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The way of the trash

Klaus EsterlussAugust 24, 2015

A stunning NASA simulation illustrates how trash accumulates in the world’s five ocean garbage patches and shows how even the tiniest particles move along ocean streams.

Bildergalerie Das Meer und der Müll
Image: ZHdK

Our oceans are filled with garbage from all over the world - including buoys deliberately thrown into the water by #link:http://www.noaa.gov/:NOAA# for an experiment that led to the fascinating NASA simulation below.

Trash in our oceans collects in five main locations. Known as #link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_garbage_patch:ocean garbage patches#, they contain both large and small chunks of plastic as well as microscopic particles that have been broken down by waves and UV radiation as they drift through the water.

According to a study published in the #link:http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1260352:magazine Science# at the beginning of 2015, our oceans contained some eight million tons of such waste in 2010. And that is a major problem, because the tiny, sometimes even powdered pieces, can be swallowed by plankton and other small marine creatures, thereby finding their way into the food chain.

#link:http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/details.cgi?aid=4174:NASA’s animation# shows the buoys' migration patterns which makes it possible to draw conclusions on how the five garbage patches first appeared.