Read the full story from NPR.
When a huge floating gyre of plastic waste was discovered in the Pacific in the late 1980s, people were shocked. When whales died and washed ashore with stomachs full of plastic, people were horrified. When photographs of beaches under knee-deep carpets of plastic trash were published, people were disgusted.
Though some of it came from ships, most, presumably, was from land. But how much was coming from where?
No one really knew until 2015. That’s when Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer at the University of Georgia, did the math. Her groundbreaking study suggested there were hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of times as much plastic washing into the sea as people were seeing in those ocean gyres.