An estimated 8 million tons of trash enter the ocean every year (UNEP). We don’t really know where it goes, or what happens when it gets there.
It is well established that once in the ocean, plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller particles, but it never really goes away. A new article estimates that 236,000 tons of micro plastic floats across the oceans surface. This represents only about 1% of the plastic in the ocean. (van Sebille et al, 2015)
Micro plastics are also accumulating on the ocean floor. Woodall et al (2014) conservatively estimated that 4 billion micro fibers/km² could be present in Indian Ocean sediments.
Another survey revealed that trillions of plastic pieces are floating through the Arctic ocean. (here)
There is still a huge knowledge gap in understanding where exactly all of our trash is going. Though I can hope that it is miraculously disappearing from the ocean without any negative consequences, the realist in my knows this is very unlikely, and the truth is probably that we have destroyed a huge span of the ocean, and we don’t even know it yet.
Read the press release out of the World Economic forum here