Plastic Bermuda Triange

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by Zoe Pollock

The graveyard for plastic bags in the Pacific which may the "size of Texas to the size of the United States" is pretty well popularized. It's lesser known equivalent in the Atlantic ocean seems to be getting smaller does not appear to be getting any bigger, despite all evidence that should point to the contrary:

The amount of plastic produced around the world increased fivefold between 1976 and 2008, and the amount thrown away by Americans went up fourfold between 1980 and 2008. It is a reasonable assumption that, as the amount of discarded plastic increases, so will the problem of oceanic pollution. Reasonable but, as it turns out, wrong. For a 22-year-long study of the North Atlantic and the Caribbean, just published in Science, suggests things are not getting worse. Kara Law from the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and her colleagues have found that between 1986 and 2008 there was no increase in the concentration of plastic in the areas they looked at.

(Updated 8/31/10 thanks to a reader who pointed out how my sloppy speed-reading had mixed up most of the facts.)

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