February 26, 2010 4:16AM
Giant plastic dump floating off Carribean
200,000 pieces of debris per square km
Rubbish is harmful to sea life and birds
SCIENTISTS have discovered a giant rubbish tip made up of plastic bottles, bottletops and toothbrushes floating in the Atlantic Ocean.
The discarded plastic, which lies north of the Caribbean, is known to harm seabirds and marine life.
Sea Education Association's Dr Karen Lavender Law said that the problem in the Atlantic had been "largely ignored".
Researchers said the dump has 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometre but it was impossible to measure the exact size of the patch as much of it floats beneath the surface.
"That's a maximum that is comparable with the 'great Pacific garbage patch'," Dr Lavender Law said.
The great Pacific patch lies between Hawaii and California.
During the study, researchers collected more than 64,000 tiny bits of plastic after carrying out 6100 sweeps of the North Atlantic towing fine mesh nets behind a research vessel. It is the longest and most extensive record of plastic debris in any ocean basin.