Twice the size of Texas, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is home to more than 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that weigh an estimated 80,000 tons. But it also hosts a community of floating marine life that plays a vital role in ocean ecosystems. Cleaning up the patch without harming that ecosystem is a task as delicate as cleaning up plastic bags and litter in a meadow. You would never sort of bulldoze through a meadow to collect all the plastic bags and plastic litter because you'd know intuitively that the meadow is full of life," says study author Rebecca Helm. "It's full of plants and animals and baby rabbits and all these little things. I don't think people think about the ocean surface in the same way. The study focuses on a group of marine animals that move across the surface of the ocean via currents but whose locations are little known. Our knowledge of plastic on the ocean surface has skyrocketed above our knowledge of life at the ocean surface, Helm said.