In 2007, the Pacific Ocean contains so many discarded (and nondegradable) plastic bags, packaging and pieces that plastic outweighs plankton on the water surface, a hazard to marine life that mistakes it for food.
Sea of Plastic: Discarded, Nondegradable Plastic an Ocean Hazard to Marine Life
LESTER HOLT, anchor:
Tonight, graphic new evidence of the peril to OUR PLANET from plastic in our garbage. A vast sea of such garbage is floating in the Pacific Ocean, and it's killing marine life. It's also spreading. NBC's Kerry Sanders has our report.
KERRY SANDERS reporting:
Scientists in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, collecting samples of the so-called Pacific garbage patch.
Unidentified Man #1: We're going to continue on this transect.
SANDERS: An area twice the size of Texas, a vortex of ocean currents swirling from California to Hawaii that permanently traps just about any piece of plastic ever thrown in the water. Some of the plastic's lodged in sea life, like jellyfish. Plastics designed to last forever, unfortunately lasting forever.
Mr. CHARLES MOORE (Algalita Marine Research Foundation): Plastic now outweighs the plankton in the surface waters of the Pacific.
SANDERS: Researcher Charles Moore says in some spots, 48 times more plastic than plankton.
Mr. MOORE: If you're a fish or a bird trying to determine what to eat, you've got a better chance of selecting something made out of plastic than you do real food.
SANDERS: The ugliest example of that plastic garbage: on the big island of Hawaii.
Mr. MOORE: This plastic sand is coming from all around the Pacific Rim, swirling into a vortex that eventually brings it to these shores.
SANDERS: Thousands of miles away, on the U.S. East Coast, where some of that garbage begins.
Mr. STEVE EVERETT (Currentproblems.org): Every piece of plastic we've ever made is still on the planet. It doesn't go away.
SANDERS: The oceans are connected, of course, to inland waterways. This should be a pristine river in Florida. Instead, it's disgusting. And the big surprise, what's down below.
Just this year volunteers have fished out almost 30 tons of garbage along just nine miles of the Santa Fe and nearby rivers, all interconnected with oceans that eventually lead to the Pacific Ocean garbage patch, a mess some experts say already may be too big to clean up. Kerry Sanders, NBC News, Gilchrist County, Florida.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is getting greater. Twice the size of Texas, the floating mass is up to 16 times larger than previously thought. According to scientists who performed an aerial survey, it is carrying about 79,000 metric tons of plastic.
Plastic, Garbage, Discarded, Water, Waterway, River, Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Floating, Pacific Garbage Patch, Current, Ocean Current, Vortex, Trap, Collect, Sealife, Jellyfish, Fish, Birds, Food Supply, Plankton, Ocean Surface, Plastic Bags, Pieces of Plastic, Plastic Packaging, Plastic Sand, Beach, Ashore, Big Island, Island of Hawaii, East Coast, Santa Fe River, Hazard, Marine Life, Clean-Up, Water Pollution, Environmental Science, Earth Science, Our Planet