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Plastic debris that was thought to be trapped in vast floating patches in the Pacific Ocean may be able to escape and pollute islands and coastal areas, a study warns.
These great patches of rubbish — sometimes inaccurately called plastic islands or continents — could partly break up due to short-lived, hard-to-observe eddies, the paper finds. Such rubbish had been thought to be permanently trapped in the middle of the Pacific.
“We used to think that [debris] converged in the centre and went round in circles, and now we’ve shown that there are small escape routes,” says lead author Christophe Maes, an oceanographer at the Research Institute for Development in France. He says the finding could help design strategies to collect marine rubbish that threatens marine wildlife.