Article in peer reviewed journal
March 2018, Scientific Reports

Laurent CM Lebreton, Boyan Slat, Francesco Ferrari, Bruno Sainte-Rose, Jen Aitken, Bob Marthouse, Sara Hajbane, Serena Cunsolo, Anna Schwarz, Aurore Levivier, Kim Noble, Pavla Debeljak, Hanna Maral, Rosanna Schoeneich-Argent, Roberto Brambini and Julia Reisser

  • Publication type: Article in peer-reviewed journal
  • Journal: Scientific Reports
  • Collaborators: The Ocean Cleanup Foundation (NL), The Modelling House (NZ), Teledyne Optech (USA), School of Civil, Engineering and Surveying, Faculty of Technology, University of Portsmouth (UK), Department of Biology, Marine Biology and Environmental Science, Roger Williams University (USA), Laboratoire d'Océanographie Microbienne (LOMIC), Sorbonne Universités, Paris (FR), Department of Civil, Geo and Environmental Engineering, Technical University Munich, (DE), ICBM-Terramare, Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, (DE), Civil Engineering Department, Aalborg University, (DK)
  • DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-22939-w
  • Submitted: 17.10.2017
  • Accepted: 05.03.2018
  • Published: 22.03.2018


Ocean plastic can persist in sea surface waters, eventually accumulating in remote areas of the world’s oceans. Here we characterize and quantify a major ocean plastic accumulation zone formed in subtropical waters between California and Hawaii: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). Our model, calibrated with data from multi-vessel and aircraft surveys, predicted at least 79 (45-129) thousand tonnes of ocean plastic are floating inside an area of 1.6 million km2; a figure four to sixteen times higher than previously reported. We explain this difference through the use of more robust methods to quantify larger debris. Over three-quarters of the GPGP mass was carried by debris larger than 5 cm and at least 46% was comprised of fishing nets. Microplastics accounted for 8% of the total mass but 94% of the estimated 1.8 (1.1-3.6) trillion pieces floating in the area. Plastic collected during our study has specific characteristics such as small surface-to-volume ratio, indicating that only certain types of debris have the capacity to persist and accumulate at the surface of the GPGP. Finally, our results suggest that ocean plastic pollution within the GPGP is increasing exponentially and at a faster rate than in surrounding waters.

  • Computational science, Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Marine debris, Oceanography, Plastic pollution