Saturday, December 2, 2023
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Friday, July 18, 2014
Ocean Patch Claims Are 99.5% Garbage
By Selected News Articles @ 3:29 PM :: 5056 Views :: Environment

Ocean Patch Claims Are 99.5% Garbage

by Jack Dini, Canada Free Press, July 17, 2014

You’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.

Here are some examples of the scare:

  • “Garbage mass is growing in the Pacific”,, March 26, 2008- The huge plastic garbage mass—nearly twice the size of Texas—is halfway between Hawaii and Los Angeles.
  • Kathy Marks, “The world’s rubbish dump: a tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan,” The Independent, February 5, 2008.- A ‘plastic soup’ of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.
  • Thomas M. Kostigen, “Better planet the world’s largest dump: the great Pacific garbage patch,” Discover Magazine, July 2008. -  The sprawl may cover an area as much as one and a half times the size of the Untied States and to a depth of 100 feet, if not deeper.

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

Recent research reports the amount of plastic floating in the oceans has been dramatically exaggerated.

The new work comes from results of an around-the-world cruise by a research ship that towed a mesh net at 141 sites, as well as other studies. Researchers estimated that the total amount of floating plastic debris in the open oceans at 7,000 to 35,000 tons. (1)

Andres Cozar of the University of Cadiz in Spain, an author of the study, said that’s a lot less than the 1 million tons he had extrapolated from data reaching back to the 1970s. (2)

A similar result was published in 2011. Oregon State University (OSU) studies showed that if you looked at the actual area of the plastic itself, rather than the entire North Pacific subtropical gyre, the hypothetically ‘cohesive’ plastic patch was actually less than 1 percent of the geographic size of Texas. Pierre Gosselin observes, “Simple mathematics tells us that the media exaggerated the patch size by a factor of more than 200.” (3)

What’s more, the amount of plastic in the ocean does not appear to be growing, and has apparently stabilized since the mid-1980s. OSU scientist Angel White said this doesn’t mean we should ignore the problem. “There is not doubt that the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans is troubling, but this kind of exaggeration undermines the credibility of scientists,” White said. (4)

White adds that whatever the size of the garbage patch, there’s too much plastic and what scientists don’t know is how much is sinking below the surface. She says she also learned that large colonies of photosynthetic microbes are using the plastic pieces to live on. (5)

Back to the recent work of Cozar who made the original estimate he has now reduced noticeably.

Cozar’s team didn’t find country-size islands of plastic bags strangling baby birds and sea turtles. They found ‘microplastics.’ What people think of as a dump doesn’t look like floating junk. Instead, ocean current ‘convergent zones’ are swirling with flecks of plastic—like a snow globe half a minute after shaking—and with considerably less plastic trash. (6)

Yet many media outlets chose to look at this new result in a negative fashion. Some examples:

  • Angus Chen, “Ninety-nine percent of the ocean’s plastic is missing,” news,, June 30, 2014- Millions of tons, that’s how much plastic should be floating in the world’s oceans, given our ubiquitous use of the stuff. But a new study finds that 99% of this plastic is missing. One disturbing possibility: fish are eating it. Instead of the millions of tons scientists has expected, the researchers calculated the global load of ocean plastic to be about only 40,000 tons at most.—Apparently Angus Chen didn’t read enough to realize that the original estimate was just that, an estimate, and was made by the very same researcher who reported the new, much lesser amounts. How can 99% be missing if it wasn’t there in the first place?
  • “88% of the world’s oceans covered by plastic junk-study,”, July 1, 2014—At least 88 percent of the surface of the world’s open oceans is polluted by plastic debris, says a new scientific report. The findings raise large concerns of the safety of marine life and how this ocean litter may affect food chains.

So there you have it. When the person who originally started the scare now admits that he was way off (7,000 to 35,000 tons versus 1 million tons), I take this as a positive note. Yet, many in the media are still wondering where the other 99.5% went. The answer- it couldn’t have gone anywhere since it never was there.

Not that plastic in the oceans is a good thing, but its’ looking to be less of a peril to the planet than once thought.


Jack Dini, Livermore, CA, writes a monthly column on science and environmental issues for Plating & Surface Finishing and also writes for other publications. He is the author of Challenging Environmental Mythology (2003). Jack can be reached at:


  1. Andres Cozar et al., “Plastic debris in the open ocean,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” doi:10.1073/pnas.1314705111, June 25, 2014
  2. Malcolm Ritter, “Ocean plastic pollution may be less than expected,”, June 30, 2014
  3. Pierre Gosselin, “The great Pacific garbage patch turns out to be ‘grossly exaggerated’ by a factor of more than 200,”, January 5, 2011
  4. Todd Myers, Eco-Fads, (Seattle WA, Washington Policy Center, 2011), 205
  5. Kristian Foden-Vencil, “Pacific’s giant plastic island may be a marine myth,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, January 5, 2011
  6. Debra J. Saunders, “Garbage-patch tale as flimsy as a single-use plastic bag,”San Francisco Chronicle, July 2, 2014

TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


808 Silent Majority

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Back da Blue Hawaii

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together



Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Moms for Liberty

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

July 4 in Hawaii

Kakaako Cares

Keep Hawaii's Heroes

Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii


Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

ReRoute the Rail

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

School Choice in Hawaii

Sink the Jones Act

Statehood for Guam

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

UCC Truths

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

VAREP Honolulu

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii