Oct 24

Giant Trash “Island”

CoyoteBlog is skeptical of stories of the Giant Trash Island.

Snopes is silent on the subject.   Wikipedia has some details.

In any case, we can learn something interesting by doing some specific calculations.   3.5 million tons, spread out over twice the size of the State of Texas:

3.5 million tons == 7 billion pounds

7 billion pounds == 3.2 billion kilograms (you’ll see why I converted later)

Texas is 268,601 square miles.  Twice that is 537,202 square miles.

That means that there are 5,956 kilograms of trash per square mile. Let’s call it 6000.

6000 kilograms per square mile sounds like a lot.  Except

There are 27,878,400 square feet in a square mile.  That means that there are

0.000021522 kilograms of material per square foot.  Now, we multiply by 1000 to get grams:

0.215 grams of material per square foot.   ( a paperclip is about one gram )

Which explains why you can’t see it from satellite photos.  It’s far too dispersed to be seen in any conventional sense except when you are right there in the middle of it.

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