An enormous patch of plastic trash swirls in the Pacific Ocean

When it was a kid, the Pacific Ocean always wanted a Garbage Patch of its very own. Now it’s got one: a patch of trash, at least twice the size of Texas (!), floating midway between Hawaii and San Francisco. Held together by swirling ocean currents, the refuse clump used to be mostly driftwood and random ocean stuff. But no longer. In 2003, researcher Charles Moore sailed through the area and wrote, “I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic.” Scientists are now starting to see the effects of widespread plastic pollution on marine ecosystems. Seabirds like northern fulmars, which graze the waves for food far out in the ocean, are washing ashore with bellies full of plastic. Even plastic that is ground into dust is ingested by clams and other filter feeders. “[T]he actual ability to wipe out the entire vertebrate kingdom in the ocean is with the plastic particles,” says Moore. Sorry about that, entire vertebrate kingdom of the ocean!