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The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Is Growing

And it was already enormous.
Plastic waste lies among other debris washed ashore on a beach in Sri Lanka.
Plastic waste lies among other debris washed ashore on a beach in Sri Lanka.Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

What’s 1.6 million square kilometers, weighs 80,000 metric tons, and is three times the size of continental France?

That would be the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—the enormous collection of detritus that floats in the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Hawaii and California. Also known as the “GPGP,” the patch’s sprawl has made it notoriously difficult to measure. But a new study published last Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports has gathered the most comprehensive measurement yet. After three years of data collection, researchers from the Ocean Cleanup—a Dutch nonprofit that works on developing technologies to scrub the oceans—have calculated that the patch is four to sixteen times larger than ever before determined—and it’s growing.