Plastic debris widespread on ocean surface, study says

(File) (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images/File)
(File) (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images/File)
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Updated: 6/30 4:29 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — There's a lot of plastic junk floating on the world's oceans -- but according to a new study, there's less of it than experts had expected to find.

The study relies partly on results from an around-the-world cruise by a research vessel that towed a mesh net at 141 sites. Researchers estimated the total amount of floating plastic debris in open oceans at between 7,000 and 35,000 tons.

An author of the study, Andres Cozar of Spain, said it's a lot less than the one million tons he figured would be there, based on data reaching back to the 1970s.

Of the plastic pieces that were caught by the net of the research ship, most were less than a fifth of an inch long.

But Cozar said the tiniest of the plastic pieces may wind up being eaten by small fish, with uncertain effects on their health.

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