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Ninety-Nine Percent of the Ocean's Plastic Is Missing

samzenpus posted about 3 months ago | from the In-his-plastic-house-at-R'lyeh-dead-Cthulhu-waits-dreaming dept.

Earth 304

sciencehabit writes Millions of tons. That's how much plastic should be floating in the world's oceans, given our ubiquitous use of the stuff. But a new study (abstract) finds that 99% of this plastic is missing. One disturbing possibility: Fish are eating it. If that's the case, "there is potential for this plastic to enter the global ocean food web," says Carlos Duarte, an oceanographer at the University of Western Australia, Crawley. "And we are part of this food web."

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One non-disturbing theory (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354141)

Is that water, the ultimate solvent -- or perhaps bacteria -- are breaking down the plastics back into it's components, and the ocean (much like the oil from the BP spill) is taking care of itself.

Naw, couldn't be. Go ahead and panic, hippies!

Re: One non-disturbing theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354225)

Perfect!

Re:One non-disturbing theory (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354251)

Is that water, the ultimate solvent -- or perhaps bacteria -- are breaking down the plastics back into it's components

Of the two, I'd go with bacteria, given that the bottled water aisle of my grocery store strongly suggests that water is a little less ultimate than you imply.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 3 months ago | (#47354427)

Well, considering recently we had a submission on how scientists had discovered new colonies of bacteria living on (and off of) the pacific plastic dump, and how for the first time scientists were seeing this start to form a distinct evolutionary path isolated from the rest of the world, I'd say it's pretty much a given that it's the bacteria.

However, once you get enough buildup of bacteria on the plastic, it would likely sink -- and there's plenty of water to sink into there.

To play devil's advocate, I doubt you're picking up seawater from the grocery store and sitting it in the back window of your car in the sun all day. The ocean doesn't tend to be filtered, and isn't stored in a cool, dark place.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354467)

Most of it is stored in a cool dark place. You know, under all that other water.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354587)

You mean God, in his infinite wisdom, intelligently designed this bacteria to solve plastic waste problems caused by humans?

Other than that, the seawater hypothesis is fairly simple to test. Fill up one of those bottles with seawater, let it rest in the sun and see what happens.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 3 months ago | (#47354515)

Of the two, I'd go with bacteria, given that the bottled water aisle of my grocery store strongly suggests that water is a little less ultimate than you imply.

The water in the ocean has much salt, however... Also. in the grocery store; the water is only on one side of the bottle, and there's not enough of it to make strong currents.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 months ago | (#47354591)

The water in the ocean has much salt, however... Also. in the grocery store; the water is only on one side of the bottle, and there's not enough of it to make strong currents.

Ah... but in the ocean, there IS [postimg.org] .

Re:One non-disturbing theory (4, Interesting)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 3 months ago | (#47354517)

...given that the bottled water aisle of my grocery store strongly suggests that water is a little less ultimate than you imply.

Funny you should mention that, because the reason most bottled water has an expiration date isn't that water goes bad, but because the plastics' volatile components in the bottle leach into the water (which is why everyone freaked out over BPE's awhile back).

Another theory? stuff clings to the plastic and sinks it. Having lived on the Oregon coast, I found it rather rare that something would wash up on the shore which didn't carry barnacles, seaweed, algae, and other stuff that clung to it - all of it using the bit of flotsam as a miniature base of operations from which to spend one's lifespan. Eventually so much stuff clings to it that any buoyancy the plastic once had is negated by the weight of the lifeforms and suchlike clinging to it.

Hell, even a sealed glass bottle eventually does this, as algae sticks to outside of it, which in turn attracts sand... the stuff dries like glue, BTW.

One other reason I can think of, speaking of which - did they account for all the stuff that eventually washes up on shore somewhere? I suspect they had to have, but maybe they underestimated it?

Re:One non-disturbing theory (4, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 months ago | (#47354549)

Water is typically considered to be theuniversal solvent [about.com] rather than the 'ultimate' solvent. But the chemical reactions might take millennia. It's more likely that degradation is due to a combination of bacteria and perhaps UV light or other reactive chemical processes.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354669)

Do you know why those water bottles have expiration dates?

It is because the plastic slowly leaks into the water, and that date is when current health regulations state that there would be too much plastic in the water for humans to safely consume it.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#47354673)

Your bottled water neither contains high amounts of salt, nor is it exposed to fairly high levels of sunlight and UV radiation.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354257)

According to some of the stuff you can see here based on observations of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch [wikipedia.org] , plastic only degrades into tinier plastic pieces, right down to molecules. It's already in the food chain and has been for decades.

Re: One non-disturbing theory (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 3 months ago | (#47354409)

UV light doesn't crack the molecules?

Re: One non-disturbing theory (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 3 months ago | (#47354695)

UV light doesn't crack the molecules?

If only we could get Jon Lech Johansen working on this!

Re:One non-disturbing theory (5, Insightful)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#47354273)

no no no, couldnt be, we have to go with the scary version, we cant go using reasonable options, how will anyone get funding for research???

Re:One non-disturbing theory (1, Funny)

aliquis (678370) | about 3 months ago | (#47354719)

no no no, couldnt be, we have to go with the scary version, we cant go using reasonable options, how will anyone get funding for research???

Possible answers:

1) Aliens and their visits to planet earth is real and they are helping us clean up the oceans.

2) The air-planes are spraying some chemical compound or organism which break down plastic / hydrocarbons.

(3) All the plastic can be found in the Bermuda triangle.

So on so on.)

Re: One non-disturbing theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354313)

The ocean "taking care of itself" after the BP spill eh? You need to watch this if that's really what you think: http://youtu.be/Efo-7W5wtxQ

Re:One non-disturbing theory (1)

raydobbs (99133) | about 3 months ago | (#47354323)

This very well could be - we (you and I) basically came up with the same thought. With so little we know about the oceans of Earth, there could be a vast number of reasons the plastics we littered into the oceans have not turned up as pristine trash that lasts forever and ever. It could be fish, it could be other marine animals, it could be micro-organisms, it could also be some other unexplained process. Racing to panic about it being in the foot supply (without proof) is a little premature.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (5, Insightful)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 3 months ago | (#47354405)

yeah, its almost certainly not the fish, it must be the micro-organisms.

Now, if I can only think.. what eats the micro-organisms in the oceans?

Of course its in the fucking food supply. You shit in the ocean, something eats it and we end up eating that. If we're lucky its only shit which is a naturally bio-degradable food source for plants. If we're unlucky, its the various poisons we dumped in there too, 'cos it was cheaper than processing them.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354511)

Perhaps you should buy some manners before you interact with people as you are a serious asshole. He never claimed it to be anything but theory.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354705)

Oh no you can't use the word "asshole" on the Internet! Go rape your grandmother, you Puritan tool.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354689)

Yeah.. Think about what plastics are made from. We wouldn't want oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, or (god forbid) CARBON getting into our food chain. I mean, that's the stuff life is made of. Wait, what are we talking about?

begging the question... (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about 3 months ago | (#47354437)

Millions of tons. That's how much plastic should be floating in the world's oceans...

Um, no, it shouldn't be in the ocean at all... maybe there have been vast over estimates of how much was there to begin with. After all, nobody should be putting it there on purpose.

Re:begging the question... (2, Insightful)

Tailhook (98486) | about 3 months ago | (#47354597)

maybe there have been vast over estimates of how much was there to begin with

Bingo. The problem probably isn't hippies underestimating the ability of the oceans to consume plastic. The problem is probably just hippies wildly overestimating the quantity of plastic escaping trash collection/recycling systems.

But this simple hypothesis won't be welcome among hippies because it fails to comport with the contaminated planet narrative, so it won't be considered or analyzed, and Obama help anyone among the researchers that dares to suggest it. Instead, theories about contamination of the food web will be indulged and, based on zero actual evidence, the fear mongering has now commenced.

We call this process `science.'

Re:One non-disturbing theory (1)

Trillan (597339) | about 3 months ago | (#47354501)

If water is that good at dissolving plastic we're all in a lot of trouble. As for a new, plastic-eating bacteria? That's nothing to be concerned about at all!

Seriously, fish eating it terrible. But it is probably the least bad alternative, unless we're going to include "space aliens carefully harvesting it, while leaving sea life alone" on the list of theories.

Hippie doesn't usually extend to "caring at all."

Re:One non-disturbing theory (1)

msauve (701917) | about 3 months ago | (#47354555)

Fish which aren't eaten, die or rot, which would release the plastic. Some amount would just be released in fish poo (or does it simply not get passed?). This article mentions the possibility that it sinks to the ocean floor in poo. All of that would end up back in the ocean.

If it's in the food chain, much of it should get concentrated near the top. How many pounds of plastic in an average shark's belly to sequester "millions of tons" of plastic?

There's also the fact that they may simply be looking in the wrong place. The article starts out "plastic should be floating in the worldâ(TM)s oceans..." But not all plastics float. The ubiquitous PET soda bottle has a density greater than salt water (1.3 vs 1.03), and they're trawling near the surface looking for it.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (0)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 3 months ago | (#47354603)

and the ocean (much like the oil from the BP spill) is taking care of itself.

Yeah, right? And how do we know that millions of gallons of crude oil and millions of tons of plastic aren't good for the ocean?

Bam! Got you there, right? You don't hear that from your so-called "scientists", amirite? Probably, carbon dioxide plus plastic and crude oil are combining with gamma rays from space to make us healthier! And smarter! At least some of us, that is. But not Al Gore, who is fat.

Re:One non-disturbing theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354711)

Exactly, if bacteria can work out how to feed off humans even when the humans are full of antibiotics I can't see why they can't evolve just as quickly to exploit the plastic in the environment. The oceans are already full of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemoautotroph

It's sinking. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354147)

That's the most obvious answer. Fish do not eat plastic, and even if they did, they couldn't digest it.

Re:It's sinking. (4, Insightful)

drpimp (900837) | about 3 months ago | (#47354383)

Fish actually DO eat plastic and yes they cannot digest it. Ask any fisherman who fishes artificial lures. Sinking is still a contributing possibility as well.

Re:It's sinking. (1)

0p7imu5_P2im3 (973979) | about 3 months ago | (#47354619)

Actually, It could really be sinking. It could be a(n) (un)fortunate side effect of the dispersants used to disrupt the BP oil spill in 2010. Plastics are made of oil, after all.

Wait... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354157)

isn't it just depositing itself to the bottom and creating new form of plastic rocks?

Re:Wait... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 3 months ago | (#47354607)

isn't it just depositing itself to the bottom and creating new form of plastic rocks?

They just don't make Horta like they used to

Where's the article? (5, Insightful)

AnOnyxMouseCoward (3693517) | about 3 months ago | (#47354167)

Wait. Isn't Slashdot supposed to link me to articles? I know no one RTFA, but if there isn't any link at all and just a blurb, what's the point?

Re:Where's the article? (5, Informative)

Ynot_82 (1023749) | about 3 months ago | (#47354181)

fish ate it

Re:Where's the article? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354403)

plastiglomerates

http://news.sciencemag.org/earth/2014/06/rocks-made-plastic-found-hawaiian-beach

Scientists say a new type of rock cobbled together from plastic, volcanic rock, beach sand, seashells, and corals has begun forming on the shores of Hawaii.

The discovery adds to the debate about whether humanity’s heavy hand in natural processes warrants the formal declaration of a new epoch of Earth history, the Anthropocene, says paleontologist Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study. Plastics in general are so pervasive that they’ve been documented in a number of surprising places, including ingested in wildlife and on the sea floor. The mass of plastic produced since 1950 is close to 6 billion metric tons, enough to bundle the entire planet in plastic wrap. Combine plastic’s abundance with its persistence in the environment, and there’s a good chance it’ll get into the fossil record, Zalasiewicz says. “Plastics, including plastiglomerates, would be one of the key markers by which people could recognize the beginning of the Anthropocene.”

Re:Where's the article? (2, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 months ago | (#47354599)

Except these conglomerates were formed by beach humans burning wood and trash and plastic and having the latter melt into the rock. Unless the fish (or other aquatic denizens) are starting fires somewhere, it's not likely to be a general mechanism.

Re:Where's the article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354423)

You meant to make that Funny, not Informative.

Re:Where's the article? (1)

amiga3D (567632) | about 3 months ago | (#47354473)

Don't be so sure.

Re:Where's the article? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354223)

http://news.sciencemag.org/environment/2014/06/ninety-nine-percent-oceans-plastic-missing

Re:Where's the article? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354259)

Wait. Isn't Slashdot supposed to link me to articles? I know no one RTFA, but if there isn't any link at all and just a blurb, what's the point?

http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2023960161_apxscioceanplastic.html

...another possibility... (0)

raydobbs (99133) | about 3 months ago | (#47354169)

...is that there is a complex ecosystem of micro-organisms that are breaking down the plastic into lesser components that we aren't looking for? I mean, there is a LOT about the ocean we don't yet understand. I mean, we know more about our solar system than we know about the entirety of the ocean ecosystem. That's not to say that the plastic BELONGS there or that we shouldn't be trying to reduce our uses for plastics - just that perhaps we aren't finding them in their entirety because there is some natural processes at work beyond fish consumption.

MOD PARENT REDUNDANT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354193)

Parent is just parroting the first post here, blatant karma whoring.

Re:MOD PARENT REDUNDANT (1)

raydobbs (99133) | about 3 months ago | (#47354281)

...or I started to write it when Slashdot showed no submissions on the page, but when I hit post on it - there were already a post or two (story of every Slashdot page ever)?

Re:...another possibility... (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 3 months ago | (#47354299)

on the other hand....

IF this is actually what is happening, wouldnt it be smart to deposit the plastic in the oceans rather than the landfills where the bacteria or whatever is not breaking it down??? hell the ocean may be working as a giant recycling center! obviously real research is needed either way if most plastic is "missing"

Re:...another possibility... (1)

raydobbs (99133) | about 3 months ago | (#47354455)

EXACTLY! Research - where is it going? Perhaps chain that along with "What ACTUALLY happens to stuff in the ocean - like dead animals, waste, petrochemicals, natural (but toxic) items introduced into the ecosystem, etc?"

Re:...another possibility... (0)

m00sh (2538182) | about 3 months ago | (#47354329)

...is that there is a complex ecosystem of micro-organisms that are breaking down the plastic into lesser components that we aren't looking for? I mean, there is a LOT about the ocean we don't yet understand. I mean, we know more about our solar system than we know about the entirety of the ocean ecosystem. That's not to say that the plastic BELONGS there or that we shouldn't be trying to reduce our uses for plastics - just that perhaps we aren't finding them in their entirety because there is some natural processes at work beyond fish consumption.

Or Aquaman got tired of all the plastic and ordered a clean-up.

Hey, as long as we are talking about imaginary creatures, ...

Re:...another possibility... (1)

raydobbs (99133) | about 3 months ago | (#47354429)

I am not saying this IS what is happening - I am saying that this is a possible scenario - like the article is proposing a possible scenario (hence the very concrete words 'possibly', 'maybe' and 'perhaps' being used. Oh, forgot the word 'IF' - the biggy).

This entire article is short on facts, very big on supposition.

Another disturbing theory (5, Interesting)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 3 months ago | (#47354185)

Plastic has lots of energy (try burning it) and thus could be a food source in and of itself. Thus there could be a bacteria that is eating it. Where this is disturbing is that we like to put useful plastic things into the water such as fibreglass boats. Could there be a bacteria evolving that will start corroding our plastics?

Also the fish that eat it may now have a gut bacteria that will break it down.

Whatever the truth turns out to be I suspect it will be fascinating!

Re:Another disturbing theory (0)

Krishnoid (984597) | about 3 months ago | (#47354277)

Whatever the truth turns out to be I suspect it will be fascinating!

Or terrifying. [npr.org] Or both!

Re:Another disturbing theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354305)

That would be some bit of poetic justice I suppose.

Re:Another disturbing theory (1)

mpe (36238) | about 3 months ago | (#47354457)

Plastic has lots of energy (try burning it) and thus could be a food source in and of itself. Thus there could be a bacteria that is eating it.

There isn't one thing called "plastic" anyway. Some types are even intended to be "bio-degradable".

Also the fish that eat it may now have a gut bacteria that will break it down.

Plenty of animals eat all sorts of things that they cannot digest at all. Apparently beta glucose polysaccarides are ment to be good for humans to eat. Even in quanities beyond the ability of gut bacteria to handle. Quite a few plants even rely on their seeds passing through the gut of an animal.

Re:Another disturbing theory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354527)

Plastic has lots of energy (try burning it) and thus could be a food source in and of itself. Thus there could be a bacteria that is eating it. Where this is disturbing is that we like to put useful plastic things into the water such as fibreglass boats. Could there be a bacteria evolving that will start corroding our plastics? Also the fish that eat it may now have a gut bacteria that will break it down. Whatever the truth turns out to be I suspect it will be fascinating!

With any luck, this process will consume C02 and we can put this global warming nonsense to bed by dumping trash in the ocean again.

Good news, everyone! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354187)

It turns out all those warnings about littering and polluting were just so much alarmist bullshit!

Re:Good news, everyone! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354641)

It turns out all those warnings about littering and polluting were just so much alarmist bullshit!

What of their dire warnings haven't been alarmist recently?

Sorry guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354191)

It was me, I'll put it back.

I didn't think anyone would care :-/

Re:Sorry guys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354567)

Evil genius.... Think of the carbon sequestration this would account for.....

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354203)

I put my hands up!
They're playin' my song!
The plastic's gone away!
I'm bobbin' my head like a fish.
This plastics a lovely dish.

I put my hands up!
They're playing my song!
There's plastic coming out of the sink!
Wondering in my head...where the hell is the link?!

captcha: Miley

Article Link (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354207)

Where is the link to the article?

Fish ARE eating it, this is already known + seen (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354217)

The tiny plastic beads and broken down bits end up in fish flesh, this has been established.

http://www.fastcoexist.com/3020951/these-big-eyed-fish-are-vacuuming-up-our-plastic-pollution-at-night
Plenty of information on this out there. 19% of all fish caught in a single survey in Hawaii had plastic in the bellies.

Re:Fish ARE eating it, this is already known + see (2)

Ichijo (607641) | about 3 months ago | (#47354315)

The article doesn't say the fish flesh has plastic bits in it.

Re:Fish ARE eating it, this is already known + see (5, Informative)

queazocotal (915608) | about 3 months ago | (#47354399)

It getting into guts is a different problem.
Plastic microbeads are _excellent_ at absorbing many pollutants onto their surfaces.
When this is eaten in quantity, this can be a really efficient way for those pollutants to get into the fish - and hence into the food-chain.

Fucking Oceanographers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354231)

Bring on the Australian philosophers...

Explains McDonalds Fish Sandwich Tasting Like Plas (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354241)

tic.

Why so cynical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354275)

Maybe someone is actually breaking down the stuff... or it's ending up at the bottom of the ocean (too deep for us to find). Either way... :)

meh (3, Informative)

waddgodd (34934) | about 3 months ago | (#47354287)

Whoever thinks that plastic isn't already part of the global food web hasn't eaten at a McDonalds recently

Re:meh (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47354355)

Tell me about it. The latest happy meal toys taste great!

Re:meh (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 3 months ago | (#47354585)

Whoever thinks that plastic isn't already part of the global food web hasn't eaten at a McDonalds recently

Didn't they move from Styrofoam to paper/cardboard years ago? MMMMM.. Salty greasy cardboard....

That's horrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354291)

I was planning to start my empire on one of them massive floating plastic islands next year. Guess I'll have to wait.

I always think it's sweet (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354295)

When a science fiction concept turns into something pretty much like reality. It was Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's novel "The Mote in God's Eye" that predicted animals would evolve to live off the castoffs of an industrialized society. And that may well be the case now! I mean plastic is derived from hydrocarbons that were derived from decayed plant material to begin with. A lot of what we humans eat is derived in part from decayed plant material, so it's quite possibly not even something to worry about. Heck maybe fish (or some plastic eating single celled organism that will adapt to above water level oxygen and destroy modern society) are just cleaning up the oceans for us!

I burned it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354307)

I've been scooping it up from the oceans and burning it. It's worth buying a ship to collect the stuff if you've got a few mega tonnes of bauxite to refine.

Why I am what I am (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354311)

Reminds me why I am a veggie. Better tasting food as well, as long as the cook knows how to cook.

Re:Why I am what I am (2)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47354373)

You're not a veggie. You're either a vegetarian or a vegan.

Unless you meant a vegetable, in which case you should fit right in with most of the Slashdot crowd.

Plastic is biodegradable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354353)

Eco nuts will disagree, but not too many years ago a high school student did a science project and showed that with the right bacteria plastic shopping bags could biodegrade in a matter of weeks. The key was getting the right bacteria in quantity. He started with plain old dirt from his yard. IIRC it was slashdot that reported the story. If a high school student can do it from back yard dirt, certainly trillions of gallons of water have enough bacteria to degrade plastic as well. We are not drowning in eco waste. Nor are the oceans going to be bubbling away anytime soon.

Nice job Samzenpus. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354357)

Where's TFA?

assume it's dark (1, Informative)

slew (2918) | about 3 months ago | (#47354381)

When you don't have an answer for the whereabouts of 90+% of the stuff your scientific theory calls for, call it dark and get some grant money to find it...

Re:assume it's dark (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 3 months ago | (#47354523)

Well . . . it looks like you solved it then. On the one hand, we have matter that is missing, in the oceans. And on the other hand, we have the cosmos, where there seems to be too much matter. So obviously Occam's Lady-Shave indicates that the plastic in the oceans is being converted into the dark matter in outer space!

Furthermore, since there is much more dark matter than the lost plastic on our planet . . . there must be other planets with intelligent life producing plastic that get's lost in their oceans! The equations should show us how many planets with intelligent plastic producing life are out there.

Maybe.

Re:assume it's dark (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 3 months ago | (#47354595)

Ahhh... That doesn't matter!

UV light (1)

Revek (133289) | about 3 months ago | (#47354391)

Degrades plastic slowly over time. Most plastic will float in water.

Likely Partial Answer: UV (1)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 3 months ago | (#47354415)

If it floats in water, it is going to get hit by perpetual exposure to UV radiation.

The same way sailors get sun burnt very quickly. UV gets reflected by water, enlarging the exposure. UV tears apart molecular bonds, which is why, for example, the ozone layer is so important.

Likely Partial Answer: UV (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354643)

....which is why, for example, the ozone layer is so important.

Ozone layer depletion is leading to premature deterioration of my precious plastics!

The only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned (3, Funny)

netsavior (627338) | about 3 months ago | (#47354469)

"It wanted plastic"
George Carlin [youtube.com]

Dustin was right (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 3 months ago | (#47354525)

And here's to you Mrs. Robinson...

this phrase strangely seem appropriate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354533)

"Jedem das Seine"

Fish also eat sand (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 3 months ago | (#47354547)

Fish also eat sand and lots of other things. It passes through them. You are the same way. Not everything you eat is nutritious or digested. You poop, right!?!

Or perhaps it settles to the bottom of the sea and future scientists will call it the plastacine boundary which occurred just at the time of the great extinction number nine, number nine, number nine...

scientific study. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354559)

Disturbingly 99% of data missing from scientific study. Where could all of it have gone?

Re:scientific study. (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 3 months ago | (#47354725)

The fishes ate their homework....

Solved! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 3 months ago | (#47354569)

Somebody stole it and made it into jillions of AOL disks

Re:Solved! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354589)

Yeah, the AOLians. I newd it be dem Aolians.

Re:Solved! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 3 months ago | (#47354649)

We'll, after I got a hold of their disks, they did become flying saucers.

Kraken are eating our dark plastic? (2)

mveloso (325617) | about 3 months ago | (#47354609)

Oceanographers are at a loss to explain the lack of plastic floating in our oceans. "Where the fuck did it go?" asked Omar Roberts, head of oceanography at the Skips Institute. "We've thrown shit-tons of plastic into the ocean. Where is it?"

Omar, though, has a theory. "The Kraken ate it. We're feeding the fucking Kraken. Jeeeesus!"

Or even... (1)

Anna Merikin (529843) | about 3 months ago | (#47354629)

marine animals are ingesting it with or instead of their food. If so, is it possible some species will evolve to digest plastic and metabolize it? Will that make those creatures toxic to humans?

Stupid title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354645)

"Ninety-nine percent of the ocean's plastic is missing" Who writes the titles to these articles? You'd think that the great god Neptune had been the victim of a plastic burglary!

Re:Stupid title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354657)

No. They stole most of his credit cards...

Food web? (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about 3 months ago | (#47354659)

It's not really a food "web". It's more like a series of tubes, you see...

Null hypothesis (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354681)

The original estimate was wrong.

Of course, this doesn't fit with the Enviro-Disaster meme that every new piece of information should headline with 'It's worse than we thought!'.

From the same guys who... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47354693)

..can't find a god damn plane.

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