witness of such a dump in the Caribics off the coast of Cuba last year.

    1. Capn Mike

      As with most laws, the big offenders get a pass, and the little guy gets the shaft.
      Now I’m not sayin’ that ANYBODY has the right to throw trash overboard, but it’s telling that cruise ships and the U.S. NAVY can just chuck it over with impunity. And we’re talking MASSIVE volume here, not just granny’s sandwich wrapper.

    2. Ray

      I was in Virgina Beach earlier this year and was speaking to a couple friends who are in the Navy. He told me that once the ships are 25 miles out, ALL GARBAGE GOES OVERBOARD. Of course, that is no surprise to those of us who understand the nature of the state.

      I particularly like this quote from the NPR article, “As responsible as we like to think we can be, given the huge amount of plastic packaging we have to wade through every day, and the tiny little bits and edges and parts of plastic packages that we have to tear apart to get at our goods, it’s very difficult even for the most responsible consumer not to contribute to this ocean’s plastic load.”

      As if the garbage man picks up your trash, loads it on a truck, drives to the ocean and dumps it in. I don’t think this happens on the coast (hey, I could be wrong) but I’m absolutely sure that none of the garbage I’ve made here in Wisconsin made that voyage.

  7. TinyCO2

    Everytime I’ve seen a report about this waste it seems to be largely made up of fishing debris.

  8. Juraj V.

    A rule of thumb is to divide any environmentalists’ claim by factor of 10. This time it is 200.

    I hate to see our creeks littered with plastic waste; but for local environmentalists a fight against Great Satan seems to be their priority.

    1. DirkH

      In the case of the Brent Spar it was about 100 (Greenpeace claimed 2000 tons of oil on board, and it was only 20.)

      Very little about that campaign can still be found in the Wikipedia… In Germany, at least one Shell gas station was shot at (no injuries). Seems like some facts get “forgotten” faster than others.

      By the year 2050, Greenpeace will never have made a mistake in its history…

      1. Bernd Felsche

        Australia’s (former rock star and former Green) environment minister bettered that ratio when claiming that a whale had been reported as having 8 tonnes of plastics in its gut.

        This of course fed the meme of zillions of tonnes of plastic floating about the oceans for millions of years. (Funny how the plastic sprinklers in my yard disintegrate under sunlight in less than 3 years).

        It turns out that it was only 8 kg and most of that was bits of fishing net.

    2. Concerned Person

      Wow, people in this forum are so grossly mis understanding this issue that it is almost mind boggling. Listen, I’m no smarty pants nor do I think that I am better than anyone else. But I do implore you that before you just go out and find a random article that agrees with your skepticism, please, PLEASE Do your homework. For all these people who think that this is “grossly exaggerated” are missing the point that this thing in huger than you think. Don’t get fooled by the “Garbage Island” bit because not only is it not a literal island of trash, but the amount of plastic is vast over a large area of the sea, swirling around in the gigantic gyre currents, constantly breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. It has become more of an inseparable soupy like mess of billions of tiny plastic pieces integrating itself into the water just below the surface. And thats not counting the huge pieces in the ocean killing larger wildlife. If fact, its gets so small that plankton and other tiny organisms are eating it, which means that it is finding its way into the food chain. that food chain eventually leads to us, so should we ignore a growing problem because it hasn’t reached our dinner plates yet? The oceanic ecosystems are just as vital to us as the life that lives there. Consider this. The world produces 200 billion liters of bottled water but only 1 in 5 bottles are recycled (True Look it up). I think you should worry where the other 4 in 5 are going. And when a sample of the ocean is taken and there is more plastic than plankton? That is a serious, serious problem, of course, if you are still one of the skeptics who would rather agree with an article that expresses your lack of knowledge on the issue, I beg, you, find Charles Moore ,the man who discovered the garbage patch, and go on his 3 week cruise to get samples for yourself. Prove it and find out yourself before you just become satisfied with hearsay and critics. Have your own mind for god sakes and use your skepticism to find out if its really as bad as you feel some are exaggerating.

  9. R. de Haan

    But I love “Pacific Trash Vortex”.

    1. Bernd Felsche

      Reminds me of James Carlin’s (?) comedy skit where he presents the idea that we’re only on this planet because nature can’t make plastic for itself.

  10. Graham D

    I have an idea… Let’s agree that it is twice the size of Texas and a “crisis”. Then we can charge Uncle Sam and the UN a fortune to clean it up. Send some actors out there for a photo op in hazmat suits etc. In about a year we can proudly announce that our efforts have borne fruit and that we have effectively reduced the garbage to 1/200th it original size and use satellite imagery to back up our claims as we cash the checks.

    How about it… we could make “heaps” of money (Dr. Evil snicker).

  11. Tatiana Covington

    Pacific Trash Vortex sounds like a punk band. Probably the warmup act for the Naked Body Scanners.

  12. Global Warming Hoax Weekly Round-Up, Jan 6th 2011 « The Daily Bayonet

    […] Remember the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ so beloved of fund-raisers like David Suzuki?  Turns out that it’s just more junk science than actual junk – the amount of plastic covers less than 1% of the ocean area claimed. […]

  13. DirkH

    Pierre reports. WUWT reports. The Daily Mail reports.

    No trace of it on the BBC. (just looked; scanned for “pacific” and for “plastic waste”, in both cases, no recent hits.)

    Brits, when you pull the plug on the Met Office, you might just as well do the same with the Beeb. It will do more good than harm.

  14. PassingThrough

    ” It’s just nowhere near as bad as we are told, like many other things – climate to name one.” – P. Gosselin
    Go take a look for yourself, Mr Gosselin, you will be astonished. There is no definite “edge” to it, as you travel into the area it gradually becomes more and more noticeable in the water.
    Floating plastic becomes brittle and soon fragments into smaller and smaller particles which, in that part of the ocean forms a “minestrone soup” consistency down to about 30 metres. Satellites have not yet revealed this, it doesnt show up like pack ice or a coral reef, you do have to get up close to it. Samples of seawater from the area also contain a high density of microscopic sized plastic particles. These are being ingested by zooplankton, and so are working their way up the food chain- so eventually back to us.
    How large an area would it need to cover before you would feel concerned, exactly?

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