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A lot of the rubbish the world throws out doesn’t just disappear into the ether — or even into landfills. A lot if it ends up in the ocean, whirling around for eternity as sea currents gather the garbage in a giant eddy of litter.
The most famous of these ocean plastic hotspots is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which sits between California and Hawaii, gathering trash from all corners of the globe.
Recently, a boat traversing the patch for a clean-up project hauled in some peculiar items.
A boat sailed by the non-profit Ocean Voyages Institute recently sailed from Honolulu to the California Bay Area, gathering almost 200,000 pounds (91,000 kilograms) of trash along the way, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
Some of the trash was to be expected — like toys, containers and fishing nets, the paper notes. But some of it was odd, including lawn chairs and an abandoned boat, they add.
The ship’s captain, Locky MacLean, told the Chronicle that they also found a giant unidentifiable object, about 6 metres (20 feet) wide and 2 m (6 ft) tall. He told the paper that while it looked like a tank or even maybe a pontoon, no one knew what it was.
Recently, one section of the Texas Gulf Coast made headlines for some particularly spooky ocean trash as dismembered and creepy dolls were washing up on shore.
Despite some popular conception, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t an island made of trash, but rather a corner of the ocean where currents push a lot of trash, especially plastic waste.
In addition to the patch between California and Hawaii, there are more of these gigantic trash whirls in other parts of the Pacific, as well as in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, per the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Much of the plastic in these gyres are microplastics — tiny bits of plastic waste that have spread all over the world, in addition to larger chunks like the mysterious object found by the recent voyage. These whirls pose a significant threat to marine life. In addition to getting choked in trash like loose fishing nets, animals like fish, birds, whales and sea turtles can accidentally eat the litter, leaving it stuck in their stomachs.
All the trash collected by the non-profit on this voyage will be recycled or turned into art projects, FOX 2 KTVU reported.
Plastic waste is now affecting nearly every corner of the globe, from urban areas to Antarctica to beaches. In March of this year, representatives from 175 countries agreed to create a global treaty at the United Nations to fight this scourge.
“Rapidly increasing levels of plastic pollution represent a serious environmental problem at a global scale, negatively impacting the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development,” the UN draft resolution states.