Thousands of pieces of garbage, like these tangled ropes and nets, are polluting oceans across the globe. (Photo credit: Lindsey Hoshaw via Steven Guerrisi,

At least 269,000 tons of plastic pollution could be floating in the world’s oceans, according to a new study.

Researchers collected small, floating plastic particles across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean as well as off the coast of Australia, in the Bay of Bengal, and the Mediterranean Sea between 2007 and 2013. They then used that data to build a worldwide model of ocean plastic distribution.

The research team also found that plastic pollution can easily travel as the density of plastic pollutants is similar in the southern and northern hemisphere oceans. This was an unexpected finding given that the northern hemisphere produces more plastic pollution than the southern hemisphere

Original research paper published in PLOS ONE on December 10, 2014.

Names and affiliations of selected authors

Marcus Eriksen, Director of Research at the 5 Gyres Institute, U.S.A.