A rubbish dump twice the size of the United States has been discovered floating in the Pacific Ocean.
The vast expanse of trash, made up of plastic junk including footballs, bottles, kayaks, Barbie dolls, Lego blocks and carrier bags, is kept together by swirling underwater currents.
The 'Plastic soup' It stretches from 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan. Its also been called a 'Trash vortex' and it lies just below the surface of the water and cannot be seen in satellite photographs.
American oceanographer Charles Moore discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by chance in 1997 while taking a short cut home from a yacht race.
He said: “Every time I came on deck there was trash floating by. How could we have fouled such a huge area? How could this go on for a week?”
A fifth of sea junk is thrown off ships or oil platforms - the rest comes from land.
He warned that the rubbish could double in size over the next decade if consumers do not cut back on their use of plastics and where do you think helium filled balloons end up? More than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die every year as a result of plastic rubbish.
Syringes, cigarette lighters and toothbrushes have all been found inside the stomachs of dead seabirds. You could release 100 balloons to promote the environment and end up killing 20 Dolphins.
Research director Dr Marcus Eriksen said: “What goes into the ocean goes into these animals and onto your dinner plate. Otherwise known as TV dinners it's that simple.”
Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer compared the rubbish to a living entity. He said: “It moves around like a big animal without a leash.” Describing what happens when it reaches land, he said: “The garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic.”
The rubbish dump is made up of two linked areas either side of Hawaii. The Japanese have been looking into ways to super-heat the plastic using mircowaves in order to melt the plastic together to form a large floating island which some day could be inhabited by people as land is at a premium in Japan.