A map from New Zealand–based data visualization firm Dumpark posted at Vox shows how much plastic is floating in the ocean and where the five trillion pieces of it are clustered.
According to Vox:
From afar, the map seems to show that plastics in the ocean are giant floating landfills. "But as you zoom in," says map researcher Laurent Lebreton, "you realize the complexity of the issue: The ocean is quite a vast surface, and similar to a starry night, there are a lot of little bright dots."
Over a period of six years (2007 to 2013), Eriksen and a team of researchers went on 24 nautical expeditions across all five of the sea’s major gyres (systems of circular ocean currents caused by wind patterns and the rotation of the Earth). Along the way, they collected 680 hauls of plastic from the ocean’s surface, made 891 visual assessments, then created a statistical model to estimate the overall scope of plastic presence in the water.
Their conclusion: There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans — enough to circulate the Earth’s equator 425 times. All together, the combined weight of plastic in the ocean amounts to more than 38,000 African elephants.