The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Isn’t What You Think it Is

It’s not all bottles and straws—the patch is mostly abandoned fishing gear.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the world’s largest collection of floating trash—and the most famous. It lies between Hawaii and California and is often described as “larger than Texas,” even though it contains not a square foot of surface on which to stand. It cannot be seen from space, as is often claimed.

The lack of terra firma did not deter a pair of advertising executives from declaring the patch to be an actual place. They named it the nation of Trash Isles, signed up former Vice President Al Gore as its first “citizen” and last fall, petitioned the United Nations for recognition. The publicity stunt perpetuated the myth.

The patch was discovered in 1997 by Charles

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