The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Isn’t What You Think

Photo Courtesy: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images

Known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Pacific trash vortex or simply as Garbage Island, there’s a massive, floating garbage dump swirling around in the Pacific. At more than 600,000 square miles in size, it’s growing ever larger, impacting the survival of wildlife and the health of the world’s shorelines in the process. However, the garbage patch is also raising public awareness about oceanwide pollution — in particular the danger of microplastics — which is perhaps the only remarkable thing about it.

The collection of debris is large enough to be an actual island — but it’s certainly not the far-flung vacation locale of our dreams. So, what are scientists doing to clean up this dangerous mess? Here's what you need to know about the unsettling environmental threat to our largest ocean.