Researchers at the 5 Gyres Institute estimate that 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the world’s oceans, according to the New York Times. The total weight of those fragments, they say, could come somewhere close to 269,000 tons.
The nonprofit 5 Gyres group conducted research expeditions and collected small bits of plastic with nets as part of the effort. To make an estimate, they plugged their sampling data into computer models and simulated the quantities of plastics that could be out there globally.
The biggest source of the junk comes in the form of discarded fishing nets and buoys, 5 Gyres scientists say. As a fix, they recommend paying fishing vessels to reclaim some of the unused nets and floating debris.
Top image: Plastic washed up on a beach in Portugal. (Credit: Marcus Eriksen)